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Rs 600 cr is advance assistance, clarifies Centre; Union minister Alphons wants foreign aid policy changed

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Rs 600 cr is advance assistance, clarifies Centre; Union minister Alphons wants foreign aid policy changed

The Centre clarified on Thursday that Rs. 600 crore given to flood-hit Kerala was only “advance assistance” and more funds would be released after another assessment by an inter-ministerial team.

Meanwhile, Union Minister KJ Alphons said that he will request the Centre to change a 14-year old convention on accepting foreign financial assistance, NDTV reported.

The issue has sparked a row after the centre declared on Wednesday that it would not accept foreign aid to combat natural disasters, as per India’s policy since 2004 when Manmohan Singh government had declined foreign assistance in the aftermath of tsunami. The Centre’s response came after a reported offer of $100 million (around Rs. 700 crore) by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Death toll in Kerala floods has reached 373, more than 1.2 million people are in relief camps and losses are pegged at Rs 20,000 crore ($2.86 billion), 16% of the state’s 2018-19 expenditure, according to media reports.

“I would plead that for my state because I have seen the misery,” Alphons said. “We need the money.” The Union minister has been surveying the destruction caused by the flooding in the state.

Alphons cited Kerala’s contribution to India’s foreign exchange assets. “In fact in the last year itself, it had brought Rs 75,000 crore through remittances,” Alphons told PTI. “For these reasons, as a junior minister I am appealing to my senior colleagues to make a special consideration for the state. I appeal to them to make a one-time exception to the policy.”

On Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs formally rejected offers made by foreign countries to send aid for flood relief work in Kerala citing “existing policy”. The United Arab Emirates had offered Rs 700 crore as aid to Kerala. Earlier on Thursday, the European Union announced that it would donate 1.9 lakh euros (Rs 1.53 crore) to the Indian Red Cross relief work in Kerala.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the National Disaster Management Authority, in its 2016 policy, allowed an exception to the convention on foreign assistance if any national government of another country offers aid as a good will gesture. .

Kerala has accused the centre of depriving it of foreign funds while allocating only Rs. 600 crore against its demand for Rs. 2,200 crore for rebuilding efforts after the state’s worst floods in a century.

“This is a dog in the manger policy,” Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had tweeted.

A statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) last night said: “It is clarified that Rs. 600 crore released by Centre is the advance assistance only. Additional funds would be released from NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) on assessment of the damages as per laid down procedure.”

The MHA said the centre had provided urgent aid and relief material “in a timely manner and without any reservation”.

“In one of the largest rescue operations, 40 helicopters, 31 aircraft, 182 teams for rescue, 18 Medical Teams of Defence forces, 58 teams of NDRF, 7 companies of CAPFs were pressed into service along with over 500 boats and necessary rescue equipments. They successfully saved over 60,000 human lives by rescuing them from marooned areas and shifting them to relief camps. Defence aircrafts and helicopters have made 1,084 sorties of duration 1,168 flying hours and airlifted 1,286 tonne of load and carried 3,332 rescuers. In addition, a number of Navy and Coast Guard ships were pressed into service to carry relief material to Kerala. The search and rescue operations and mobilisation of resources alone would cost the Central Government hundreds of crore of rupees,” the MHA said.

The government said Rs. 600 crore was released in advance “pending an assessment” by a team of ministers. This, the statement added, was apart from Rs. 562.45 crore already in the State Disaster Relief Fund, to which the centre contributes 75 to 90 per cent.

The statement follows some severe criticism of the Rs 600 crore assistance even by independent sections. An India Spend analysis, pointing out that it was “less than the cost of one Rafale fighter jet (Rs 670 crore), 36 of which India hopes to buy from France”, added that this interim relief is less than:

–    The amount allocated towards the construction of an exhibition cum convention centre (ECC), Dwarka, New Delhi– Rs 700 crore.

–    the amount spent on the purchase of two new VVIP aircraft for special flights operated by Air India for the President, Vice President and Prime Minister–Rs 4,469.5 crore ($640 million);

–    the allocation made by the Centre for the revival of 50 airports/airstrips under the Regional Connectivity Scheme–Rs 890 crore.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi slams Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Yadav for eating mutton during holy month of Sawan, compares them to Mughals

PM Modi even compared them with the Mughals and accused them of trying to tease the people of the country.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday made a scathing attack on senior Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and RJD leader Lalu Yadav for allegedly eating mutton during the holy month of Sawan last year. He claimed that they do not care about the sentiments of the majority of people of the country. PM Modi even compared them with the Mughals and accused them of trying to tease the people of the country.

PM Modi was referring to a viral video which was released in September last year in which senior Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and RJD leader Lalu Yadav were seen cooking mutton together. PM Modi was speaking at an election rally in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur.

He said the opposition and INDI alliance do not care about the sentiments of the majority of the people of the India. He added Congress party enjoys playing with the sentiments of the people.

Talking about RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, PM Modi said a person who has been sentenced by the court and who is on bail – Rahul Gandhi visited the house of such a criminal and enjoys cooking mutton in the month of Sawan and a video was also made to tease the people of the country.  The Prime Minister claimed the intention of INDI alliance is to tease the people of the country and he even compared them with the Mughals.

PM Modi said the law does not stop anyone from eating anything but the intentions of these people are something else. He cited the example of the Mughals and said that when they attacked here, they were not satisfied until they demolished the temples. So just like Mughals, the Congress wants to tease the people of the country by showing the video in the month of Sawan.

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Akhilesh Yadav condemns deployment of cops in priests attire at Kashi temple

While the female policemen were wearing a ‘salwar kurta’, the male policemen were in a ‘dhoti-kurta’.

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Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has condemned the deployment of police officers dressed as priests at the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. The Samajwadi Party (SP) chief demanded the suspension of the officers and wondered who ordered to deployment of cops in such attire.   

On the orders of Varanasi Police Commissioner Mohit Agarwal, the male and female policemen have been deployed in the temple in the priests’ attire. While the female policemen were wearing a ‘salwar kurta’, the male policemen were in a ‘dhoti-kurta’.

Yadav questioned the system in UP and asked according to which police manual is it correct for policemen to be dressed as priests. Those who give such orders should be suspended, he added. If tomorrow any ‘thag’ (fraudster) takes advantage of this and loots the innocent public, then what will the UP government and administration answer, he further asked. He called it Condemnable in a post on X.

Police Commissioner Agarwal had earlier told reporters that people who come from far away places to have obeisance have regard for the priests and they often get hurt if they are pushed forward by the policemen.

The duty in the temple is different from other places as police have to manage different types of crowds here. The crowd here is not for creating law and order problems. The police are here to ensure easy darshan to people and help and guide them, the police officer said.

He added the devotees get hurt if being pushed by policemen, if the same thing is done by priests they take it in a positive way. Following the no-touch policy, policemen are being deployed in priests’ attire.

The Samajwadi Party had earlier announced its candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Party chief Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple Yadav will be contesting from her existing seat in Mainpuri.

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Omar Abdullah to contest from Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency

Firebrand Shia leader Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi would contest from central Kashmir’s Srinagar constituency, which has been an NC bastion.

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Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah will contest election from the Baramulla constituency in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the party announced on Friday.

National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah, while speaking to reporters, said that Omar Abdullah is the party’s candidate from north Kashmir’s Baramulla Lok Sabha seat.

The National Conference president also informed that the firebrand Shia leader Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi would contest from central Kashmir’s Srinagar constituency, which has been an NC bastion.

On contesting the General election from Baramulla, Omar said that it’s a challenge, every election is a challenge but it’s a challenge that he is looking forward to. As he said earlier, his fight is not against an individual, it is against the skullduggery, treachery, the political machinations of the BJP, he asserted.

The former Chief Minister said the way in which BJP is trying to create alternatives to parties like the National Conference, the way in which they are conspiring to try and bring their associate parties together on one stage and therefore he sees this as an opportunity to take the fight directly to the BJP and to the Centre, he added.

Speaking to a reporter, he said that this time, his fight is not against any individual. In North Kashmir, his fight is not against any candidate instead his fight is with those powers which are behind that candidate. It has been decided that he will be contesting from North Kashmir because BJP is focusing a lot on North Kashmir, Omar added. He said he wants that these powers should be defeated in North Kashmir.

Regarding the BJP, the NC leader wondered if what PM Modi is saying is correct then why are his candidates not in the field? Why is the BJP not contesting South, Central and North Kashmir, he asked.

On being asked if he would leave politics if the BJP wins a single seat, he said to let the BJP announce their candidates. He will also see if they are able to get a single seat in J&K or not, he said while speaking to a reporter.

According to the Election Commission of India, polling in Baramulla will be held on May 20.

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