Rs 5,000 cr in DMF: No Need-based planning for funds use

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Rs 5,000 cr in DMF: No Need-based planning for funds use

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 | BIJAY MISHRA | BHUBANESWAR

Odisha is the topmost State in terms of District Mineral Foundations (DMF) collection in India with a total cumulative accrual of more than Rs 5,000 crore. But it fails benefitting the mining-affected people due to crucial institutional and administrative gaps.

Researchers and Activists of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) pointed out the gaps and discussed in details about the DMF Status Report, 2018 in a meeting here. The meeting was attended by officials of the Odisha Planning and Convergence Department, civil society organisations and media representatives.

“The 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. The law as framed is also a crucial opportunity to ensure people centric governance and decision-making. But this can only happen if DMF is developed and implemented in the letter and spirit of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation), Amendment Act, 2015 and State rules developed under it. Our assessment shows that so far Odisha has failed to implement DMF in the right spirit,” said deputy director general, CSE, Chandra Bhushan.

Speaking on the occasion, Secretary , Planning and Convergence Department R Balakrishnan, said that Odisha is focusing on convergence for DMF implementation because it brings in various departments that are looking into various issues that DMF is looking into.

Balakrishnan also highlighted certain issues that need to be relooked at to improve DMF implementation including selection of the affected areas, DMF office and administration and how to effectively engage PRI members etc.

An analysis of the DMF implementation in top four mining districts such as Angul, Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Jharsuguda revealed that the DMF Trust has not identified its beneficiaries.  “By not identifying the beneficiaries, the DMFs thus have left out some of the worst-affected people from the benefits,” said Bhushan.

Likely sidelining Gram Sabhas goes against the mandates of the MMDR Amendment Act as well as the State Rules and the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Khestra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) guidelines, all of which emphasise on Gram Sabha engagement, particularly in Scheduled Areas for deciding on DMF works, monitoring and identifying beneficiaries.

“There is little information available showing that Gram Sabha consultation has happened for identification and approval of works to be done through DMF funds or for identifying beneficiaries,” says Srestha Banerjee, programme manager of environmental governance unit, CSE.

“In a few cases where approvals have been taken from Gram Sabhas, it has been a formality, where the village heads are informed of the project and told to sign the papers,” said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager of environmental governance unit, CSE.

The DMF investments are poorly planned. With more than Rs 5,000 crore in DMF Trusts, there is a huge scope for the mining districts of Odisha to address some of the pressing issues. However, this can only happen if DMFs develop investment plans through proper need-based assessment, says the CSE report.

However, no district has developed a comprehensive DMF plan to ensure need-based investments in mining-affected areas. The work sanctions so far are ad-hoc. Of the Rs 2,589 crore sanctioned so far for projects under DMF, over 33 per cent is for building roads and bridges. In fact, investments in such infrastructure have been alarmingly high in some areas, such as in Sundargarh district. For instance, in Koida, Sundargarh’s worst mining-affected block, a whopping 80 per cent of the DMF investments is for big infrastructure.

Investments in other sectors like healthcare and education are also construction driven, ignoring the need for human resources to service the infrastructure or to improve access to these facilities. For example, in Keonjhar, almost the entire health sanction of about Rs 396 crore is for construction of one medical college in the town.

“This is, despite the fact that only about 4 per cent of the villages in the district have access to a primary health centre within a 5km radius, and many of them do not have the required health staff.

Recently, the district has advertised to hire doctors in some places. Investments in many cases are also urban-centric, having to do nothing with mining-affected areas or people. For instance, in Sundargarh district, Rs 113 crore has been given for piped drinking water supply in three municipalities, which are not even “directly-affected” by mining. In contrast, the district’s worst affected Koida block which suffers from severe water pollution has got only Rs 7.5 crore. Similarly, in Jharsuguda, more than Rs 13 crore from DMF funds has been sanctioned for providing power supply to the local airport.

NoSome critical issues are also missed out in first three years of sanctions. One of the biggest issues emerging in all districts of Odisha is child nutrition. However, it is a pity that practically no district has made the required sanction to improve child nutrition and health. Classic examples are the State’s two biggest mining district Keonjhar and Sundargarh. “It is a pity that Keonjhar with Rs 1,524 crore in DMF has sanctioned less than Rs 2 crore for child nutrition and development. The district’s under-5 mortality rate (U5MR)in rural mining areas is as high as 70, and nearly 45 per cent children below 5 years are stunted or underweight,” said Srestha. Similarly, in Sundargarh where about 50 per cent rural children are stunted and the U5MR is as high as 67, only Rs 3 crore has been sanctioned for this.

Equally neglected is healthcare. Most districts not only face a shortage of health infrastructure but also healthcare staff, particularly doctors, as compared to prescribed Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS). Angul, where primary health centres (PHCs) and community health centres (CHCs) both have a 50 per cent deficit of doctors, has invested only 5.6 per cent of its Rs 242 crore allocation in healthcare. In Sundargarh, healthcare investment is a mere Rs 33 crore, which is one-tenth of the money that the district is spending to build roads through DMF funds,” points out the CSE report.

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