Amid a slugfest between the Kerala government and the Centre over the offer of Rs 700 crore made by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reiterated his demand on Saturday while putting the ball in the Centre’s court.
Addressing the media, Vijayan stated that there is “no ambiguity” on the offer made by the UAE even as media reports quoting UAE officials said that the country had not made any announcement of a specific amount.
According to reports, UAE ambassador to India Ahmed Albannam said that his government only set up a national emergency committee to provide relief assistance to Kerala and had not announced any financial aid package.
But Vijayan stood by his earlier statement that a financial aid of Rs 700 had been discussed between the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi adding that the information came to him via MA Yusuff Ali, the Gulf businessman who hails from Kerala.
“There is no ambiguity on UAE aid. As I mentioned the other day itself, aid was discussed between the UAE Crown Prince and PM. I hope the Centre will accept it. As for the Rs 700 crore figure, I had made it clear that the information came from businessman MA Yusuff Ali. He had himself told me that the Crown Prince discussed $100 million (Rs 700 crore approx) aid with the PM. I repeatedly asked him if I could reveal this. And he told me there was no problem if I did,” the CM said.
He added that the Prime Minister had himself tweeted about the matter on 18 August.
“I expect to get that amount,” said Vijayan.
The PM had earlier expressed his gratitude to Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice-President of UAE, in a tweet, “A big thanks to @hhshkmohd for his gracious offer to support people of Kerala during this difficult time. His concern reflects the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE.”
A big thanks to @hhshkmohd for his gracious offer to support people of Kerala during this difficult time. His concern reflects the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 18, 2018
Vijayan’s press conference comes hours after the BJP in Kerala demanded to know the source of his information about the amount UAE offered.
The Rs 700-crore aid offer has created a tussle between the Centre and the state government with the former politely refusing to accept the offer citing “existing policy”.
The “existing policy” the foreign ministry was referring to dates back to 2004 when the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by the Congress took a decision not to accept foreign aid.
The Kerala government has been saying it needs the funds given the humongous loss of everything from agricultural land to civic infrastructure.
Following the rejection of UAE’s ‘offer’, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac tweeted that the government should compensate Kerala if it is unwilling to accept UAE’s offer of assistance.
“We asked Union Gov for financial support of Rs 2200 Cr ; they grant us a precious Rs 600 Cr . We make no request to any foreign gov but UAE gov voluntarily offer Rs 700cr. No, says Union gov , it is below our dignity to accept foreign aid. This is a dog in the manger policy,” tweeted Isaac.
Read More: Tussle over Rs 700-crore aid offer from UAE
Various estimates, including that of Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), have said that the devastating floods may have caused damage worth between Rs 15,000 and 20,000 crore.
Around three million Indians live and work in the UAE, out of which 80 per cent are from Kerala, according to official figures.
On 18 August, Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeted that his country has formed a committee for extending help to flood affected people in Kerala.
“UAE and the Indian community will unite to offer relief to those affected. We have formed a committee to start immediately. We urge everyone to contribute generously towards this initiative,” he had tweeted on 18 August.
UAE and the Indian community will unite to offer relief to those affected. We have formed a committee to start immediately. We urge everyone to contribute generously towards this initiative. pic.twitter.com/7a4bHadWqa
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) August 17, 2018