Mineral fund with Rs 23,800 cr can cushion Covid havoc in Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh

The Print | May 28, 2020

The District Mineral Foundation funds have nearly Rs 23,800 cr after less than 40% of the amount accumulated over the past five years was spent.

Mumbai/New Delhi: An under-utilized $3.1 billion fund targeted at the poorest in India’s mining belt could prove to be a crucial resource in the South Asian nation’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Created under a new law in 2015, the so-called District Mineral Foundation funds have nearly 238 billion rupees, after less than 40% of the amount accumulated over the past five years was spent, according to data from the country’s mines ministry. The funds were created from contributions by miners in addition to royalty payments and were aimed at improving the lives of people in areas affected by mining.

That could come to the aid of mining states, which decide how the funds should be used, after a nationwide lockdown shut factories, malls and offices, bringing the economy to a halt. As restrictions begin to ease, the states will need the funds to buy protective equipment, strengthen their medical infrastructure and create jobs.

“The DMF has come as a huge support for mining districts,” Amit Kumar, the deputy commissioner of Dhanbad district in Jharkhand known for its coal mines, said on Friday. “At the moment we have seven positive cases, but should the numbers rise, we will not be short on funds to deal with this.”

Dhanbad has used the funds for filling in staff vacancies at hospitals and for water and sanitation projects, an investment that’s being put to good use today, Kumar said.

The contagion is escalating in the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people, with 150,793 infections, including 4,344 deaths as of Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. To combat the virus, India’s government introduced the world’s biggest lockdown in March and extended it until May 31, while easing restrictions in certain sectors to boost economic activity.

The lockdown has had a damaging economic impact, with the country hurtling toward its first full-year contraction in four decades. An estimated 122 million people lost their jobs in April while consumer demand has evaporated.

Under-Utilized
“DMFs in various states and districts cannot afford to put the issue of livelihood in the backseat anymore,” Srestha Banerjee, a consultant at Brooking India, said in a report. “Given the urgency of the economic situation, the states and districts must shore-up investments towards this.”

Bureaucratic hurdles, ignorance by local political representatives of the DMF and its aims, lack of monitoring mechanisms and little pressure from the affected communities for its adequate utilization are some of the reasons for the slow deployment of funds in projects, according to Oxfam.

While some states like Chhattisgarh have spent a big portion of the funds on welfare projects, others like Odisha, which has collected the highest amount at 100 billion rupees, have spent about 35% so far, according to the mines ministry.

There is a lack of transparency and public accountability in the implementation of various welfare projects, Oxfam said. There is need for a mandatory monitoring mechanism tracked by the federal government, to ensure these funds are spent on projects that benefit communities and their local environment and livelihood rather than on capital and infrastructure projects only, it said. –Bloomberg

District Mineral Foundation funds crucial resource for ensuring income security in mining areas post COVID-19

Brookings | Srestha Banerjee | May 06, 2020

The Prime Minister of India held a meeting on April 30, 2020 to consider reforms in the mines and coal sector to jump-start the Indian economy in the backdrop of COVID-19. The mining sector, which is a primary supplier of raw materials to the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors, is being considered to play a crucial role for the resurgence of the economy post the lockdown and in the coming years.

While several reforms are being mulled over to boost mining businesses, the Centre and the state Governments also need to consider boosting local livelihoods. In the context of mining districts, the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds can be used for prioritising livelihood generation and creating local jobs. The Prime Minister in the latest meeting has also discussed the scope of improving “community development activities” through the fund.[1]

DMF was instituted in March 2015, under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act 2015. It has been conceptualised as a benefit-sharing mechanism with mining-affected communities, recognising them as partners in natural resource-led development. Set up as a non-profit trust in all mining districts of India, DMF comes with the precise objective to ‘work for the interest and benefit of people and areas affected by mining’, through a participatory process. In September 2015, the Centre further aligned DMF with the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) scheme, to implement various developmental projects and welfare programmes in mining-affected areas using DMF funds.[2]

Livelihood and income generation is a key issue that DMFs need to focus on for mining-affected communities across the country. This has been emphasised through the MMDR Amendment Act 2015 and the respective State DMF Rules developed under it, as well as the PMKKKY scheme. The emphasis comes in three ways.

Firstly, considering the fact that mining-related activities lead to significant displacement and loss of livelihoods in these areas, the law specifically notes that people who have lost their land rights (including user and traditional rights) due to mining or whose livelihood has been affected by such activities, constitute DMF beneficiaries. Secondly, one of the defined objectives of PMKKY is to ensure long-term sustainable livelihood for the people affected by mining. Finally, following the PMKKKY guidelines, livelihood and skill development have been recognised as ‘high-priority’ issues under all state DMF Rules on which districts must invest adequately.

Besides regulatory prerogative, the economic situation in the mining districts also clearly point out why income generation and creation of diverse livelihood opportunities should be a focus of DMFs. For example, in most of the mining districts, particularly in the rural areas where most mines are located, the income level among the local population is extremely low. As per socio-economic caste census of the Government of India, in a majority of these districts, 80 to 90% of the rural households have the highest earning member getting below Rs. 5,000 per month (Table 1: Distribution of household earnings in rural areas of some top mining districts). What adds to the low-income levels is the income uncertainty, as more than 50% of the workforce comprise of manual and casual labourers in these districts. Poverty and uncertainty of income also undermines the access to adequate food, proper healthcare, education and all such basic needs.

Table 1: Distribution of household earnings in rural areas of some top mining districts

StateDistrictHouseholds having monthly income of highest earning household member less than Rs. 5,000 (%)Households having monthly income of highest earning household member between Rs. 5,000 to10,000 (%)Households having monthly income of highest earning household member more than Rs. 10,000 (%)
OdishaKeonjhar90.65.24.2
Sundargarh89.85.44.8
JharkhandWest Singhbhum53.837.38.9
Chatra83.211.85.0
ChhattisgarhDantewada94.73.12.2
Korba91.34.44.3
RajasthanBhilwara82.511.85.5
Chittorgarh84.010.55.5
Madhya PradeshSingrauli86.59.93.6
Satna82.311.76.0
TelanganaKarimnagar78.817.04.2
Khammam74.621.44.0
KarnatakaBellary72.020.37.7
Gulbarga47.530.921.6
MaharashtraYavatmal74.915.99.2
Chandrapur79.710.69.7

Source: Socio economic caste census, 2011, Government of India

Neglected so far, livelihood investments must now be a priority for DMFs

Despite the mandate to improve livelihood and income among communities in the mining-affected areas, DMFs in almost all mining states have failed to make the required investments on this extremely important sector so far. For instance, in most of the top mining states, the funds earmarked for livelihood and skill development are negligible compared to the total cumulative accrual of DMF funds (Table 2: Allocation of DMF funds for skill development and livelihood in top mining states). The allocation towards this account for only 0-4% of total allocations for various developmental works in these states. [3]

Table 2: Allocation of DMF funds for skill development and livelihood in top mining states

StateTotal DMF accrual(Rs. Crore)Allocation for livelihood and skill development(Rs. Crore)
Odisha9,772196.0
Jharkhand5,3050
Chhattisgarh5,115456.3
Rajasthan3,6280
Madhya Pradesh2,938No information available
Telangana2,79080.0
Karnataka1,88562.0
Maharashtra1,79148.0

Source: Ministry of Mines, Government of India, DMF fund status up to February 2020 and State Government mining departments. [4]

The course must now be corrected. As policymakers at the Centre and state levels discuss relief measures for the poorest and reviving their income, they have an opportunity to strengthen implementation of key programs like PMKKKY and DMF to improve the ground situation. For this, the Centre and respective state governments need to provide clear directions to all districts.

With more than Rs. 36,858 crores in DMFs across the country, the potential of this fund is enormous for improving socio-economic conditions of local communities in the mining districts. As we start a new financial year, it is also the time for DMFs to start planning and budgeting for the 2020-2021. The law requires DMFs to undertake such annual planning considering the situation on the ground and capturing the need and aspirations of local communities.

For DMFs in all districts, much attention must be paid to skill development and providing other resource support for sustainable income generation. This, as noted earlier, is also enshrined in the third objective of PMKKKY and a priority component of all State DMF Rules.[5] Considering the potential of local skills and resources, employment opportunities can be improved through multiple means. For example, incentivising livelihood opportunities around local resources such as forest products can be helpful as many of the mining areas are rich in forests. In fact, the Government of India last week announced raising of minimum support price (MSP) for 49 varieties of minor forest produces, including wild honey, tamarind, mahua flowers and seeds, lac, sal leaves etc., in view of circumstances arising out of Covid-19.[6] DMF funds can further be used to support market linkages for these produces and their products to ensure better economic value for the goods. Besides, agro and horticulture-based industries should be developed which will be relevant to the knowledge and skills of the local people. Providing support to women self-help groups (SHGs) on micro enterprises such as poultry farming, dairy, sericulture, handicrafts, handlooms, etc. will also be important to improve women participation in the workforce. At the same time creating a workforce for various occupations including health care givers through proper training will be crucial for supporting income as well as bridging resource gaps in primary healthcare.

DMFs in various states and districts cannot afford to put the issue of livelihood in the backseat anymore. Given the urgency of the economic situation the states and districts must shore-up investments towards this.

Use money from District Mineral Foundations (DMF) for benefit of mining-affected communities and not for general purposes, says CSE’s new report

CSE | April 27, 2020

Government’s recent move to use DMF for healthcare provisioning during COVID-19 emergency must be limited to mining-affected areas and people. It must also look beyond towards building economic resilience of mining-affected communities, says CSE

New Delhi, April 27, 2020: In a new report on DMF (District Mineral Foundation), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found that DMFs have a huge potential to address some of the key challenges which mining-affected communities have been burdened with for decades. In the wake of the recent government proposition to use DMF funds for healthcare measures for Covid-19 pandemic, CSE cautions that it must strictly be used for building health and economic resilience of mining-affected communities and not used as a general development fund. DMFs should continue to be used for improving the lives and livelihoods of affected communities in India’s mining districts.

Says CSE director general Sunita Narain: “We understand the need for urgency and the importance of our response to COVID-19. However, it is also clear that DMF has been designed for our mining-affected communities, who live in the poorest and most backward regions of our country. Our report suggests that DMF should continue to improve and do more to build livelihood security in these regions. We are concerned that there are efforts to merge this fund for more general purposes. This must not happen.”

DMF: Implementation status and emerging best practices (https://www.cseindia.org/dmf-implementation-status-and-emerging-best-practices-10057), as the report is titled, shows how — over the last two years — districts in India have tried to improve income levels, healthcare access, nutrition support, educational coverage etc using DMF. Says Narain: “Such investments, complimented by outcome-oriented and inclusive planning, can go a long way in ensuring equity and social dividend in India’s mining areas.”

DMFs have been set up in most mining districts of India, with the stated objective to work for the benefit of communities ‘affected’ by mining. Since it was set up, DMF has accrued over Rs 36,000 crore in its coffers. Says Narain: “We believe the fund can play a crucial role in improving lives of people who are living on the margins of survival – caught between poverty and the environmental devastation caused by mining.” The flagship scheme of the Government of India – the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) — also recognises this fact, the report points out.

CSE has been following the progress of DMFs across the country for the past five years. The Centre has consistently and regularly reported on the scheme’s implementation, administration practices, and challenges (see all our DMF reports on www.cseindia.org).

The latest report is the third in a series – CSE’s 2018 and 2017 reports had exposed the critical shortfalls in DMF administration, planning and investments which have been undermining the potential of the Foundations to benefit mining-affected communities. While many of those issues still stand, there have been efforts at course correction since then. Says Chinmayi Shalya, Environmental Governance Unit, CSE: “The 2020 report is an effort to capture some of these in the hope that more states and districts will be compelled to think and bring them into policy and practice.”

Narain says: “We strongly recommend that DMF should not be merged or used for general purposes – even when it comes to the COVID-19 emergency. Instead, it should be used in the mining districts for the benefit of mining affected communities to improve their health infrastructure and well-being. This would certainly go a long way in building more inclusive societies, which will — in turn –improve our resilience against future disasters.”

Tussle over utilisation of Rs 23,000 crores of district mineral foundation fund towards Covid-19 relief aid

The Economic Times | April 19, 2020

Delhi-based non-governmental organization, Prahar (public response against helplessness and action for redressal) on Sunday, urged the government to use the unutilised amount of Rs 23,510 crores from the state-owned district mineral foundation fund as part of relief aid to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, while Goa Foundation, an NGO based in Goa has opposed the idea.

“A corpus of Rs. 23510 crores of unutilized DMF fund is available which if liquidated can bring great relief to the people in mineral states at a time of a national crisis,” said Prahar in a statement.

On March 26, 2020, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during an announcement, urged DMF funds to be used to supplement and augment healthcare facilities, screening and testing requirements and any other resources that might be required by the state governments.

Due to lack of clarity, after 3 weeks only negligible progress has been made with few districts making some use of these funds, the NGO said.

Yet another NGO, Goa Foundation, has however opposed the use of DMF funds and iron ore permanent fund in Goa’s fight against Coronavirus.

The NGO in the letter to the Chief Secretary, Government of Goa wrote that the central government has no right to allocate these funds for saving lives in these extremely troubled times.

Monies placed in the DMFs are, by law, only allowable to support activities that enhance the welfare and opportunities of persons directly affected by mining in mining districts…Hence, by no stretch of the imagination of the law, can the funds meant for them and their communities be used for government activity related to the Covid-19 pandemic, Goa Foundation said in a statement.

“It is not a welfare approach to let the spirit of an act be clouded under the letter of the law”, it added.

Mines and minerals development and regulation Act 1957, mandates the State Governments to establish District Mineral Foundation (DMF) in each district affected by mining related operations.The object shall be to work for the interest and benefit of persons, and areas affected by mining related operations.

DMF fund collection in some key states include Odisha with Rs. 9501 crore, Karnataka Rs. 1842 crore, Goa Rs. 188 crore, Assam Rs. 80 crore, Meghalaya Rs. 48 crore and West Bengal Rs. 43 crore till date.

“Goa collected Rs. 188.65 crore in DMF Fund and Rs. 399 crores in Goa Iron Ore Permanent Fund till March 2018 when mining was operational. Out of this only 2% or Rs. 4 crore of DMF fund has been used for the welfare of people. At a time when the state is in its worst crisis, this corpus can act as a bail-out package”, according to Prahar

Goa Foundation has called utilisation of these funds for life saving purposes as “raid on financial resources” by state and the centre and termed the decision of using DMF fund as “illegal decisions” and threatened consequences.

Commenting on this, Prahar’s, National Convenor and President, Abhay Raj Mishra said, “Heartless opposition by institutions with a mindless goal should be stopped immediately as it exposes their true intentions”.

“The Central Government does not have any power to approve diversion of such funds. Neither is there a provision in the MMDR Act which allows such approvals by the Central government,” Said Goa Foundation’s Director, Claude Alvarez.

According to the amended minerals act, 40% of the DMF fund can be used for ‘other priority areas’ whereas 60% should be reserved for the ‘priority areas’. This means that while 60% of the fund can be kept for communities directly working in mining activities, the remaining can be used for the wellbeing of the state.

Can the Executive Divert District Mineral Foundation Funds to Fight the Pandemic?

The Wire | Anandvardhan Yagnik |April 17, 2020

There was no reason to divert a special fund meant for people affected by mining unless the already existing state fiscal repositories had been exhausted and accounted for.

In wake of the unprecedented times and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union finance minister, on March 26, while announcing several measures to combat the public health and the economic crisis in the nation, directed the states to use the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds to fight the pandemic.

The direction by the Centre to the states permitting the diversion of such special funds specifically meant for a targeted group of people who are affected by mining operations, again brings to fore the issues surrounding the legitimacy and propriety of such a move by the executive.

District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds

In India, the mining industry is primarily regulated under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. In the year 2015, by way of an amendment Act, the central legislation came to be amended bringing into effect far-reaching changes in the regulations governing the mining arena. One historical change was the creation of the District Mineral Foundation (DMFs). DMFs are essentially trusts to be set up in all the districts in every state affected by mining and are defined as institutions which will work ‘for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining-related operations’.

In our country, tribals, Adivasis and farmers have since long been known to bear the brunt of the adverse impacts of mining on their livelihoods which has resulted in degraded livelihoods and huge socio-economic, environmental and health hazards and costs. The realisation to contain such adversarial impact and rectify the historical injustice on these vulnerable group of people, led to the creation of DMF funds as a part of distributive justice and inclusive growth.

The DMF funds are collected at the district level and are essentially contributions from holders of mining leases. Pursuant to the 2015 amendment and creation of DMFs, the Union brought into effect the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojna (PMKKKY) in September 2015. The PMKKKY, inter alia, laid down the scheme qua the utilisation of the funds generated by the DMFs.

The DMFs generates fund by way of reserving 10% or 30%, as the case may be, of the royalty proceeds from the mining of minerals in the respective districts. From the total collections accrued under DMF, the mechanism provided envisages spending the same in the ratio of 60:40, 60% being for projects classified as high priority areas which include health care, education, sanitation, drinking water supply, women and child care, environment conservation, etc while the balance 40% being for projects classified as other priority areas which include construction of roads, railways, bridges etc.

Thus, in substance, the entire idea of creating a special fund like DMF is to provide for funds for the welfare of people affected by mining. With that background in mind, one has to look at the issue of how legitimate and proper is it that a special fund meant for a targeted group of people is diverted for purposes other than what it has been constituted for? More so, when there are other funds like the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in respective states, the Contingency Fund, etc, available at the disposal of the state to meet with the pandemic.

Diversion of DMF Funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic

Pursuant to the finance minister’s announcement directing the states to utilise the DMF Funds to fight against the pandemic, the Ministry of Mines issued a letter specifying that districts with at least one COVID-19 positive case could put to use the funds for medical equipment and infrastructure while in other cases the same could be put to use for procuring masks, sanitisers, for distribution of food to the marginal, etc. However, the amount of funds that can be utilised has been capped at 30% of the unused funds of DMFs. As per the data available on the website of Ministry of Mines, Government of India, as on January 2020, the total amount of unspent funds for all the district is around Rs 23,511 crores.

Hence 30% of the unspent funds would approximately translate to Rs 7053 crore. Talking about the state of Gujarat, as per the data available on the website of District Mineral Foundation, Government of Gujarat, which varies from the data available on MoM, as on March 2020, the total amount collected under DMF from 2016-17 to March 20-21 is Rs 9434 crore and the total amount of unspent funds is Rs 8775 crores and hence 30% of such unspent funds roughly translates into Rs 2632 crores which can be put to use to fight the pandemic.

No doubt, that the scheme provides for utilisation of DMF funds for high priority areas like healthcare and hence these could be put to use, more so in areas affected by mining because these are mainly rural and remote areas with no healthcare facilities and infrastructure and hence the local populace are more at risk of community transmission with even one positive case of COVID-19 in the area.

However, the same still does not justify the diversion of funds and making them available for use for emergency purposes – as in the present scenario – because that wasn’t the objective with which it was formed. It is a fund targeted with a specific purpose and for a specific group of people and region. Hence, mooting the whole idea for it being diverted to meet the emergency and giving directions qua the same without any participation and consent of the people for whom the fund has been created, in itself is an anomaly and deceiving of its objective.

However, the same is not unprecedented. With our form of governance, where, welfare, inclusive growth and distributive justice are best only terms of theoretical concepts, even previously special funds have been diverted for purposes other than which they had been constituted. The best example of this is that of the CAMPA funds. Like DMF funds, CAMPA funds too have been diverted for other flagship initiatives and policies and hence the Supreme Court has time and again pulled up the state governments for diverting the funds for purposes other than what they were meant for.

The funds from the social welfare schemes are for the benefit of the targeted population and not for the benefit of the government to shirk away its responsibility from providing basic amenities that it should as a state. Such people’s funds cannot be used in substitution of, for what state ought to incur expenditure from its own pocket. Otherwise, it defeats the whole purpose behind the creation of such funds.

With DMF funds, even after five years of its introduction, it still suffers dilatory implementation and sanctioning of projects overlooking needs of those affected, would now lose its very character if the diversion of funds is permitted to be carried on.

Diversion of special funds – legal?

The underlying premise behind the diversion is that the executive has always considered it to be its own fund. This needs to be dispelled. The DMF fund is a special fund which is meant for the welfare of the people affected by mining and is a people’s funds. However, this participative approach of the affected people or the targeted population for the welfare of whom the repository has been created have not been made part of the committees which look after the utilisation and implementation of DMF funds and hence their lies the genesis of the whole problem.

Each state frames its own rules with regard to the implementation of DMFs and pursuant to rules being notified, the committees have to be constituted. DMFs comprises of two committees, the composition of which is formulated by the state government.

One is the governing council and the other is the executive council. In Gujarat, the chairperson of the governing council is the prabhari mantri, who at present is MLA Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, while the chairperson of the executive council is the district collector of the respective district. These committees will determine which areas are mining-affected and thereafter allocate the fund, approve relevant projects and monitor their implementation.

However, the problem is the composition of the committees is such that it includes primarily bureaucrats and MLAs. There is no participation of people from the grassroots for whom the creation of the fund has been envisaged and hence from this undemocratic set up stems the superficial idea of it being government fund thereby leading to its diversion for purposes other than those specified.

To those who may ask that why should an emergent national interest when thousands of lives are required to be saved and protected, not be enough of a reason for diversion of DMF funds to meet with the national goal of containing the pandemic, the answer would be, that it is a structurally flawed understanding of fiscal responsibility of the state on their part.

Because, firstly, most districts have at their disposal, disaster relief funds, MPLADS funds granted to the member of parliament for the respective constituency, contributions from the funds granted to MLA for respective constituencies, etc. Apart from that, to meet with such emergent situations, there is the chief ministers relief fund for respective states, the contingency fund for respective states and the prime ministers relief fund. Moreover, even as the PM CARES Fund has been created which has received donations in high numbers takes care of the emergent national interest. So the legitimate question to be asked here is without having all these funds having been exhausted, why must the DMF Funds be used for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic?

Moreover, even otherwise, a special fund could have been diverted only upon completion of all developmental activities of a district. Prior to that, even an emergent situation does not justify its diversion. The special funds are to be utilised specifically for the purpose they have been created for and that can be ensured only when there is appropriate leadership at the district level and villagers, local populace, labourers working in mines, grassroots organisations, panchayats, etc. should be consulted and their participation be called for rather than thrusting all the decision making power in the hands of the political representatives and bureaucrats, because for them such special funds become an easy way out, to be used and diverted for all and other purposes and thereby abdicate their responsibility from providing for the same from the existing fiscal repositories of the state.

It is true that in times as unprecedented as now when we are faced with a pandemic, which calls for extraordinary measures to contain the coronavirus, all that can be done would be less, but that is no reason to divert a special fund meant for people affected by mining unless the already existing state fiscal repositories have been exhausted and accounted for because had that been the objective then special funds would stop to serve any purpose and every time the executive failed to perform its obligations and provide for what it ought to, then the best way out would be to casually divert the special funds.

The state of Odisha has expressed its willingness to use the DMF funds to fight COVID -19 and has rather requested the Centre to remove the cap of 30% usage of unspent funds. In spirit, as good as it may seem that a state is going out of its way to provide for its citizens but this could ensue a dangerous trend of diverting funds meant for welfare schemes for other purposes. However, at the same time, there are officials who discourage this trend.

Moreover, without any guidelines and accountability being in place, there is a higher risk of these funds being used for purposes that have nothing to do with mining-affected people and area. One of the factors which requires consideration is that there might be several projects which have been sanctioned for a district or area on the basis of the funds collected but since they have not been commenced the expenditure to be incurred might be lying with the trust. Hence overlooking the nitty gritties and without any law or guidelines in place to divert a portion of unspent funds could risk jeopardising several projects that may be in the pipeline.

Not only is the diversion of DMF funds illegitimate, improper, unjustifiable and a very unsustainable response of ruling dispensation’s for its failed governance but it has also rather increased the trust deficit of the farmers community and affected people who now fear that the DMF funds meant for their upliftment will be diverted by the government to meet its obligation which otherwise it should have from its own funds.

In Gujarat, several farmers affected by mining in Bhavnagar district have written to the state government and to the chairperson and members of the governing council and the executive council to not divert the DMF funds for any activities other than what has been envisaged under the PMKKY scheme and shall be utilized only for the targeted population for which it has been brought into existence.

Our history is replete with examples where special funds earmarked for special purpose have been diverted thereby time and again calling for legislative and judicial intervention to curb such diversions. However, the lesson has not been learnt and hence once again the step taken by the government runs the risk of becoming a dangerous precedent allowing ill-prepared authorities with a lack of foresight to use funds for specific functions as their personal kitties in the future and steps must be taken to avoid such occurrences.

Anandvardhan Yagnik is a practising lawyer at the Gujarat high court.

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