After the flood waters and devastation, Kerala is now battling to return to normalcy. It will be a Herculean effort and will need huge doses of funding. As is usual, after the disaster, come the controversies. The big one: Is there an aid offer of Rs 700 crore from the United Arab Emirates? And if so, should India take the funds? The first time we heard of it was from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who tweeted the Rs 700 crore ‘offer’. Amidst the controversy, UAE Ambassador to India Ahmed Albanna has now said ‘no specific amount was offered’ but conceded that a committee has been formed to provide assistance. The obvious takeaway: We should vet our figures and sources before going public on sensitive matters.
Meanwhile, the Centre, which has committed an interim amount of Rs 680 crore, has indicated that it will not accept foreign government contributions and will “rely solely on domestic efforts to tide over the challenges.” The Kerala chief minister has asked for a special fund of Rs 2,600 crore and pegged the devastation at over Rs 20,000 crore. This does not include huge reconstruction costs. The state electricity board estimates that Rs 350 crore in power infrastructure has been wiped out. About 14,000 km of roads and highways have been washed away. The state’s finances are in doldrums with the fiscal deficit for FY2017 rising to Rs 26,448 crore from Rs 17,818 crore in the previous year.
In this context, the Union government should not stand on prestige and accept aid from wherever it comes after a security check. Kerala is facing a crisis and the Centre has declared it “a calamity of severe nature”. The state’s talent has contributed to the growth of many countries; and if those governments want to give a helping hand, we should not turn them away. India itself has pioneered aid efforts in Afghanistan and during the floods in Nepal last monsoon. Fighting a natural disaster and humanitarian aid should have no borders.