Chhattisgarh destroying the primary essence of people-centric DMF scheme

CSE’s latest analysis leaves no doubt, those in power have got something to roost

New Delhi.

The state government has successfully rendered the key attribute of District Mineral Foundation scheme (DMF), that of being a people friendly initiative, a completely failed endeavour.

The state govt. plays a nodal role in directing investments. People are almost completely excluded from DMF planning and decision-making.

This is a key finding of a report by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released here today.

People First: District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Status Report, 2018 – as the report is called — is an assessment of DMF as it enters its fourth year. The report covers 12 states in the country, and closely studies the investments in 13 districts in the top five states, including Chhattisgarh.

The report was released in the presence of representatives from the state and Central governments, district administrations from mining-affected districts, NGOs and media.

“DMF is a people-centric vision of natural resource governance where their right to benefit has been put at the forefront. If developed and implemented well, DMFs not only have huge potential for improving the lives and livelihoods of some of the poorest communities, they can also be a model for inclusive governance,” said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE, while releasing the report.

DMFs have been instituted to be established as a non-profit Trust in every mining district of the country under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation), Amendment Act, 2015.

They have a precise and legally defined objective to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining-related operations.

The DMF collection in Chhattisgarh is Rs 2,746 crore till April 2018. The topmost districts in the state in terms of DMF collection are Korba (Rs 674 crore), Dantewada (Rs 216 crore) and Raigarh (Rs 122 crore).

“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. But DMF can only deliver if it is implemented in the letter and spirit of the DMF rules under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation), Amendment Act, 2015. Our assessment shows that so far Chhattisgarh has failed to implement DMF in the right spirit,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.

People excluded from DMF planning and decision-making

There is no scope for representation of mining-affected communities in the district DMF bodies in Chhattisgarh. The DMF body is dominated by district officials and political representatives from mining areas.

The only ‘people’s representation’ comes from a few elected members of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI). The state government is playing a nodal role in directing investments.

Firstly, an over-riding power has been given to a Settler (who is the state mines secretary) to include or scrap any project he orshe deems fit. Secondly, the state has amended its Rules to include “public welfare” as a high priority area for investment, opening another caveat for the state to include any state or central government scheme it deems as priority.

Currently, investments for Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojna is being made in districts through this. 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.

The role of the Gram Sabha, which has been clearly defined particularly for Scheduled V areas, has been completely sidelined. The whole of Korba and Dantewada, and part of Raigarh (including mining areas) are classified as Schedule V areas. The approval of Gram Sabha is mandated for projects in these areas.

Gram Sabha is also supposed to identify beneficiaries. “However, there is little information available showing that Gram Sabha consultation has happened for approvals for works,” says Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, environmental governance unit, CSE.

“The Gram Sabha has been completely marginalised in DMF implementation in Chhattisgarh. Identification of beneficiaries for DMF has not been done so far. This has left out some of the worst-affected people – those displaced due to mining operations and those with traditional rights on the land that is being mined – from the benefits of DMF,” adds Bhushan.

DMF office still not in place despite state direction

Despite an order by the state government creating posts of DMF offices in all districts, only three among the surveyed nine districts reported having a functional DMF office with most posts filled.

“A full-time DMF office comprising planning experts who can do a gap-analysis, conduct consultations with the Gram Sabha and plan DMF investments based on the district’s resources, is essential to ensure inclusive and effective planning is done,” said Srestha.

Chhattisgarh is one of the states which has developed an online DMF website with district-specific information. The website contains details of the DMF trustees and members, fund allocation, progress of projects, audit reports and in case of some districts, minutes of the DMF body meetings.

However, information on mining-affected areas, DMF beneficiaries, annual reports etc are still not available in public domain. The state Rules and the Centre’s flagship scheme — Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kheshtra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) — aligned to DMFs, mandate all details on DMF be provided in the public domain.

Construction-driven investment

About Rs 3,133 crore has been sanctioned in Chhattisgarh for projects under DMF; about 28 per cent of this is for physical infrastructure and about 25 per cent for education. While education is an area of investment, the larger proportion of this has been on construction.

A classic example is Korba where education has the highest investment so far, but about 70 per cent of it is for building an education hub.

“The district has picked the right issue. However, the education hub has kept the district’s focus singularly on construction. Given the high drop-out rate in schools, and shortage of teaching staff , the district should have considered simultaneous investments in addressing the various resource gaps in schools to make education more accessible to those living in the mining areas,” said Srestha.

Physical infrastructure is evidently a big focus in all three districts analysed in-depth. Raigarh, for instance, has directed 40 per cent of its Rs 123 crore investments towards construction of roads and bridges. Dantewada too has invested about 34 per cent of its Rs 380 crore budget for this.

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