"DMF is a defining opportunity to overturn the decades of injustice meted out to the thousands of people living in deep poverty and deprivation in India's mining districts," said CSE deputy director general Chandra Bhushan, releasing the Centre's latest study on the status of District Mineral Foundation here today.
Established as a non-profit Trust, DMFs in every mining district have the precise objective to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining related operations. The CSE report is an independent review of the progress and performance of DMFs in various mining districts of India.
The truth about allocation
The DMF plans which CSE has analysed broadly indicate allocations made to various sectors. The analysis has found that supply of clean drinking water is a common issue that has been considered 'high priority' by a majority of the districts. Education and healthcare are two other issues that districts have considered, though for all these allocations and approaches vary.
"Dhanbad, one of the highly polluted coal mining districts of Jharkhand, has allocated 62.5 per cent of its DMF budget for clean drinking water, which the district largely plans to provide through piped water supply. On the contrary, Singrauli, the top coal mining district of Madhya Pradesh and a critically polluted area, has earmarked a negligible 0.9 per cent of its DMF budget for drinking water which entirely is for digging tube wells," said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, environmental governance-community support programme, CSE.
What comes out is that while most of the districts have made allocations for certain "high priority" issues as identified under the respective state DMF Rules, the allocations at various instances are ad hoc and short-sighted. In many districts, the DMF plans mechanically list the number and types of works to be undertaken, without any elaboration on the rationale of planning.
The report finds that in the first year of planning, many districts have allocated significant amounts for various construction purposes. For instance, on the education front, with few exceptions, the big focus is on construction of structures such as school buildings, auditoriums and classrooms. There is very little focus on providing supporting resources that can improve access to and quality of education.
Similarly, for women and child welfare, the focus is primarily on construction of Anganwadi Centres. There is little or no simultaneous investment in primary healthcare, which is crucial to improve health and nutrition status of children and women. In fact, in most districts, investments towards improving primary healthcare remain very low, though this is a pressing problem in all rural mining areas.
And while most districts have identified the DMF body, which includes members of the Governing Council and Managing Committees, the administration is dominated by government officials with poor representation of people. In addition, DMFs are functioning without a fixed administrative set-up, such as an office for planning and co-ordination, relying on intermittent meetings of the DMF body.
Evidently, there are shortfalls on various fronts, from institutional and administrative issues, to planning and budgetary allocations, which the districts need to act on. Said Bhushan: "We should, however, bear in mind that as DMF now enters the third year of its implementation, it is time to look forward than looking back. Two years in implementation of a national programme is not a time to judge. However, an analysis at this juncture can help to understand the course that DMFs are following, and enable districts to adopt measures that optimise the potential of DMFs in the coming years to serve the best interest of the people."
DMF was instituted in March 2015 under India's central mining law, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (1957). DMF has also been aligned to an important scheme of the Government of India, the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) that was launched in September 2015. According to the provisions of DMF, miners and mining companies are required to pay a sum to the DMF Trust of the district where the mine is located. This sum is determined on the basis of their royalty payments.
The fund is clearly a bounty for some of India's poorest and under developed districts, many of which are in the country's top mining states. In India's top three mining states Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, nearly 40 per cent of the people live below the poverty line. Various districts in these states, also identified as backward districts by the Niti Aayog, fare very poorly in terms of various human development indicators such as nutrition and health, mortality rate, access to clean water, sanitation and education, among others.
With a huge non-lapsable and an untied resource cover, clear objectives guiding the implementation, targeted beneficiaries and focussed intervention areas, DMFs hold a huge promise to address years of deprivation and inequality afflicting people living in India's mining areas. "The Government had rightly observed that DMF and PMKKKY are 'revolutionary' steps. However, the success of this move now lies in its relevance to, and participation of the people, and the transparency and accountability mechanisms through which the institution operates in the coming years," said Bhushan.
There are three important aspects that need to be addressed with respect to DMFs institutional and administrative gaps, planning and budget allocations and a scientific approach to the planning process:
- Register all DMF Trusts.
- Each mining district should provide all information related to DMF on specific websites for the purposes of transparency and accountability.
- Focus on improving livelihood opportunities in mining affected areas, particularly around local resources.
- Set aside money for future security. Mining areas often suffer from the problem of becoming 'ghost towns' once mining ends. This should not be the case now that DMFs are in play.
- Determine the focus areas of intervention and prioritise issues through proper scientific assessment, taking into account the views of mining-affected communities.
- Undertake scientific and comprehensive planning to address immediate as well as long -term needs and provide future security.
- Perspective planning must be undertaken to address immediate and long-term needs and sustain investments.
- DMFs can converge and integrate with other schemes of the Centre and state governments. This should however, be done only after thorough assessment of gaps.
- A bottom-up planning process must be followed by involving Gram Sabhas as per the mandate of the law.
- Set up DMF offices for activities like coordination, planning, monitoring and accounting with full-time staff. There should also be an active engagement with subject experts and line department officials.