States used Rs 1,460 crore from district mineral foundation fund to combat Covid-19

The Times of India | May 27, 2022
NEW DELHI: State governments have spent a total of Rs 1,459.93 crore from District Mineral Foundation funds on various activities to curb Covid-19 during the past more than two years, according to the ministry of mines.
The ministry also said that several states, including Odisha, Telangana and Karnataka, are still using District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds to battle coronavirus.

District Mineral Foundation (DMF) is a non-profit statutory trust, which has been set up for the welfare of the districts affected by mining-related activities. It is an initiative of the government to ensure that funds collected under DMF are utilised for the welfare of those affected by mining-related operations.

The total funds available under DMF as on March 28, 2020 was to the tune of Rs 14,694.47 crore, the ministry said.
“State governments are continuing to use District Mineral Foundation funds to combat Covid-19, wherein Rs 1,459.93 crore has been spent till April 28, 2022,” the ministry said, adding that the amount was spent between March 28, 2020 and April 28, 2022.

Of the total amount utilised during the pandemic, Odisha spent the maximum Rs 445.54 crore, followed by Telangana at Rs 334.08 crore. Karnataka spent Rs 199.58 crore, while Rs 139.79 crore has been utilised by Andhra Pradesh and Rs 91 crore by Chhattisgarh.

Other states which spent DMF funds to combat Covid-19 are Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and West Bengal.

However, Bihar, Harayana and Kerala did not spend funds for activities related to Covid-19 since March 28, 2020 till last month.

As on March 28, 2020, Bihar had DMF fund of Rs 84.50 crore, followed by Haryana Rs 20.24 crore and Kerala Rs 2 crore.
DMF has been created in each district under the provisions of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015.

What a Scathing Audit on Mining in Jharkhand Tells Us About CAG’s Toothlessness

The Wire | May 25, 2022
A performance audit brings home the point of what happens when the national auditor is denied access to information and records.
A recently concluded performance audit on the functioning of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Trusts in Jharkhand has indicted the state’s Mining and Geology Department for failing to furnish the actual figures of collections from mining leaseholders.

Bringing the sad state of affairs to public notice, the national auditor said, “There were three sets of un-reconciled collection figures: one reported by Director of Mines, one as per DMFT bank accounts and one by District Mining Officers (DMOs)”.

This performance audit presents all that has gone wrong with the implementation of this fund meant for the welfare of mining-affected communities in the country.

As per the figures available on the DMF dashboard, as on March 31, 2022, cumulative contribution to DMF stood at Rs 61,867.92 crores, out of which the cumulative expenditure as on March 31, 2022 was Rs 31,212.49 crore.

Jharkhand accounts for the third largest DMF collection, amounting to Rs 8,301.37 crore as on March 31 2022. Two other mineral rich states, Odisha and Chhattisgarh received the highest DMF contribution amounting to Rs 17,907.32 crores and Rs 8,943.47 crores respectively.

While the DMF Rules notified by Jharkhand government in 2016, as well as Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana Guidelines (issued by Union Ministry of Mines) dated September 16, 2015, envisioned preparation of annual action plans and budgets for respective DMFTs, the performance audit revealed, “The District Collectors of none of the sampled DMFTs prepared annual budget or annual action plan”.

Further, in a shocking revelation, the performance audit noted that the DCs of Bokaro, Dhanbad and Ranchi incurred an expenditure of Rs 1,568.04 crore from DMFT funds on various schemes during 2016-21, without identifying the areas affected directly and indirectly by mining and generating the list of affected people by involving the Gram Sabhas of the concerned affected villages.

A mammoth Rs 4,473.18 crore (81% of total DMF collection as on March 31, 2021) in Jharkhand was sanctioned on just two areas: piped drinking water schemes and ‘open-defecation free’ activities.

When CAG auditors raised a red flag on this, bureaucracy at different level mentioned that it was so “reportedly on the instructions of Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of the state to meet scheme targets.”
A paper tiger

Beyond all these details showing us how a fund meant for local area development with participation from mining-affected communities got reduced to a line departments-driven fund, lies another lesson. Reading this performance audit brings home the point of what happens when a national auditor is denied access to information and records.

The question of whether there is a need to amend the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Services) Act, 1971, to grant more enforcement powers to the national auditor has become an aimless cry in the wilderness. Indian auditors who passionately love to perform their constitutionally ordained duty today wonder what to make of the letter ‘P’ in the law that is popularly known by its abbreviation: CAG (DPC) Act, 1971.

While this question was discussed at biannual Accountants General Conference in October 2008, and an amendment draft was prepared in 2009, consecutive finance ministers and ruling governments have largely ignored the matter.
In a final draft of the Jharkhand mining performance audit, the Principal Accountant General, Indu Aggarwal stated:

“Audit was denied access from examining and reporting on the functioning of State Level Monitoring Committee, which is the apex body to monitor the (District Mineral Foundation Trust) Fund at state level though the matter was reported to the Secretary of the Department and escalated to the Chief Secretary of the State Government.” [emphasis added]

At another place in the performance audit, the PAG noted:

“Thus, restrictions on access to crucial and primary records to audit despite assurance of full cooperation by the Secretary of the Department in entry conference, especially when all the audit procedures and criteria for conducting audit were explained in the entry conference (held during initiation of the performance audit, wherein PAG office briefs the representatives of the audited department about the scope and methodology of audit) and Chief Secretary of the state government was taken on board with requests to produce records is a Red Flag to presumptive fraud and misappropriation. These potentially derail the constitutional mandate of audit and prevent it from providing insights to the State Legislature for fixing accountability on erring officials”. [emphasis added]

Reading the above quotes from the final draft of the performance audit of DMF in Jharkhand reminded me of the concern expressed by P.K. Kataria and Subir Mallick in a theme paper, ‘Auditing for Good Governance: Oversight and Insight’.

Arguing for the need to grant the CAG of India wider powers on access to information and records kept by public offices, Kataria and Mallick stated:

“While section 18 of the CAG (DPC) Act, 1971, provides access to the records and accounts and empowers Audit to inspect any offices of accounts under the state or central government, it doesn’t provide any enforcement powers to the CAG of India to ensure compliance by the auditee to her/his request for information within a reasonable time.”

CAG of India had initiated the performance audit on District Mineral Foundation Trusts in Jharkhand with an entry conference in December 2020 with the Secretary of the Department of Mines and Geology. The performance audit was carried out between December 2020 and April 2022 (roughly 17 months) and the audit team picked up just six districts (Bokaro, Chatra, Dhanbad, Hazaribagh, Lohardaga and Ranchi) out of 24 districts in Jharkhand as a representative sample.

In the final draft, there is a full paragraph on constraints faced by the audit.

In this paragraph, the Principal Accountant General noted down the factors which hindered the audit examination:
“(i) The Department (of Mining and Geology) did not provide any information on the functioning (policy decisions, instructions, corrective measures, monitoring etc.) of State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) on District Mineral Foundation Trusts despite repeated requisitions and reminders (between September 2021 and April 2022) by Audit to the Secretary of the Department and Director of Mines followed by active pursuance by audit team.

(ii) Audit requested (October 2021) the Chief Secretary of the state who is also the chairman of State Level Monitoring Committee to intervene in the matter in providing the access to the functions rendered by SLMC in handling the DMFT Funds. However, no response was received even after lapse of more than six months. This impeded the audit mandate as SLMC is the only body established under the Act to handle the Fund centrally at the Apex level. Denial of access to records of SLMC prevented audit from examining and reporting on the performance of SLMC in managing the Fund during the period under the audit (i. e. 2015 to 2020).

(iii) The Secretary of the Department and Director of Mines were also requisitioned and reminded (between August 2021 and April 2022) for production of monthly collection report of DMFT contribution and royalty. However, these were not responded to even after lapse of more than seven months (as on 19th April 2022). This prevented Audit from ascertaining the correctness of DMFT contribution and its actual loss in the state arising from delayed promulgation of DMFT Rules. Besides, the Director of Mines and the Department could not provide data of DMFT collection and expenditure for the year 2020-21 to audit as no authority had been maintaining such records for the state as a whole.

(iv) The Department did not provide, despite repeated reminders, any record for the methodology adopted for selection and prioritisation of schemes or for identification of directly/ indirectly affected area and people in compliance with the Act/ Rules. Such non-production of records from Audit prevents examination of the basis of resource allocation in the absence of mining affected area and people. The matter, therefore, merits examination from a vigilance angle as it is not possible, without impartial investigation, to find out how resources have been allocated and spent on any particular area, cluster or for any set of beneficiaries.

(v) The Director of Mines visited (October 2021) the office of the Principal Accountant General (Audit) and assured to provide all the above records/data/information etc. (which were not produced) besides data dump of Jharkhand Integrated Mines and Minerals Information System (JIMMS) portal. The records however were not produced when audit teams again visited (between November 2021 – April 2022) the office of the Director of Mines who informed audit that data/information called from field offices (DMO) were not received. In the name of data dump, a CD was sent (November 2021) by post to audit which contained excel sheets of DMO wise daily collection of DMFT contributions. No information was available in the CD (excel sheets) how these contributions were arrived at. Thus, audit was prevented from verifying the system of collection and computation of DMFT contributions being captured in JIMMS. The Director of Mines was informed (December 2021) that it was not data dump but excel sheets without any information of the royalty and payable DMFT contribution. Further request (April 2022) to provide data dump was not responded to (as on 19th April 2022).

(vi) Audit forwarded a draft report on audit findings covering the period 2015-2020 on working of DMFTs in October 2021 for response and reply of the Department. No response has been received (as on 19th April 2022) for the Department”.
The performance audit was shared with Chief Secretary with a letter from the Principal Accountant General dated April 20, 2022. In the letter, PAG informed the Chief Secretary that a copy of the final performance audit had already been shared with Secretary, Mining and Geology Department, Jharkhand on April 19, 2022. With that letter PAG office had requested the Secretary of the Mining and Geology Department, to furnish the replies within two weeks and requested the date for an Exit Conference in the first week of May 2022. The letter also reminded that an earlier correspondence dated October 22, 2021 has not been responded to by the office of the Secretary, Mining and Geology Department.

In a file noting, the Chief Secretary, while forwarding this letter, noted:

“Kindly go through it. A reply must be sent without fail by 30/04/2022”.

Has the reply been filed by the Secretary, Geology and Mining Department, who is under the custody of Enforcement Department?

Will the ‘exit conference’ to this performance audit take place soon?

We may have no clue on the probable answers to such questions. However, one thing is certain. If the ruling government indeed wants to walk the talk we heard from the podium of the National Audit Diwas, it must give a consideration to the proposed amendments to CAG (DPC) Act, 1971.

Himanshu Upadhyaya is assistant professor at Azim Premji University.

Don’t divert funds meant for mines-affected community: Odisha govt to collectors

Hindustan Times | May 01, 2022
The District Mineral Foundation Funds scheme in Odisha has been beset with allegations of misuse and diversion of funds .
Amid allegations of misuse and diversion of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) funds for works in non-mineral bearing areas, the Odisha government has asked all departments and district collectors of the state to ensure that no fund meant for mining-affected communities is transferred in any manner from the DMF to the state exchequer or any state level fund or Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, according to a new directive.

In a letter to all the departments and district collectors, development commissioner PK Jena wrote that the September 2021 circular of the Ministry of Mines on the DMF funds use as per section 9(B) of the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015 be strictly adhered when it comes to utilisation of money from the special fund.

The central government started the District Mineral Foundation Funds scheme in 2015 as a benefit-sharing scheme with the mining-affected communities under which the mining companies pay 30 percent of the royalty amount for leases granted before 2015 and 10 percent for the leases granted through the auction mechanism post-2015. DMF funds are non-profit and independent trusts linked to the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana. DMF implements various welfare programmes for the mining-affected communities and the environment. At least 60 percent of the DMF funds should be utilised for high-priority areas.

However, the scheme has been beset with allegations of misuse and diversion of funds in Odisha, that has collected the largest amount of funds since the scheme started. Till January this year, Odisha collected ₹16,952.64 crore under DMF, around 28.7 per cent of the total DMF funds collected in the country. Though it has spent ₹8,515.71 crore, a or a little more than half of the amount, a study by the Centre for Social and Economic Progress on the use of District Mineral Foundation Funds published in January this year found that the state ranked at No. 5 when it came to Utilisation Index, a measure of how well the funds have been spent across various sectors. Odisha was ranked behind Chhatisgarh, Gujarat, Telangana and Karnataka.

Political leaders and NGO workers in the mining-affected districts said though Odisha has spent half of the funds it collected, most of the money was being diverted to projects which do not meet the criteria.

In March last year, the state cabinet approved the State Level Sports Infrastructure Development Project worth ₹356.38 crore for expansion of Kalinga Stadium Sports Complex in Bhubaneswar and construction of a new international hockey stadium in Rourkela for the 2023 Men’s Hockey World Cup, half of which would be spent from the DMF funds. In the mineral-rich Keonjhar, the district administration in 2019-20 sanctioned works for a handball stadium from the DMF funds. In January 2020, Sundergarh district administration bought 25 cars with the DMF funds for use as patrolling vans by Rourkela police. In 2017, the Jharsuguda district administration sanctioned ₹20 crore from the DMF funds for the Jharsuguda airport.

“The provisions of Section 9(B) of the MMDR Act would be strictly adhered to in respect of utilisation of funds by the District Mineral Foundation. No sanction or approval of any expenditure out of funds of the District Mineral Foundation would be done at the State level by the State Government or any state level agency. The above of government of India are to be followed scrupulously and only such projects sanctioned by the District Mineral Foundation Trust Boards for the respective District are to be implemented in accordance with the provisions of Odisha District,” Jena wrote.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA in Keonjhar, Mohan Majhi said the latest directive from the government to the district collectors may just remain another letter without its implementation. “The DMF fund is supposed to cater to a specific developmental need of mine-affected areas that can’t be dealt with in regular budgeting. But what we are seeing in Keonjhar is the use of the funds for mega drinking water projects which can be funded by normal budgeting. The Keonjhar medical college and hospital being built now has been funded by DMF which can easily have been funded by routine funds from central and state government schemes,” said Majhi.

Noted environmental lawyer Sankar Pani said though DMF funds are supposed to be used for minimising adverse impacts during and after mining on the environment, health and socio-economics of people in mining districts and to ensure long-term sustainable livelihoods for affected people in mining areas, none of the aims have been achieved in any of the districts. “In a district like Keonjhar where 30 per cent of the area has been mined for minerals like iron ore and manganese, the tribals at the receiving ends of the pollution can’t get treated in any of the dispensaries started by the mining companies. The first point of treatment in the district is a PHC which remains non-functional. What is the point of building a medical college and hospital far away from the mining areas which the poor tribal can’t reach,” asked Pani.

BJP MLA in Sundargarh, Shankar Oram said the people in the mining areas had high hopes that DMF funds would help better their lives. “From Hemgiri to Koira, a number of mining activities involving coal, iron ore, manganese, lime stone are going on. But people in these areas are still deprived of primary education, primary health, drinking water, road connectivity and electricity,” he said.

OUR SNF PROJECT ON SUB-NATIONAL POLITICS IN THE MINING SECTOR IN INDIA

The Graduate Institute Geneva | August 13, 2021

The SNF-supported research project Extracting Voice: the sub national law and politics of relationships between mining companies and affected communities in India uses District Mineral Foundations as a window into the political transformations of, and driven by, extractive economies in India. The project explores the dynamics of sub-national politics in the Indian mining sector, and their effects on socially and ecologically sustainable mining governance.

The mining sector generates significant social and ecological harm due to forced displacement, expropriation, ecological degradation, and destruction of livelihoods. Mining areas have also experienced violent conflict and legal disputes along with protracted struggles for land and forest rights. This follows the general dynamics of extractive economies around the world.

In response, Indian policymakers passed a legislation in 2015 establishing District Mineral Foundations (DMF). DMFs are an instrument (usually Trusts), established in each mining-affected district of the country, to collect a percentage of mining revenue for the direct benefit of affected communities, and which those communities are supposed to govern in conjunction with other local stakeholders. The project studies the implementation of DMFs to reveal how they are refracted through subnational rentier politics so endemic to mining. It asks: given that mining operations occur in complex and varied local contexts, how can companies, communities, and local authorities meaningfully collaborate in decentralized mining governance? Do DMFs mediate the company-community relationship, or do they reproduce and intensify patterns of regulatory and state capture?

Exploring DMFs in Odisha, postdoctoral fellow Bijayashree Satpathy finds a complex interplay between political struggles over forest lands, tribal (adivasi) rights, and mining activities which shape, if not constitute, subnational political organisation and contestations. In Odisha, major mineral reserves lie under the richest forest areas, mostly in fully and partially Schedule V districts like Keonjhar and Sundergarh, which are largely inhabited by tribal communities.

Mining companies in these regions, as with extractive frontiers across the world, are established with the promise of new employment opportunities for local communities. Communities’ aspirations for improved standards of living, and the narratives of both mining companies and the State ensures the maintenance of this potential for employment. However, in reality, companies largely employ high skilled migrant labourers in secure and formal positions due to increasing mechanisation in operations, whilst also create conditions which result in mid skilled migrant labour from either outside the state or district. On the other hand, local populations are employed in extremely low paid and precarious conditions as sub-contractual labour, and in very low numbers. This also coincides with the loss of traditional livelihood generation activities that are sometimes partially offset by the establishment of projects initiated through Corporate Social Responsibility and Non-Government Organisation funding to support small-scale activities for temporary and often short-term durations. However, overall steady jobs are absent, traditional livelihoods are eliminated or reduced, and new projects are temporary.

Against this backdrop of rentier politics, communities are largely unaware of DMFs and its functions. The community representation in the governance of DMFs is often limited in principle to the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat (or head of the village council) – and the quality of representation is variable. In practice, the District Magistrate or Collector – the chief district-level bureaucrat – takes the decisions regarding DMF projects and budgets.

As a consequence, DMF funds are often spent away from the communities they are supposed to benefit. Talking to ‘mines, minerals & PEOPLE’ (mm&P — an alliance of individuals, institutions and communities who are concerned and affected by mining) members in Sundergarh and conducting fieldwork in Keonjhar, Bijayashree Satpathy found that most of the funds are used in the construction of infrastructure in district headquarters, or for the benefit of the hometown or village of the local Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA). When they are spent on affected communities, communities are wary of their low rate of return: in Keonjhar, tribal communities are unhappy with DMF-funded agriculture programs, since the income they generate is far lower than that of the extractive activities which fund them. This combination of suspicion and low awareness creates space for local leaders to uphold positions over the villagers and maintain their connections with powerful groups by motivating villagers (including youths) to remain contingent on the benefits from mining activities. The local level politics may reduce the potential of DMF for mining-affected communities to any other government welfare schemes. Further, the implementation of similar projects by a parallel institution – OMBADC, in mining-affected areas may impact the purpose of DMF.

Bijayashree Satpathy is presently continuing her fieldwork in Tamnar, which has a high concentration of tribal populations and is also one of the most affected coal mining blocks in Raigarh district in the state of Chhattisgarh. Coal and limestone are the major minerals extracted from this district by major companies like South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL), Jindal Steel and Power Company and Hindalco Industries Limited. Since a major share of DMF contributions comes from coal mining in Chhattisgarh, it is interesting to explore the company-community relationship in this state as well.

Banner image by Bijayashree Satpathy: Open cast mining site of South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL) in Tamnar block, Chhattisgarh
Source of map: Shutterstock

Rajasthan High Court directs state govt to conduct training of Principal Magistrates for sensitizing them with JJ Act

India Legal | July 15, 2021

A suo motu case has been filed based on a news report published in ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ relating to the miserable condition being faced by the oral and hearing disabled children housed in a school Hostel in Jodhpur.

The Rajasthan High Court has directed the state government to conduct training of Principal Magistrates in Juvenile Justice Boards for sensitising them with the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

The Division Bench comprising Justice Manoj Kumar Garg and Justice Sandeep Mehta passed these directions on July 13, during the hearing of a suo motu case based on a news report published in ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ relating to the miserable condition being faced by the oral and hearing disabled children housed in a school Hostel in Jodhpur.

Additional Advocate General (AAG) Pankaj Sharma placed on record a copy of the communication dated June 1, 2021 issued by the Mining Department, Government of Rajasthan, which indicated that as per Rule 15 of the District Mineral Foundation Trust Rules, 2016, the fund of District Mineral Foundation Trust and State Mineral Foundation Trust for upliftment of the Child Care Institutions (CCIs) can be used for the welfare of Women and Children.

Further, a copy of the order dated March 17, 2021 has been placed on record, as per which, appointments of Officers have been made on the vacant posts of Principal Magistrates, Juvenile Justice Board, in accordance with Section 4 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

In this background, the Court expected that the Department of Child Rights shall immediately move the concerned members, be it State or District Trust, for allocation of funds from the Mineral Trust Funds, so that the Child Care Institutions in the entire state can be upgraded.

The bench observed that the training of Principal Magistrates, Juvenile Justice Board has already been scheduled by the Rajasthan State Juvenile Academy in this week itself.

In light of above facts, the Court directed AAG Anil Gaur, representing the Child Rights Department, shall ensure that a training programme is organised within next 45 days for training and sensitisation with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act), 2015.

“Child Right Activist Govind Beniwal pointed out that there is no regulatory body, which can monitor the functioning of Child Welfare Committees, thus appropriate directions are required to be issued in this regard for ensuring proper functioning of Child Welfare Committees across the State,” the order read.

The Court therefore also directed Govind Beniwal, to meet the Secretary, Child Rights Department in order to chalk out an action plan for effective monitoring of the functioning of Child Welfare Committees.

Matter will be next listed in the first week of September, 2021 for further hearing.

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