BHUBANESWAR: The Centre is reported to have rejected the State Government’s request for removal of the 30 per cent cap on use of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund to fight COVID-19 in all affected districts.
Faced with fiscal crunch due to big fall in revenue receipt and inadequate transfer of State’s share in Central tax, the Government had requested the Centre to relax norms of the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) permitting utilisation of unspent balance of DMF in non-mineral bearing districts.
As per the guidelines framed by the Ministry of Mines for one-time relaxation, the DMF fund can only be utilised in mineral bearing districts having at least one positive COVID-19 case.
In a letter to Union Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had requested to withdraw this clause as establishment of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals and isolation facility takes a long time.
Explaining the need to use DMF fund in non-mineral bearing districts, the Chief Minister said the State has witnessed large number of COVID-19 positive cases in districts like Khurda, Jajpur, Cuttack and Bhadrak which are adjacent to major mineral bearing districts. “As it is essential to contain the spread of COVID-19 in DMF districts, the funds should also be allowed to be spent in these non-DMF areas,” the CM said justifying the State’s demand.
The State has an unspent amount of Rs 6,518.14 crore under DMF till the end of March 2020. It is entitled to utilise Rs 1,955 crore, which is 30 per cent of the unutilised fund, as per the Central guidelines.
“The Central Government has its limitation as the DMF fund is regulated as per the laid down procedure of PMKKKY. The special fund created by the Centre is to be utilised for developmental and welfare of people affected by mining activities. There is no scope for utilisation of this fund in non-DMF districts due to legal issues,” informed sources said.
Besides, civil societies like Keonjhar Nagarik Parishad have raised objection to diversion of fund to other districts.
BJP MLA from Keonjhar Sadar Mohan Majhi, one of the trustees of Keonjhar DMF Trust Board, said the State Government has already taken 30 per cent of the fund for expenditure on healthcare to fight coronavirus.
“Any further move to use more fund from the DMF and diverting funds to other districts will be strongly resisted by the people of Keonjhar who are worst affected by mining activities,” Majhi said.
He said the DMF fund utilised to prevent coronavirus is subject to approval of the Trust Board and mandatory audit.