Even as the Centre and the Kerala government are engaged in a slanging match over the issue of foreign aid to the flood-ravaged state, old-timers recall that the BJP-ruled Gujarat Government had happily sought and accepted financial and material help from all over the world after the January 2001 earthquake that hit the state.
Soon after the earthquake hit Gujarat, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had appealed to the international community to help Gujarat rebuild itself.
Apart from the various UN agencies, plane-loads of relief material like medicines, tents and rescue equipment had landed at airports in Ahmedabad and Bhuj, the city that was almost fully devastated in the quake.
Millions in financial assistance were received from nations like the US, UK, Canada, China, Germany besides the usual relief agencies like Red Cross and UNICEF sending material help.
The Sheikh of a small province in the Gulf had pleaded his inability to spare much cash but had sent a dozen of his well-built Arabian horses.
Quizzed about how horses could be considered quake relief material, the then State Home Secretary had told this correspondent “the money saved by Police department for buying horses would be diverted to quake relief”. As per a rough estimate of some officials then in service, more than 60 small and big nations across the globe had responded to India’s appeal for quake relief.
PM Vajpayee, during his visit to quake-ravaged Bhuj, had announced liberal tax exemptions for setting up industries in backward Kutch district for rapid redevelopment of the region. Therefore, it may not be unfair for the Kerala Chief Minister now to seek liberal tax exemptions for industries and people of the flood-affected state.