By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, September 11, 2018: District Mineral Foundations (DMF) in Odisha fall short of benefitting the mining-affected people due to institutional and administrative gaps, points out an independent assessment of DMF and Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) scheme done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based public interest research institution.

‘People First: District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Status Report, 2018’ covered 12 states in India, and closely studies the DMF administration and investments in 13 districts in the top five states, including Odisha.

The report and its findings, specifically with respect to Odisha, were discussed here on Tuesday at a public meeting. The meeting was attended by officials of the Odisha Planning and Convergence Department, civil society organizations and media representatives. Earlier, on July 31, the report had been released nationally in New Delhi.

Odisha has failed to implement DMF in the right spirit, according to said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.

With more than Rs 5,000 crore in DMF Trusts, there is a huge scope for the mining districts of Odisha to address some of the pressing issues of the mining-affected communities. However, this can only happen if DMFs develop investment plans through proper need-based assessment – says the CSE report.

However, no district has developed a comprehensive DMF plan to ensure need-based investments in mining-affected areas. The work sanctions so far are ad-hoc.

Of the Rs 2,589 crore sanctioned so far for projects under DMF, over 33 per cent is for building roads and bridges. In fact, investments in such infrastructure have been alarmingly high in some areas, such as in Sundargarh district. For instance, in Koida, Sundargarh’s worst mining-affected block, a whopping 80 per cent of the DMF investments is for big infrastructure.

“DMF is a defining opportunity to overturn the decades of injustice meted out to the millions of people living in deep poverty and deprivation in India’s mining districts. The law as framed is also a crucial opportunity to ensure people centric governance and decision-making. But this can only happen if DMF is developed and implemented in the letter and spirit of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation), Amendment Act, 2015 and State Rules developed under it. Our assessment shows that so far Odisha has failed to implement it in right spirit”, Bhusan remarked.

R Balakrishnan, Secretary of the Odisha Planning and Convergence Department, under which DMF is placed in the state, shared the state government’s position saying, “Odisha is focusing on convergence for DMF implementation because it brings in various departments that are looking into various issues that DMF is looking into,” he said.

There is a DMF nodal person in each line department of the state who is looking into DMF proposals coming from various districts to review the feasibility of the projects. The review report is then sent back to districts where the DMF body finally approves the project, Balakrishnan added.

Balakrishnan also highlighted certain issues that need to be relooked at to improve DMF implementation – these include selection of the affected areas, DMF office and administration, how to effectively engage PRI members etc.

Ironically, no DMF Trust in any district of Odisha has identified its beneficiaries – the mining-affected people, the CSE report. “By not identifying the beneficiaries, DMFs thus have left out some of the worst-affected people from the benefits of DMF,” said Bhushan.

Besides, leaving out beneficiaries, DMFs have not fulfilled their other obligation of engaging Gram Sabhas in DMF decision-making. Sidelining Gram Sabhas goes against the mandates of the MMDR Amendment Act as well as the State Rules and the PMKKKY guidelines, all of which emphasize on Gram Sabha engagement, particularly in Scheduled Areas for deciding on DMF works, monitoring and identifying beneficiaries.

“There is little information available showing that Gram Sabha consultation has happened for identification and approval of works to be done through DMF funds or for identifying beneficiaries,” says Srestha Banerjee, programme manager of environmental governance unit, CSE. “In a few cases where approvals have been taken from Gram Sabhas, it has been a formality, where the village heads are informed of the project and told to sign the papers,” she added. The whole of Sundargarh and parts of Keonjhar district are classified as Schedule V areas.

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