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Flood-hit Kerala needs money, not relief goods

Top officials of Kerala request not to send relief materials, Indian Ambassador says

Abu Dhabi: The south Indian state of Kerala which is grappling with one of the century’s worst-ever floods does not need relief materials but money, a top Indian diplomat said here on Monday.

“The top officials in the Kerala Government have clearly conveyed that ‘please ask our friends and well-wishers to not send relief materials’,” Navdeep Singh Suri, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, told a press conference at the Indian Embassy.

He has been in touch with the Chief Secretary of Kerala [the state’s topmost bureaucrat] who made it clear two important points.

“First we must do all efforts to channelise resources into the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF) because this is the main kitty from where the money will be used for various requirements. Second is not to send relief materials because everything is available in the state or in the neighbouring states,” the envoy explained.

As of now, enough supplies are there to handle the situation, he said.

Complicating situation

“Receiving materials that are not required will create complications to the state government. It will cause unnecessary distraction, as the government has to devote their resources to store and sort out the goods for distribution, Suri said.

Moreover, sending money will help rebuild the local economy, apart from providing emergency relief, he told Gulf News.

“It is quite clear when you send cash, and people spend that cash by buying goods and services from the local economy, it will provide stimulus when things are slow. So it makes sense to send cash and spending that cash locally within Kerala so that it generates more jobs and economic growth,” the diplomat said.

As Gulf News reported on Monday, an Emirati official also said it was more important to send money to Kerala, so supplies could be bought from markets close to the flood-affected areas.

Fahd Abdul Rahman Bin Sultan, deputy secretary-general for international aid affairs at Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), pointed out that it was more expensive, and logistically more complicated, to send relief martials by air — sometimes the cost of cargo is higher than the cost of the items being sent.

The ambassador said there was no need to look at Kerala as an isolated place. Kerala is one of India’s most developed states; it is certainly India’s best-educated state. It is also surrounded by the reasonably well-developed states — Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The envoy explained that if there is a shortage in Kerala’s Palakkad, Wayanad or Kannur districts, it could easily be sourced from major cities within around 50 miles, such as Coimbatore, Mysore and Mangalore.

“When you have big cities in the neighbourhood, there is no shortage of materials in India. Rather than going through the expense and efforts of collecting materials in the UAE, then finding ways to send them to Kerala’s airports and then sending it from there, it makes sense to send money,” the ambassador explained.

Logistics challenge

It may be easy to send goods from the UAE to Kerala’s airports but transporting them further from there will be a tough task because of damaged roads, he said.

The envoy appreciated the initiative of major money exchange houses in the UAE to facilitate free-of-cost remittance to the Chief Minister’s relief fund and urged everyone to utilise it.

Suri said people’s emotional urge to do something tangible during a crisis is understandable. “Creating a box of items is more satisfying than wiring the money. But the fact is that wiring the money is far more efficient and rational.”

Moreover, other Indian states are also sending relief goods to Kerala, he said.

How to donate cash to the Chief Minister’s Fund  

■ Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has requested the Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) to extend their support to the state to deal with the worst natural calamity it has ever faced. 

■ People can send their donations to CMDRF (Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund), Account number: 67319948232, State Bank of India, City Branch, Thiruvananthapuram, IFS Code: SBIN0070028

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