India has decided not to accept foreign aid for disaster relief. It should stick to this and not bow to the pressure of a $100 million (Rs 700-crore) offer from the UAE. After declining relief aid for the tsunami, that affected millions along the Tamil Nadu and Kerala coasts, who were among 228,000 people dead or missing in 14 countries, it would be pandering to sentiment if we were accepted a few offers now, including $50,000 from Maldives. When India boasts of being the world's sixth largest economy, ahead of France now, it will be a loss of face to accept aid even if it's from UAE, where 25 lakh Keralites live, and many have made a great contribution to building the Emirates. There are special ties, but not to the extent of taking $100 million aid.
If each Indian were to contribute, it should be possible to collect the Rs 20,000-crore Kerala reconstruction cost. The universal route for everyone to pay will be through a cess on GST. If, say, one per cent of GST collections every month were marked for the national disaster relief fund, it might be possible for the entire nation to help. Since the 2004 tsunami, there have been at least six natural disasters - cyclonic storms and floods affecting several states - and India hasn't accepted overseas aid for the humongous task of rehabilitation and reconstruction. India is seen as an aid-giver these days and the policy of not accepting foreign aid shouldn't change in a nation capable of looking after itself. While there's little need to politicise aid offers, it's the task of rehabilitation that must be the nation's mission now.