Centre’s decision to refuse flood aid from other countries unfortunate: Kerala minister

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The state Level Bankers Committee, Kerala, at its emergency meet yesterday also chose to announce a moratorium on education loan for a period of six months and all other loans for one year besides rescheduling the loan repayments for five years.

That's on the Centre's refusal to accept the UAE government's aid of Rs 700 crore.

Until the 2004 tsunami, the Indian government had accepted financial assistance from foreign governments during the Uttarkashi quake (1991), Latur natural disaster (1993), Gujarat quake (2001), Bengal cyclone (2002) and even the Bihar floods (July 2004).

Hotels and tour operators in several locations throughout the state have also witnessed cancellations approaching 80 percent of all bookings in the face of peak tourist season, which runs from September to March, according to Indian Association of Tour Operators figures reported by the Times of India.

Mr Issac, however, questioned the Centre's ability to foot the bill for the massive reconstruction the state needs.

Additionally, the chief minister has also demanded Rs 2600-crore MGNREGA special package for central schemes. "Why should it then prevent other countries, where many Malayalees live, and which are concerned with the well-being of Kerala, from offering help", he asked.

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It is understood that the United Nations is also offering aid for Kerala.

On whether the state would aggressively raise the issue with the Centre, Isaac said: "We don't want to pick a fight with the Centre at this moment".

"I wish to inform all that the state government will now take very strict action against such people".

Vijayan said the state government would approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clear hurdles, if any, in receiving the aid offered to the state by the United Arab Emirates.

Battered Kerala is trying to return to normalcy as the rains relent and flood waters subside but experts say it could take years for the state to help rebuild its people's lives, destroyed in one of the worst floods in a century and officials admit that rebuilding the state will be a "daunting task".

Unidentified government officials cited former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision to reject offers of foreign assistance after a tsunami struck the southern eastern coast in 2004. Close to three million Indians live in the Persian Gulf region, of whom, 80 per cent are from Kerala. This makes up for 31 per cent of the state's GDP. With widespread destruction looming large over 13 or 14 districts of the state, the chief minister has earlier mentioned that the damages are over Rs 20,000 crores.

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