Kerala, Floods and Aid

Excepts from a FirstPost article.

Described as one of the worst since 1924 by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the rains in Kerala have left over 350 dead and rendered thousands of people homeless. According to the latest tally, 80,000 have been rescued so far. Over 1,500 relief camps have been set up across the state that currently house at least 2,23,139 people.

Now as India struggles with the catastrophic floods in Kerala, foreign disaster aid has again become an issue with India unwilling to accept the help it then gave. In 2005, as countries across the region struggled to cope with the Indian Ocean tsunami, India declined aid.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi initially welcomed the United Arab Emirates offer of $100 million in emergency aid for Kerala — a state whose workers have helped author that country’s economic success story. Foreign ministry officials, however, pushed back and India instructed its diplomats to politely decline foreign governmental aid.

Kerala has a relatively small public sector. The state’s economic review records that the government employs some 2,75,000 people and another 1,25,000 are with quasi-public institutions, to serve a population of 34.8 million. The state police, notably, has just 39,159 members of personnel — 113 for every lakh persons — or less than half the United Nations-recommended 250 per lakh.

Following the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a staggering 90 countries held out offers worth a combined $854 million. The United Arab Emirates alone pledged $100 million in cash and another $400 million in oil. Bangladesh promised $1 million. Thailand, which lost 8,150 people in the previous year’s tsunami, offered a team of 60 doctors and nurses. Even Cuba — subjected to sanctions by the superpower for decades — said it was willing to send 1,100 doctors.

There’s little doubt the foreign aid refused by the US could have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people, many of whom remained homeless years after the hurricane. The money could, for example, have paid for the construction of an estimated 8,500 homes, or substantially helped rebuild the $1 billion worth of transport infrastructure claimed by the hurricane.

“In all humanitarian crisis,” says former diplomat Vivek Katju, “the criteria for accepting aid should be whether it’s needed to alleviate suffering, not some false pride or national ego”. Every rich country — from Japan to the United States — has accepted aid where its own resources were wanting.

But truly great nations, it is time India’s leaders realise, don’t just know how to give but also to receive.

The last comment about give and receive, I really believe/practice as a person.  One should have the humility to accept and give back.  I  do not (necessarily) have to give back to the same person who gave me.   Neither should I want to some one who I gave, to give back.  If whom I give, gives back thats just so much pleasure.

7 Replies to “Kerala, Floods and Aid”

  1. I agree India should have accepted aid. If Malyalees ave no issues why should the centre have issues

  2. I don’t understand. Can the central government prevent the State government from accepting aid? If so, through what part of the constitution?

    Does this apply only to national governments? What about foreign charities?

  3. I wish to add to Sbarrkum’s post. I got back about 10 days ago from Kodagu district. The entire region above Kushalnagar, including Madikere, Talakaveri, and Subramanya in hassan district have all suffered extensively with between 800 K – 1million people homeless. The only good news here is that the waters have drained but the homes are all wiped out.

    1. And now Nagaland has been denuded by floods. The attention Kerala has received has more to do with its influence on social media and its large global diaspora than any measure of severity. Contrast the reactions to Chennai floods of last year or the regular yearly affairs that are the floods in Bihar or Odisha.

      1. Is part of the coverage of Kerala because of the large presence of Wabbahi/Salafis, twelvers, Sufis, evangelicals, Catholics in Kerela? Closely tied in as they are to their international orders?

        D, would you like to contribute an article to Brown Pundits on Nagaland?

  4. India survived on aid in the form of shipments of grains from the US in the 50s and 60s. They started off as emergency aid but since there are emergencies every year (alternating floods or draughts that destroyed crops), it turned over time into a regular affair until US changed its policy and put increasing restrictions on its ship-to-mouth policies under LBJ in the 60s. Mass starvation and deaths were predicted to be imminent. However, this policy ironically made domestic investments in modernizing agriculture economically viable and within a decade there was no longer any need for food aid.

    India did accept a lot of aid and development assistance (as much it can get) until somewhere around the 90s or 2000s when it came with increasing criticism of its policy choices (like its space program) and also negative publicity (‘poverty porn’) by donor agencies. The latter became a problem because India had started marketing itself as an investment destination and the image needed for that is of a different character than the one sold by the donor agencies of eternal hopelessness and such (that helped them get aid).

    In more recent times, Haiti is a case study in how international aid has laid waste to a country.

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