Rains subside in Kerala, but Centre sparks debate by saying ‘No’ to foreign aid

By Najiyo O, TwoCircles.net

With rains subsiding and water levels coming down in several places across Kerala, people have began returning to their homes.  However, relief camps continue functioning in the worst-affected districts. There are a total of 13.5 lakh people who have been displaced all over the state, many in camps and others in the houses of friends and relatives. The districts of Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Thrissur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Palakkad and Wayanad have the most affected people.  Around 15,000 people in Wayanad are not in a position to return to their houses anytime soon. Nearly 400 people have lost their lives in the worst floods to hit the state in a century.

Support TwoCircles

The Chief Minister today visited a few relief camps in Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts.  The state government has decided to distribute five kilos of rice to all the ration card holders in the flood-hit areas in the state during the Onam festival, which begins Friday.  The government would provide food kits, containing 22 items, for all people returning to their houses from the relief camps. Special facilities for stay would be arranged for those people whose houses have been completely destroyed in the flood.

Foreign countries ready to help, but Centre says ‘No’

The central government, on Wednesday, announced that the country would not take any help from foreign countries for the Kerala flood relief.  The UAE had announced aid worth $100 million (nearly Rs 700 crore, which is more than the immediate central relief of Rs 600 crore) for the flood-hit state. Apart from UAE, the Thailand government had also offered help. But the stand of the central government has made it difficult for the state. India has not accepted financial aid from foreign countries since 2004 as part of a government policy, which in turn says that the government should not request for aid but can receive if any foreign countries offer on their own.  However, the Chief Minister said that he would try to solve any troubles related to receiving the foreign aid and that he would discuss the matter with the Prime Minister if needed.

In another development, the Central government decided to exempt the customs duties and taxes for the consignments of aid and materials for Kerala from abroad after loads of materials lay blocked in airports.  Indians from abroad, especially the Gulf where Keralites live in large numbers, had sent huge consignments of essentials such as clothes, non-perishable food items etc which could not be transported to the needy as the airports maintained that duties should be paid for the import of materials.

The central government’s stand was widely criticised by the people and leaders alike in the state.  State Finance Minister Thomas Issac expressed his criticism and disappointment at the move on his Facebook and Twitter posts.

Keralites and others are expressing their sorrow and anger at the decision on the Facebook page of the Prime Minister also. While some posts referred to the foreign and UN aid during the time of the Gujarat earthquake, some others commented to transfer the Rs 15 lakh which Modi had reportedly promised every Indian during his election campaign, to the Kerala flood relief fund with the hashtag #My15LakhsForKerala.  Anger and disappointment are mounting in the state against the centre on the issues of refusing foreign aid, not requesting UN and international help, not declaring the floods as national calamity and providing only a quarter of the amount asked by the state.  Kerala had calculated the primary estimate of the total loss for the state to be Rs 20,000 crore and asked the centre to provide Rs 2,000 crore as immediate relief, but the centre gave only Rs 600 crore as immediate relief. In another incident, the official mouthpiece of the RSS in Kerala, the magazine Kesari, carried a lead article criticising the act of the central government but removed it soon from the online website.  Reports have also come that the website was hacked.

Cochin Airport extends date of resuming operations to August 29

In another development, the Cochin International Airport has extended the date for beginning of its operations to August 29.  The airport was to begin functioning on the 26th but the date was extended as more time was needed to bring the airport back to normalcy.  A large number of the workers at the airport have also been badly affected by the floods. The hotels and restaurants near the airport have also not returned to normal functioning.  The airport was closed on August 15th for four days, and then the date was extended.

Virat Kohli dedicates cricket match victory to Kerala flood victims

In another act of solidarity, the Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli dedicated the victory against England in the test match held at Nottingham on Wednesday to the flood victims of Kerala. His words of dedication at the post-match presentation were received with high applause from the audience.  India won the third test match against the home team by 203 runs, after having lost the first two matches.