Odisha Assembly passes bill allowing govt to spend ₹1.75 lakh crore this fiscal

live mint | April 01, 2021

While introducing the Bill, Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari said ₹85,000 crore has been allocated as administrative expenditure, ₹75,000 crore as programme expenditure, ₹3,050 crore as disaster response fund and ₹6,950 crore towards transfers from the state

The Assembly on Wednesday passed the Odisha Appropriation Bill, 2021 allowing the state government to spend ₹1.75 lakh crore from its consolidated fund during the financial year 2021-22.

While introducing the Bill, Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari said ₹85,000 crore has been allocated as administrative expenditure, ₹75,000 crore as programme expenditure, ₹3,050 crore as disaster response fund and ₹6,950 crore towards transfers from the state.

He said the passage of the Bill is essential as the funds will be spent for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and appealed to all the members to pass the Bill.

Pujari said that around ₹8,000 crore has been allocated from off-budget resources like Odisha Mineral Bearing Areas Development Corporation (OMBADC), District Mineral Foundation (DMF) and state PSUs to supplement the budgetary outlay.

He had presented the annual Budget in the Assembly on February 22.

Speaker S N Patro announced that the budgetary demands for grants for 33 departments scheduled for discussion were passed through guillotine before the Appropriation Bill.

Both the opposition BJP and Congress members participated in the discussion before the passage of the Bill.

Amid protest, Odisha Cabinet okays mineral foundation fund for hockey stadium

The Hindustan Times | March 25, 2021

District Mineral Foundation fund for an international hockey stadium in Rourkela is just one of the many projects taken up even as environmentalists protest that the money should be used for improving the lot of people directly affected by mining, which was the purpose of this fund

On Monday, the Odisha Cabinet approved the development of Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium and construction of an international hockey stadium in Rourkela ahead of Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2023. Of the ₹356.38 crore the project requires, ₹266 crore will come through District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Trust of Sundargarh, and Odisha Sports Development Fund.

The decision has renewed the questions that have been raised over the alleged misuse of DMF funds for a various other projects but those for mining-affected public, which was why the DMF was created. For instance, in January last year, Rourkela city police got 25 Innova Crysta vehicles at a cost of ₹4.65 crore with Sundargarh DMF fund.

“How would building stadium or buying police vehicles help mining-affected areas? People in Sundargarh don’t have access to safe drinking water and proper roads. Should the funds not be used for better purposes,” asked Laxman Munda, CPM MLA from Bonai in Sundargarh.

Munda’s protests have come at a time when the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh is using the DMF funds for the construction of an airstrip in Singrauli district, one of the biggest and most polluted coal mining and thermal power hubs in the country.

DMF was instituted through an amendment to Mines and Minerals(Development and Regulation) Act 2015 to “work for the interest and benefit of people and areas affected by mining”. The funds of DMF trust come from mining companies operating in the respective districts and they pay an equivalent of 30% of the royalty amount for leases granted before 2015, and 10% for leases granted after that. DMF fund is to be spent on improving human development indicators through investments in high-priority areas such as healthcare, education, women and child development, improving sustainable livelihood, and income opportunities in areas adversely affected by mining.

Till January this year, Odisha collected ₹11,984.87 crore in its DMF fund, the highest in the country, and spent ₹5,364 crore out of it, around 44.76% , a little less than the national average.

Yet, there are murmurs of protest over the alleged misuse of funds.

Kusum Tete, BJP MLA of Sundargarh, one of the districts where DMF money is being spent, said, “Rourkela city is not a mining area while most of my electorate bear the brunt of pollution due to coal and iron ore mining. The government is using DMF funds for sports infra in Rourkela, and policing. Should it not have used the money for providing piped water in Sundargarh?”

Tete said Hemagir, one of the blocks in her assembly constituency, suffers from pollution from trucks carrying coal to neighbouring Chhatisgarh. “The first priority should have been using the DMF funds to prevent pollution in the area. The tribals have been agitating for the past two months, but the government is the least bothered,” she said.

Chinmayi Shalya, who works with the International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iForest) on DMF issues, said DMF fund is not meant for stadium construction and beautification projects. “It is a targeted fund for mining-affected communities. Using it singularly for hockey World Cup would potentially be a misuse,” she said.

Chief secretary Suresh Mohapatra and Sundargarh district collector Nikhil Pawan Kalyan did not comment on the allegations.

Activists are also severely critical of the state government’s decision to use DMF funds for integrated traffic management system to check road fatalities in the state.

“The commerce and transport department has asked all districts to install CCTV surveillance system for enforcement of traffic violations at vulnerable stretches and black spots on highways from the DMF or Corporate Social Responsibility fund where DMF is not available. How will CCTV surveillance help the lot of tribals?” asked activist Pradip Pradhan.

The state government also plans to construct integrated infrastructure complex, including old age homes in all the 30 districts, with the funding support from DMF. In Keonjhar, locals pointed out the district authorities are building a handball stadium in Keonjhar. “At least 56% of the people in Keonjhar district are Dalits and tribals and sizeable section of them is below the poverty line. Yet the district administration does not take the suggestion of the common people while finalising the plans for DMF use,” alleged Kiran Sahu, president of Keonjhar Citizen’s Forum.

Even as there have been protests over the expenditure on stadiums and police vehicles, the Odisha Commerce and Transport department has sought the permission to build a new railway line project for iron ore transportation in Keonjhar district from DMF fund, triggered another controversy.

In a letter to the Keonjhar district collector, the department has asked if the DMF trust can sanction ₹363.38 crore for building the 18 km Banspani-Barbil line that will provide direct rail connectivity to iron ore loading stations on the Noamundi-Bolani Khadan section from Banspani for movement to steel plants in Odisha or to ports. The railway line is proposed to be built by Odisha Rail Infrastructure Development Limited, a state government-led joint venture with Indian Railways.

Environmentalists and right activists are decidedly against the project. “When DMF fund is supposed to be spent for the benefit of those affected by mining-related operations, seeking permission for spending it on railway project connecting iron ore loading stations to steel plants is a mad idea. The DMF fund is meant to uplift the living standards of mining-affected people, not make their lives more miserable,” said Prafulla Samantara, rights activist who was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2017.

Prominent environmental activist Biswajit Mohanty said it is laughable to propose spending DMF fund for iron ore transportation when miners are asked to contribute to the fund for the damage they are causing to local environment.

CPM MLA from Bonai constituency of Sundargarh district, Laxman Munda said, “Lack of transparency can result in wasteful expenditure, misuse of funds and sub-standard quality of work and corruption.”

Shalya pointed out that decision-making needs to involve those directly affected by mining. “There are some good investment examples from Odisha, such as, the use of DMF to increase MGNREGA wages at par with state minimum wage in Keonjhar. States should guide and equip districts for a long-term planning of DMFs so that funds are used wisely and effectively to improve the well-being of local communities,” she said.

Lok Sabha passes Bill to amend MMDR Act

Construction Work Online | March 22, 2021

The Bill also seeks to remove the distinction between captive and merchant mines

The Lok Sabha has passed the Mines and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which, among others, proposes to free up for auction 572 idle non-coal mining blocks allocated before the auction regime set in with the 2015 amendment of the MMDR Act.

“We are withdrawing that provision of 10A(2)(b) and all these 572 mines will be brought under auction. Some of them are so old,” mines minister Pralhad Joshi said introducing the Bill in Lok Sabha.

The minister said reconnaissance permit (RP) and prospecting licence (PL) given to these blocks should have been converted into mining leases in these many years but “a majority of them have neither applied for it nor the state governments have recommended them.”

These 572 leases are spread over 4.6 lakh hectare area and their minimum worth is Rs 27 lakh crore.

The Bill also seeks to remove the distinction between captive and merchant mines by providing for auction of mines in future without restriction of captive use of minerals.

It also allows existing captive mines including captive coal mines to sell up to 50% of the minerals produced after meeting the requirement of linked end use plants to ensure optimal mining of mineral resources by paying an additional amount to the states. The sale of minerals by captive plants would facilitate increase in production and supply of minerals, ensure economies of scale in mineral production, stabilise prices of ore in the market and bring additional revenue to the states.

“Around 55 lakh, direct and indirect, employment opportunities are expected to be generated through this reform,” Joshi said.

The Bill also empowers the central government to issue directions regarding composition and utilisation of fund by the District Mineral Foundation (DMF).

“Ultimately the state will decide, but there should be uniformity across the states in implementing the DMF,” Joshi said.

Goa is diverting funds meant for mining-affected communities to Covid-19 relief

Scroll.in | Supriya Vohra | Mar 19, 2021

Meanwhile, pleas for assistance from the District Mineral Foundation have been stuck for years.

On April 28, 2018, Devidas Nayak of Molem, a mining-affected village in south Goa, wrote to the authorities managing the District Mineral Foundation funds, explaining that his agricultural land has lost its water holding capacity because the drainage adjacent to the land is full of mining silt resulting in flash floods during the monsoon, making it easy for wild boar and bison to destroy the land.

He sought financial assistance to desilt the nullah, and help in infrastructure for irrigation of his fields. Nayak, who was formerly working with barge transportation (of minerals), had lost his job since the mining industry shut down and needed financial help in protecting his fields. Nearly three years later, on January 6, his letter was forwarded to goa’s water resources department for scrutiny.

Nayak’s plea is among nearly 200 such letters since 2018 that are with bodies controlling Goa’s District Mineral Foundation funds. These letters are from individuals, panchayat members, doctors, legislators, and non-profits representing mining-affected villages, requesting financial assistance for basic needs such as drinking water, water for irrigation, restoration of agricultural land, desilting of agricultural land, education, providing transportation for children and creating health infrastructure – fundamentals of a functioning village. Three years later, while some of these requests have been approved, most are pending or have been deferred indefinitely.

In June 2015 through an amendment in India’s central mining law – the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR Amendment Act 2015), District Mineral Foundations were introduced in all districts in the country that are affected by mining-related operations, including Goa’s two districts – north and south. These district mineral foundations were tasked with managing and utilising the funds for the interest and benefit of people and areas affected by mining.

Funds diverted
According to documents accessed by Mongabay India, about Rs. 202.5 crores were collected under District Mineral Foundation and of that approximately Rs 42 crore have been spent so far.

However, of the Rs 42 crore spent thus far merely Rs 4 crore have been utilised directly for the mining-affected villages while the rest of the Rs. 38 crore have been diverted towards Covid-19 relief.

In March 2020, when the pandemic struck, the central government came out with an order that said that upto 30% of the District Mineral Foundation funds can be diverted towards coronavirus relief work.

But the central government’s move had come under severe criticism from several quarters including from the organisations working with mining-affected communities.

An analysis of the documents reviewed by Mongabay-India reveals that the District Mineral Foundation funds utilised for Covid-19 have gone into purchasing thermal imaging cameras, quattro machines, test kits, personal protective equipment, micro PCR systems – most of the equipment meant to be utilised in Covid hospitals of major cities of Goa – Panjim, Vasco, Ponda and Margao.

Goa has two districts – north which covers the mining belt, the coastal belt as well as the major cities of Panjim, Mapusa and south which also covers the mining belt, the coastal belt and the major cities of Margao, Vasco and Ponda.

The remaining Rs 4 crore went into providing water to the mining-affected villages, providing transportation facility for school children, pumping water out of the mining pits of a few villages, and desilting agricultural land for the village of Sirigao in north Goa. This utilisation, lawyers and activists say, has come only after being slapped by court orders.

“The District Mineral Foundation authorities have done no work for the benefit of the mining-affected villages of their own accord,” Anamika Gode, an environmental lawyer working for Goa Foundation, a non-profit based in Goa, told Mongabay-India. “If you notice, you will see that only water and transportation facilities have been provided thus far, and only one village has had its agricultural land desilted. Work under the District Mineral Foundation has started only after the repeated intervention of the High Court of Bombay at Goa.”

“It took them two years to even consider these applications,” she added. “And if you notice in the minutes of the meetings, all Covid-related purchase approvals are post-facto.”

In August 2020, two residents of mining-affected villages filed a petition against the Goa government, stating that the District Mineral Foundation funds have been misused by the state government, questioning the legal basis of the diversion of funds, and stated that the mining-affected areas have been completely neglected.

Hanumant Parab, a mining activist from Pissurlem, a mining-affected village in north Goa, said that the District Mineral Foundation had provided their village with 117 water tanks of 500 litres capacity each.

“We are yet to get the water though,” Parab told Mongabay-India. “They gave us the tankers two years ago but not a drop of water had come from them yet. They need to provide more tankers also.” The village currently depends on an erratic piped water supply from the government, and mining companies are mandated to provide water to some of the wards every day.

Gode added that since mining had halted in Goa, the District Mineral Foundation funds would remain limited, and thus diverting them for coronavirus relief work was not a good idea, when the funds are specifically needed for the rehabilitation of mining-affected villages.

Mining in Goa has had a deep impact on Goa’s agriculture activities and on the communities involved in mining – directly or indirectly. The mining industry has been halted due to court orders but the state government is trying to restart mining activities to revive the state’s economy.

Courts driving funds
In October 2018, the High Court of Bombay at Goa, based on a 2017 writ petition filed by Goa Foundation, ordered the Goa government to provide piped water supply to Sonshi village, take steps to control dust pollution and provide transportation facilities to the school-going children.

Sonshi, a village in north Goa, is surrounded by five mining leases and has been badly affected by mining. What was once famous for its horticulture, the village has been reduced to dust and misery because of mining activity over the years. Problems of noise, dust pollution, the safety of children as they go to school, destruction of land and lack of water are just some of the issues the village with 350 households has been facing for years.

In the same order, the Bombay High Court criticised the District Mineral Foundation Rules 2016 for not following the objectives set out by the central government, for having no representation from the mining-affected communities, and for being aimed more at investing the funds for the future as opposed to using them currently for the benefit of the mining-affected regions, as originally envisaged by the central government. In January 2019, the state government notified the new District Mineral Foundation Rules 2018.

According to official data, North Goa District Mineral Foundation has a total of Rs 105.34 crore and has used about Rs. 27.9 crore of this fund. Of this, nearly Rs 24 crore have gone into Covid-19 care.

From the remaining Rs 3.9 crore, approximately Rs 50 lakh were spent on providing water through tankers and pipelines to villages in the mining-affected areas, Rs 31 lakh to provide transportation to school-going children, and Rs 45 lakh to pump water out from mining pits in Pali, Surla, Veguem, Sonshi and Pissurlem villages of north Goa.

In a win for the mining-affected villages, but a reminder that the authorities controlling District Mineral Foundation funds only acts on court orders, the mining-affected village of Sirigao in north Goa won a ten-year-old battle in the high court case.

North Goa District Mineral Foundation to provide Rs 2 crore towards desilting of the rivulets, agriculture fields and reconstruction of existing sluice gates so that their agricultural activity could revive. And indeed, by January 2020, their fields were full of paddy again.

South Goa District Mineral Foundation had Rs 97.43 crore in its coffers, and, of that, it used Rs 14.95 crore.

Of that, Rs 14.10 crore went towards Covid-19 relief work while the remaining Rs 85 lakh were utilised for providing drinking water to the mining-affected villages in south Goa, and transportation facilities to school-going children.

Indefinite delays
Apart from the lack of priority and initiative towards the mining-affected villages, the DMF funds have also been criticised for a tardy administrative function.

According to the minutes of the meeting, that took place for the North Goa District Mineral Foundation in June 2020, it was decided that all applications will be routed via the concerned departments – water queries to the water resource department, education-related queries to the education department.

However, no information was given about this change, so the individuals would continue to send their applications to the District Mineral Foundation authorities, who would then send them to the department concerned for scrutiny who would then respond if it was worthy of funding or not and a final decision would be taken by the governing council at meetings that are supposed to be held once every three months. Another problem that cropped up was the lack of ease of obtaining information from the website.

“There is no dedicated website for District Mineral Foundation,” said Gode. “Some sporadic information has been provided in PDF documents on the mines department website.”

“How is anyone ever going to update themselves on the status of the application? How will they ever know what happened to their application?” she asked.

“Goa could have been a model state for District Mineral Foundation activity,” she said. “Mining came to a halt, the government had a real opportunity to rehabilitate the villages and we could have really shone because we know that it is possible to bring the fields and water sources alive again and resolve issues, but sadly, the reality is quite different.”

Odisha to use District Mineral Foundation fund for traffic surveillance

The New Indian Express | | March 19, 2021

Odisha government has decided to utilise funds from District Mineral Foundation (DMF) or CSR for integrated traffic management system to check road fatalities in the State.

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha government has decided to utilise funds from District Mineral Foundation (DMF) or CSR for integrated traffic management system to check road fatalities in the State. The Commerce and Transport department has asked all districts to install CCTV surveillance system for intelligent enforcement of traffic violations at vulnerable stretches and black spots on highways from the DMF or CSR fund where DMF is not available.

The decision to utilise DMF or CSR fund in road safety activities was taken after the Sundargarh Collector sought approval of the government to implement a similar project in the district out of DMF fund. Principal Secretary of Transport department Madhusudan Padhi said Sundargarh Collector had expressed willingness to implement a project in the district out of DMF fund and it has been approved. “We have asked the collectors of other districts to take up similar projects out of DMF or CSR funds for building surveillance infrastructure to check road fatalities,” he said.

The system to be implemented under Driving Electronic Enforcement to Save Human Lives (DEESHA) scheme will detect the violations through automatic number plate recognition technology and send message to a dedicated command and control centre. The centre will be integrated with SARATHI, VAHAN and e-challan application, which will send message to the registered mobile number of the vehicle / driver about the violation. The e-challan will be generated through the system.

There has been steady increase in number of fatalities in Odisha due to road accidents from 3,931 in 2014 to 5,333 in 2019, an increase of about 36 per cent during the period. Last year, though the number of fatalities was less due to lockdown following the Covid-19 pandemic, there was over 30 pc rise in road fatalities post lockdown.

In view of the rising road deaths, the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety has directed to intensify enforcement against traffic rule violators and install CCTV cameras at the black spots and on highways, Padhi added. Meanwhile, the Transport Commissioner has initiated bid process for selection of a vendor for implementation of CCTV surveillance on the stretch from Rameswar (Khurda) to Chhatia (Jajpur).

Road fatalities
3,931 accidents in 2014
5,333 accidents in 2019
30 pc rise in road fatalities post lockdown

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