New Delhi: Amid speculation over whether India will accept foreign aid for flood-hit Kerala, the European Union (EU) seems to have found a solution—channel aid through the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS).

A press release from the EU office in New Delhi said the EU “has allocated an initial contribution of €190,000 in humanitarian aid funding to support the IRCS for immediate relief assistance. The aid will directly benefit 25,000 from among the most affected people in some of the worst-hit areas of the state."

This comes after foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar on Wednesday clarified that while India would not be accepting aid channelled by governments “in line with the existing policy", contributions to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund from NRIs, PIOs “and international entities such as foundations would, however, be welcome".

According to people familiar with the matter, the EU routing aid through the IRCS was in line with India’s accepted procedures.

According to the EU, its funding though the IRCS “will ensure much needed assistance through the distribution of essential shelter and household items including tarpaulins and kitchen sets. As outbreaks of vector-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria are common following flooding, mosquito nets are also being provided, while disease prevention and hygiene promotion activities are being conducted. Special attention will be placed on the most vulnerable populations," the statement said.

The funding is part of the EU’s overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), it said. An expert from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Operations (ECHO) has also been deployed to further assess the situation, it added.

India’s refusal to accept assistance from countries like the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday drew criticism from Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Isaac, who pointed out in a Twitter post that under the National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) 2016, India “may" accept aid “if the national government of another country voluntarily offers assistance as a goodwill gesture in solidarity with the disaster victims".

A person familiar with the development pointed out that the section quoted by the Kerala finance minister does not make it incumbent on the central government to accept international aid.

Analysts like former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh were of the view that India should not refuse outright all offers of aid in a humanitarian disaster situation but take the particular state’s concerns and requests on board and fine-tune the central government’s response to the international assistance offers. In 2001, after the Gujarat earthquake, the BJP state government was selective in its acceptance of aid from the international community, Mansingh said. “New Delhi accepted (international) aid that was wanted by the state government," he said, adding India had refused medicines, for example, deeming it had enough supplies at home.

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