New Delhi: In the wake of a massive controversy raging following its refusal to accept foreign government aid for the rehabilitation efforts in flood-hit Kerala, Union minister K.J. Alphons late on Thursday evening appealed for an "one-time exception" to a 14-year convention to allow assistance from a foreign government, notably from the United Arab Emirates that reportedly offered Rs 700 crore for the flood relief effort.
NDA-I took aid from 60 nations for Gujarat quake
Mr. Alphons had earlier in the day said the current NDA Government had followed a 14-year convention it "inherited" from previous governments of not accepting such assistance and that this was a policy that was followed by the current government from the time the then prime minister Manmohan Singh (UPA-1 Government) had refused aid from foreign countries in 2004 during the devastating Tsunami.
According to news agency reports, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) too had in 2016 suggested that assistance offered as a goodwill gesture (in case of a natural disaster) "may" be accepted by India.
Meanwhile, a former government official who served as a senior bureacucrat during the early 2000s told this newspaper on condition of anonymity that he was unsure of whether the policy decision—— not to accept foreign government aid in case of a natural disaster—-was taken in the last few years of the Vajpayaee Government or during the first year of the UPA-1 Government headed by Manmohan Singh.
The Bhuj earthquake of January, 2001, in Gujarat during the NDA-I tenure of the Vajpayee Government was the last major natural disaster that India faced in which the then Union Government had accepted foreign Government assistance.
In that case, the Governments of over 60 countries had reportedly rendered assistance in some form or the other in the earthquake relief efforts. The next major natural disaster was the Tsunami in December, 2004, that ravaged the coast of Tamil Nadu.
In the aftermath of that, the then UPA-1 Government headed by then PM Manmohan Singh reportedly did not accept financial assistance from foreign governments.
The government had on Wednesday night formally made it clear that "in line with the existing policy", it would politely decline offers of aid from foreign countries for the Kerala flood relief effort, adding that it would accomplish the relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts.
However, it had said contributions were welcome from Non-resident Indians, Persons of Indian Origin and international foundations to the relief funds of the Prime Minister and Kerala Chief Minister.