Funds Meant for the Dying Used for Development?

News Central | Rosamma Thomas | Sep 19, 2019
Rs 2248 crore accumulated DMF funds in Rajasthan, but utilisation mostly for roads, construction.

The District Mineral Foundation Trusts were formed with the aim of putting in place funds and processes that would aid those affected by mining and help in restoration of lands laid waste by mines. The Rajasthan government notified the rules of these trusts in 2016 and set up district foundations in each of its 33 districts. The website of the state DMF shows that Rs 2248.31 crore has been collected by the DMFs in the state; this is drawn from the royalty that the mines pay to the government.

However, a perusal of the utilisation of these funds in the different districts shows that the bulk of the money is being used for construction – for building healthcare facilities or laying roads. In Bhilwara district, for instance, where a large number of workers are affected by silicosis, the incurable lung disease that afflicts mine workers after silica dust lodges in their lungs, 34 per cent of the funds were used for developing physical infrastructure and 25 per cent for provision of drinking water.

The Comptroller and Auditor General had earlier pointed to how the collections meant for the DMF were not being used judiciously and underlined the need to create a separate account sub-head for DMFT contributions. As of March 2018, CAG found an accumulated Rs 498 crore lying idle in a non-interest bearing personal deposit of the Department of Mining and Geology, leaving district trusts deprived, Down To Earth magazine reported.

Rana Sengupta of the Mine Labourers Protection Campaign, Jodhpur, says, “Physical infrastructure and drinking water provision should be made from the general budget, ideally. The DMF funds should be dedicated to the welfare of those suffering because of mining operations and for restoration of the land.”

At a recent meeting in the state capital, Dr Kamlesh Sarkar of the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, explained that he had found a scientific way in which silicosis could be detected early, by tracking the club cell protein in serum. In a healthy adult, the reading is 16.7 nanogram per millilitre, and as the disease progresses this count drops. The doctor explained that if the disease is caught early, deterioration of the lungs can be prevented by ensuring that the patient is no longer exposed to the dust. Dr Sarkar needed Rs 1.23 crore to confirm his findings through a five-year study, but had not been able to manage the funds.

In July this year, the Centre approved the merger of the National Institute of Miners Health, Nagpur, with the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad. Activist Rana Sengupta says, “There is a more urgent need now for a special institute dedicated to the study of silicosis. The government of Rajasthan has put in place measures for compensating patients diagnosed with the condition, but we need now to ensure proper prevention. And for that, it would be ideal if a centre for silicosis were set up by the state government. It could come up either within the Desert Medicine Research Centre or All India Institute of Medical Sciences, both of which are in Jodhpur. Such a centre would also create knowledge that would be useful for patients suffering from the disease in other states.”

At a recent meeting with CM Ashok Gehlot, activists urged the chief minister to set up a research centre dedicated to silicosis at the state level even if support was not forthcoming from the Centre.

Government has taken steps to ensure central funds reach poor: Narendra Modi

Money Control | April 16, 2019

PM Modi’s statement was a counter to the recent claim by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik that the Centre has no sympathy for the farmers of the state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 16 said his government has taken measures to weed out Congress-aided middlemen to ensure that the entire central funds percolate down to the poor. He also announced a slew of measures for the welfare of farmers and fishermen, if the BJP was voted to power.

Mounting a blistering attack on the Congress, Modi accused it of being a silent spectator to the loot of public money besides being embroiled in multiple controversies and scams before the BJP-led government put brakes on these corrupt practices. “During the Congress era, only 15 paise of a rupee would reach the poor and the rest was swindled by unscrupulous elements. No one bothered to stop it. Now, we have ensured that central funds reach the poor,” Modi said, addressing a rally here in western Odisha. Read more

K’taka mining dependents stage protest at Jantar Mantar

Deccan Herald | April 16, 2019

Mining dependents of Karnataka on Tuesday staged a protest here at Jantar Mantar to press for non-discriminatory practices in iron ore trade in the state and sought immediate action by the Centre in “rescuing their livelihoods from prejudiced policies” prevailing in the state.

“Around 600 people of Karnataka Gani Avalambithara Vedike (KGAV), consisting of iron ore mining dependants from Bellary, Hospet, Chitradurga districts and surrounding mining belt gathered for a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi today,” KGAV, which represents mining dependents, said in a statement. Read more

Mining in Jharkhand threatens locals in their own land

Down To Earth | Srestha Banerjee, Rajeev Ranjan | 10 April 2019

Residents of the state’s mining areas are unemployed and are threatened of being jailed when they ask for work

Our car stopped at the bent of narrow roads through Chotanagra panchayat. As we walked down, a group of 15 people was waiting in Dhobil village gathered by Lakhan Soren, a community volunteer who works for community rights and empowerment in the area. “More will join us soon,” said Soren as we were there to find out the state of mining-affected communities in the area. He pointed towards Dhobil iron ore mines, a little more than a kilometre away where some of the people were working. Read more

Dhanbad DMF funds city infrastructure projects, neglecting mining-affected people

Down to Earth || Chinmayi Shalya, Rajeev Ranjan || 03 April 2019

The district’s latest Rs 307 crore sanctions fail issues of livelihood and healthcare, which are longstanding challenges for the worst-affected mining areas

LED street lighting, renovation of town hall and a multi-crore flyover is most of what Dhanbad district has invested in through a fund meant for mining-affected people and areas.

The latest investments made by Dhanbad under District Mineral Foundation (DMF) show that about 86 per cent of the Rs 307 crore-plus sanctions are for physical infrastructure in the town, having no bearing on the pressing needs of the mining-affected people. This includes a Rs 256 crore flyover, Rs 4 crore for LED street lighting and another Rs 5 crore town hall renovation, as per details available from the state mines department. Read more

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