Thursday August 23, 2018
Residents collect food and water from a truck distributing relief materials to those stranded by floods in Pandanad in Alappuzha District in Kerala, on Aug 21, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India - India on Wednesday rejected an offer by the United Arab Emirates government to give $100 million to a special fund for Kerala state after its floods which killed more than 400 people.
The move came despite calls to accept the Gulf state's largesse by Kerala's chief minister who has pleaded for more aid than India's government has so far committed to.
"In line with the existing policy, the government is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts," the foreign ministry said in a statement explaining the move.
The ministry added that foreign money could only be donated through Indian-origin individuals or foundations.
India has a record of refusing foreign aid after disasters, turning down foreign help after the 2004 tsunami.
Experts said Indian governments want to prove they can handle any emergency by themselves.
India did not specifically mention the UAE offer made Tuesday, saying only that it "deeply appreciates offers from several countries, including from foreign governments, to assist in relief and rehabilitation efforts after the tragic floods".
The Maldives government had also promised money for the floods.
But the refusal is likely to spark a political controversy.
Kerala state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan called for "high level" talks with the national government so the UAE money could be accepted.
The UAE offer is more than the $97 million so far promised by India's central government. Vijayan has asked for a $375 million package from the government, saying the state must confront more than $3 billion in devastation.
The monsoon floods have left more than 420 dead since June with some 1.34 million people now in over 3300 relief camps across the state.
"The whole world is extending a helping hand towards the State at this juncture," Vijayan added, citing distress contributions from across the country -- and exhorting New Delhi's further assistance.
A Kerala government spokesman told AFP that all rescue operations had been completed and now the focus was on giving immediate relief and future planning.
Thousands of army, navy and air force personnel fanned out across the state to help those stranded in remote and hilly areas.
Dozens of helicopters and even drones have dropped food, medicine and water to cut-off villages in the last few days.
Tens of thousands of people across the state are still relying on community kitchens for meals.
The government says that more than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of roads have been destroyed or damaged while a legislator said 50,000 houses had been wiped out.
There have been many reports of snake bites and reptile sightings, even a crocodile, inside people's mud filled homes after the waters drained out.
Snake catchers, experts and animal rescue teams have been busy responding to distress calls to catch and safely release these reptiles as people slowly returned to their homes in the last 48-hours.
The floods have also hit tourism sector in India's tourist hotspot otherwise known for its pristine beaches and backwaters.