HYDERABAD: The District Mineral Fund Trusts (DMFTs), which are empowered to raise funds with money collected from the mining leaseholders as compensation for causing environmental and social disruptions, have not been able to fully utilise those funds. According to an RTI reply, though Telangana has set up the trust in 32 districts and managed to collect around Rs 3021.81 crore till February 2021, it has so far spent only half of it — Rs 1,587 crore.
These funds come in handy to improve drinking water supply, develop schools, reduce pollution and promote preservation of ecology in areas affected by mining-related operations. But these funds, which are a fraction of the royalty held by mining leaseholder, seem to be lying idle.
“These funds are to be used for schemes to uplift the impacted community. However, what we see in place is that funds are unutilised and whatever utilised is going for infrastructure works and not on education, health or sanitation and skill development. The infrastructure work that is often commissioned using these funds should have been done with the regular funds in the first place,” said Sravan Kumar K, an advocate who filed the RTI with the Ministry of Mines.
60% of funds for environment, education
According to the Pradhan Mantri Khanji Kshetra Kalyan Yojana, 60 per cent of these funds must go for high priority works like environment protection, education and skill development and the remaining 40 per cent for infrastructure works. The RTI, however, finds that in Telangana, a majority of the work commissioned has been for “non-priority works like physical infrastructure, irrigation, energy and watershed development”.
“In Sathupalli opencast coal mines, we have seen that more than 1,500 homes were dislocated but the money collected by DMFT went for buying lands for the local municipality to dispose off waste, to develop roads and to construct parks. The fund was not utilise to help actual victims, to rebuild their homes or providing employment opportunities or improving agricultural lands,” said Sravan.
The RTI reply further finds a strong disparity in amounts deposited in each of the districts’ respective DMF. For instance, the highest sum of Rs 735 crore was deposited in Pedapally, followed by Bhadradri (Rs 528.34 crore) and Mancherial (Rs 381.82 crore).
“Mining-related activities are a major source of revenue for government of Telangana. However, some districts contribute a lot and the contribution of others is as low as Rs 186 crore as in the case of Khammam,” added Sravan.