By Matters India Reporter
Dubai, Oct. 20, 2018: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is on a four-day visit to the UAE, met prominent Indian businessmen and others in Dubai on October 19 to seek help for mobilizing resources to rebuild flood-ravaged Kerala.
He assured them that donors will be ensured transparency in the funds’ expenditure.
In the absence of adequate support from the federal government, the chief minister had sought help from Non Resident Indians (NRIs) globally to help rebuild Kerala. He sought a month’s salary from NRIs as well as locals to help in the redevelopment efforts.
External agencies, including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, have assessed Kerala’s post-disaster needs at 270 billion rupees. However, the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund has only collected 20 billion rupees so far.
Employees of the Lulu Group in Abu Dhabi raised 100 million rupees under this initiative and donated it to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund. Vijayan sought such support from other organizations in the UAE.
“If you can’t donate a month’s salary, at least donate a week’s salary now, and the rest when you can afford to do so,” he urged, adding that the fund will be socially audited.
He also cited the crowd-funding Rebuild Kerala initiative undertaken by the state government to help donors choose specific projects in towns they wished.
“You can choose a specific home, village, hospital, primary health centre or school to help under the crowd-funding initiative. Investors can get updates on the projects they support with visual evidence. Members of the public will be social monitors. Donors will be ensured transparency of project management.”
At an event organized by the Indian Business and Professional Council, the chief minister said: “The Kerala government can only seek 40 billion rupees from the Central government. There has been no response so far for our request for a special package worth 50 billion rupees from the Centre. There are limits to the loans we can take from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other global agencies.”
The chief minister said the focus for a new Kerala would be to create infrastructure that would be resilient to future natural disasters.
“Our vegetable trade was destroyed, the loss to livestock was huge, farming suffered devastating losses, lands were rendered infertile and the loss of livelihood was huge. Schools, hospitals and other public facilities were destroyed,” Vijayan added.
He also urged wealthy businessmen and other NRIs to invest in Kerala, citing the ease of doing business in the state. “We are an investment-friendly state, offering single-window clearances and guaranteed approval to businesses. Organizations facing any issues can directly approach the chief minister’s office or the chief minister, if need be.”
Dr Azad Moopen, chairman of Aster DM Healthcare, urged more organizations in the UAE to take up the salary challenge and raise money for Kerala. “Investments into Kerala will not just take care of infrastructure, but also generate more employment. Tourism, information technology and agriculture sectors have great potential,” he noted.
M A Yusuf Ali, chairman and managing director of Lulu Group, Dr B.R. Shetty, founder and chairman of NMC Healthcare, Finablr, Neopharma and BRS Ventures, and Ram Buxani, chairman of ITL Cosmos Group, have pledged support and exhorted others to respond to the chief minister’s call.
Earlier, on October 17, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra Region and head of the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), received Vijayan and his accompanying delegation at Al Nakheel Palace in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Hamdan said that the ERC will provide all possible support and assistance to Kerala. “The UAE leaders and people have followed the humanitarian catastrophe that the state of Kerala was exposed to due to the floods and torrential rain with great concern, and reacted at both government and people’s level,” he said.
Sheikh Hamdan also expressed the hope that Vijayan’s visit would further strengthen the fraternal ties between the UAE and Kerala. Both leaders discussed ways to boost relations and exchanged views on a number of international and regional issues of common interest.
On October 17 evening, addressing a gathering of Indian businessmen at a function organised by the Indian Business and Professional Group (IBPG) in Abu Dhabi, the chief minister said: “Earlier we had hopes that the Central government will review its stand that States cannot accept foreign aid. In my last meeting with the Prime Minister, I had put forth the request. But now, there is no hope and that door is closed in front of us. Hence, we have to explore other avenues for fundraising.”
Vijayan, in an interview to Gulf News, noted that the Indian government’s decision denying his ministers permission to travel abroad seeking funds was unexpected. The chief minister had announced on October 3 that 17 of the 20 state ministers would visit various foreign nations, including in the Gulf, South East Asia, Europe and America, from October 17 to 21. However, the federal allowed only the chief minister’s foreign visit.
On October 18, Vijayan addressed a gathering of 2,500 people at the India Social and Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, was the chief guest at the event.
“Keralites in the UAE are vital to our economy and society,” said Shaikh Nahyan. “They have always been welcomed here. People of Kerala are in our hearts. I am confident that the resilience and teamwork of Kerala diaspora will help rebuild Kerala.”
Vijayan will hold public and business meetings in Sharjah on October 20 before flying home.
Sources: khaleejtimes.com and gulfnews.com