India's UAE ambassador calls for cash not supplies to aid flood-hit Kerala
Ambassador to the UAE says money is more 'useful' for stricken Indian state
The Indian ambassador to the UAE has issued a plea for well-wishers to donate cash rather than supplies to help flood-hit Kerala recover from its most devastating monsoon in a century.
UAE residents have been eager to show their support for the embattled Indian state after torrential rain caused widespread devastation, with a death of toll of more than 400 expected to rise further still and hundreds of thousands left homeless.
Ambassador Navdeep Suri said that Kerala now has sufficient supplies thanks to the generosity of people all over the world - but more money is needed to bolster the massive rebuilding process to come.
"As of now there are enough supplies to handle the situation. There is no shortage of things in India," he said.
"The most important shared feedback that I have received from the government of Kerala has been: 'do not send relief missions'."
"Don't look at Kerala as an area in isolation,” he said.
"Going through the effort and expense of collecting things here, sending them to Kochi, and then delivering them to the areas where the big damage is, that doesn't make sense."
He said he understands and appreciates that "there is big emotion to do something tangible; preparing a big box is more satisfying than sending money.
"But sending money is more efficient and useful. This is what the government of Kerala has shared with me."
He said people should take advantage of initiatives led by a number of money exchange operators, such as Lulu and UAE exchange, allowing people to send any amount to Kerala free of charge.
"Even a figure as low as 50 dirhams can be sent, so if a blue collar worker says I can't do more, there is nothing to stop him, it is free of charge."
The ambassador also warned well-intentioned residents not to fall fall foul of the UAE's strict charity laws
He said he has been told by government officials that there has been instances when individuals and groups were engaged in unauthorized fundraising activities – which is prohibited under the UAE law.
"We don't want people to get in trouble and end up violating laws, because we are very respecting and mindful of local laws,” he said.
For those who wish to volunteer for the reconstruction of Kerala, there will soon be an opportunity for them to do so.
Ambassador Suri said he is working with the department of Non Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) to establish a portal that would receive the resumes of professionals such as doctors, engineers, electricians and technicians who are willing to volunteer.
NORKA would then match volunteers with the reconstruction programs that will take place.
Ambassador Suri has also requested that the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers a grace period for Indian expatriates whose residency visas may expire while stuck in Kerala.
"Some community associations pointed out that their members are stuck in Kerala because their passports have been damaged in the floods, and there may be a delay in returning to the UAE since they have to obtain fresh passports and visas."
He called for a one-month amnesty to be offered in such cases.
Updated: August 20, 2018 09:09 PM