Political row over UAE aid to Kerala

State minister says federal government is contradicting its own policy over foreign aid

Thiruvananthapuram: A political row has been triggered after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Indian federal government said that the existing protocol did not allow a state government to accept international aid in the event of a natural disaster.

The row between Kerala and federal government was triggered after the UAE offered Rs7 billion (Dh367 million) as relief donation to Kerala, and the federal government said the money could not be accepted.

India’s federal government had offered Rs6 billion to Kerala in two separate tranches.

The federal government’s claim is that a protocol of not accepting foreign aid has been in place for over a decade from the time of the previous United Progressive Alliance government led by Manmohan Singh.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac have both expressed their concern at the stand taken by the federal government over the UAE government’s offer.

Isaac pointed out that the federal government was contradicting its own policy which says even though India would not appeal for aid in times of natural disasters, there was no hindrance in accepting aid when a foreign country offered such help on its own free will.

On Thursday, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, state secretary of the ruling Communist Party of India Marxist, said the federal government’s stand regarding the donation from the UAE government showed its “vindictive” approach to the state government.

“If the federal government is of the opinion that Kerala should not accept the offers from countries like the UAE and Qatar, it should compensate the state government with a similar amount”, Balakrishnan said.

Social activist Medha Patkar also condemned the federal government’s stand, pointing out that it was “ridiculous” to take such a position when the federal government was spending tens of billions of rupees on projects like a statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel.

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