ucanews.com reporter, New DelhiUpdated: August 28, 2018 04:53 AM GMT
Indian men carry food and water to those stranded by floods in Pandanad in Kerala on Aug. 21. India's government is under fire for turning down an offer of aid from the United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Manjunath Kiran/AFP)
India's pro-Hindu government is facing criticism for refusing to accept aid worth US$100 million from the United Arab Emirates for flood-ravaged Kerala state.
Catastrophic floods and landslides from Aug. 14-18 killed an estimated 400 people and displaced 1.3 million to relief camps where they subsist on donated food and clothes.
Offers of relief began to pour in from outside India as the southern state's worst-ever floods made headlines in international media.
But the federal government run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has turned down the UAE's offer of aid, presumably to safeguard national pride.
India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told media that "the government is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts."
Critics say the government's decision about the aid was strange as the state government has estimated a need of 200 billion rupees (US$2.8 billion) for reconstruction.
"One of the reasons for disallowing international aid could be that it is problematic to have foreigners rescue Indians and it dents national pride," said Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International in India.
Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac has requested 20 billion rupees for immediate relief but the federal government could give only 6 billion rupees.
"Given that situation, I don't know why they should deny outside help to the flood-wrecked state," Patel said.
Catholic lay leader A.C. Michael told ucanews.com that there wasn't any reason to block financial aid from a country where at least one million people from Kerala work. "This is a friendly gesture from a friendly country. I don't see anything wrong in accepting the money in an emergency like this," Michael said.
About 2.8 million Indians form 27 percent of the UAE's population of 9.2 million.
Khalid Rahmani, a Muslim cleric in Jammu and Kashmir state, said that in a natural calamity people should sink their differences of caste, creed and borders to help each other. "Thwarting the flow of aid to sufferers is condemnable. Humanity should come first … it is absolutely natural," Rahmani said.
However, the BJP maintains the UAE aid offer was a hoax as there wasn't any official confirmation of it.
Communist Party parliamentarian Binoy Viswam from Kerala petitioned India's Supreme Court on Aug. 26 to direct the government to allow foreign aid.
"This is not the time to play politics over humanitarian assistance," he told reporters, adding that the point is not about the UAE offer. "It's about every bit of aid — whether promised by Pakistan, Bangladesh or any other country — reaching Kerala's suffering people without any strings attached."