S KAMAT, ALTO ST CRUZ
There is an ongoing debate over whether or not to accept foreign aid for flood-ravaged Kerala. This decision has to be taken at the topmost governmental level and cannot be the subject of debate as is being seen now. The UAE ruler reportedly spoke to the Prime Minister, who, as we are told, politely declined the aid. There the matter ends. On a broader principle, the time for India to extend its hand to foreign aid is over. We have done it in the past but now that our economy is stronger we need to stand squarely on our own two feet and handle on our own the natural and man-made disasters that come across our path. The central government has to come to the aid of Kerala and provide any and all assistance that is required. There is an issue here about the estimation of damage caused which will determine the quantum of aid. The tendency in India as we have seen in the past is that the estimation of damage is grossly enhanced by the affected state government assuming that the Centre will slash this by half or more. This is the approach of bargaining that is appropriate in a fish market but not when people’s lives are affected and a greater sensitivity is necessary to be shown. The variation in figures is more when the state government is of a different political hue than that of the Centre. Thus what needs to be done is that under the National Disasters Authority a committee needs to be formed comprising of a team of experts who will do an objective assessment of the damage and set the amount of relief assistance that needs to be given. The entire process of this assessment can be made transparent so that everyone involved has a clear understanding on how the figures are arrived at. This will also show that we have the capacity to be mature and objective in matters related to the providing of succour and relief to those who are in distress.