Thiruvananthapuram: Soon after flood-hit Kerala’s chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday announced that the United Arab Emirates has promised an assistance of $100 million (about Rs 700 crore) for the state’s reconstruction, sources said the Central government has decided to decline all offers of financial help from foreign countries.
Mr Vijayan, who chaired a meeting of the state Cabinet to seek a Rs 2,600 cr special package from the NDA government under Centrally-sponsored schemes and called a special meeting of the state Assembly on August 30 to discuss the flood situation, said, “Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and made the offer for assistance.”
Sources in New Delhi said that the NDA government has “taken a considered decision to rely solely on domestic efforts to tide over the challenges”.
Kerala has struggled to find its feet after the devastating deluge that left 223 dead in a fortnight. About 10.78 lakh people, including 2.12 lakh women and one lakh children under 12, have been displaced and sheltered in 3,200 relief camps. On Monday, the Union home ministry declared Kerala floods, the worst in 100 years, a “calamity of severe nature”. This tag paves the way for higher Central assistance to the state.
The chief minister had earlier estimated the damage to be about Rs 20,000 crore and so far the Centre has, in phases, announced interim assistance of Rs 680 crore for the state.
On the Union government’s decision not to accept offers of financial help from foreign countries, sources said that New Delhi wants to convey that the country is capable of handling the flood situation on its own both, financially and logistically. According to some reports, even the previous UPA-2 government had declined foreign aid in 2013 when floods struck Uttarakhand.
The Modi government has apparently also communicated to all embassies its position on not accepting foreign financial help for Kerala tragedy. In a message to Indian missions, the government said, “If a foreign government makes an offer of help, you may kindly express your appreciation for the sincere sentiments and willingness to assist...”
Earlier, Mr Vijayan told reporters that Kerala would ask the Centre to hike the limit of loan it can secure from the open market for the massive rebuilding exercise.
Under the present arrangement, Kerala can obtain three per cent of its gross state domestic product (GSDP) as loans and wants the limit to be raised to 4.5 per cent so the state can mobilise an additional Rs 10,500 crore from the open market, he said.
With rains easing and water receding in some areas of flood-ravaged Kerala, people started returning to their homes as Union minister K.J. Alphons appealed for cooked food and skilled workers to rehabilitate the displaced people.
Though there has been some respite from the rain in the last two days, the water level has not come down in several areas of the Ernakulam, Thrissur, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Kollam districts, officials said State government officials and defence forces said rescue efforts will continue till the last person is brought to safety.
As the state drowned in unprecedented misery, the Muslim festival of Id-ul-Adha on Wednesday is expected to be low key. State government events to mark the Onam festival on August 25 have also been cancelled.
Road and rail services have resumed in most parts of the state but clearing houses of the debris washed up by surging flood water is a daunting task.
The state government is also preparing a comprehensive health action programme to prevent outbreak of water-borne diseases.
The Southern Air Command has said the Indian Air Force (IAF) said it will continue all out efforts in coordination with the civil administration to ensure that the people of the Kerala recover quickly from the calamity.
A total of 364 helicopter sorties were flown, 1.25 lakh kg of supplies dropped and 574 people rescued, a release said.
The state level bankers committee has also decided to declare a moratorium on agriculture loan for one year.