The ongoing public debate on whether India should accept foreign aid to help Kerala recover after the flood disaster reminds me of an incident that occurred in December 2004.
A couple of days after the devastating tsunami had ravaged India’s coastlines leaving hundreds of thousands displaced, I sought a meeting with Alok Prasad, India’s high commissioner to Singapore at that time. Several of my friends in the city-state were in the process of setting up collection points for relief materials, and I offered to help the high commission to use the internet to coordinate such efforts.
Prasad’s response angered me. He said it wouldn’t be necessary and that the high commission would not encourage the NRI community to send relief material. Instead, he suggested that I direct people to donate to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (which, in the event, many of us did). I recall Indian banks waived the usual remittance charges for such contributions.