States utilising District Mineral Foundation fund fail to identify beneficiaries, finds CSE study

The study claimed there is no scope for representation of mining-affected communities in district DMF bodies that are dominated by district officials and political representatives from mining areas.

Published: 01st August 2018 12:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st August 2018 12:32 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Even as a whopping Rs 18,467 crore has been collected from 20 minerals bearing States of the country under the most ambitious District Mineral Foundation (DMF) scheme till May this year, not a single trust that is constituted at the district level has so far identified its beneficiaries, the mining affected people.

The latest study on mining States conducted by New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found that Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have collected over 72 per cent of the total DMF fund. Odisha topped the list with Rs 4,453 crore, followed by Chhattisgarh with the collection of Rs 2,746 crore, Jharkhand Rs 2,696 crore, Rajasthan Rs 1,782 crore and Madhya Pradesh Rs 1,610 crore.

The study titled People First: DMF Status Report, 2018, which was released here on Tuesday, is an assessment of DMF instituted in 2015. It covers 12 States in the country and closely studies the investments in 13 districts in the top five States, including Odisha.

The study claimed there is no scope for representation of mining-affected communities in district DMF bodies that are dominated by district officials and political representatives from mining areas. The only 'people's representation' comes from the few elected members of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI). Gram Shabhas have been completely ignored, it stated.

Director General of CSE Sunita Narain said though DMF is a people-centric vision of natural resource governance where their right to benefit has been put at the forefront, the beneficiaries are still poor and at the mercy of the authorities in the country's richest areas. "If implemented well, DMFs not only have huge potential for improving the lives and livelihoods of the poorest communities, they can also be a model for inclusive governance," she said.

The study report stated, of Rs 2,588.9 crore sanctioned for projects under DMF in Odisha, over 33 per cent is for building roads and bridges. The investments in such infrastructure have been alarmingly high going up to almost 80 per cent in some areas. Top four districts in Odisha in terms of DMF collection are Keonjhar (Rs 1,524 crore), Angul (Rs 836 crore), Sundargarh (Rs 780 crore) and Jharsuguda (Rs 275 crore).

Deputy director general of CSE Chandra Bhushan said DMF is a defining opportunity to overturn the decades of injustice meted out to the millions of people living in deep poverty and deprivation in India's mining districts. It can be a game changer if implemented in letter and spirit of the guidelines, he said.

Even as three years have passed since the fund was constituted, no district has developed a comprehensive DMF plan to ensure need-based investments in mining-affected areas and the work sanctions are ad hoc.CSE Programme manager Srestha Banerjee, who made a ground assessment in some of the States, said even as healthcare is one of the biggest issues emerging in all districts, unfortunately everywhere it falls very low on the DMF priority. Lack of expertise to handle such a huge fund is also a bottleneck for most of the districts, she reasoned.

The study, however, found disclosure of information on DMFs in Odisha is the best in the country as it has developed an online DMF website with district-specific information. The website contains details of the DMF trustees and members, fund allocation and expenditure, and minutes of meetings of the DMF body.

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