In areas affected by mining, progress of projects sanctioned from DMFT funds is slow

Deep Mukherjee
Rajasthan, Rajasthan mining, Rajasthan mining projects, Rajasthan DMFT, mining sector Rajasthan, Rajasthan illegal mining, Indian express

The DMFT, which was created in 2016, is a non-profit body which works for the interest and benefit of persons and areas where mining is rampant. (Express)

In the past three years, only 38 per cent of the projects sanctioned from the funds with the district mineral foundation trust (DMFT) in various districts of Rajasthan have been completed while the others are still in progress, data from the state’s mines department reveals.

According to data furnished by the mines department in answer to questions asked in the Assembly, in the past three years, an amount of Rs 1,420 crore was allocated for 8,550 projects, of which only 3,325 projects have been completed while work is in progress for the rest 5,225 projects.

Activists and people closely working with the stakeholders of the mining sector in Rajasthan say that absence of proper planning by the government while allocating funds is hindering the welfare initiatives to percolate to the people who are in need of them.

The DMFT, which was created in 2016, is a non-profit body which works for the interest and benefit of persons and areas where mining is rampant. The funds with the DMFT are used to implement various developmental and welfare projects and also for the benefit of stakeholders such as mine workers and local villagers influenced by mining.

Data from the mines department shows that over the past few years, the revenue from mining in the state has been consistently increasing. The total revenue in 2016-2017 was Rs 4,233.74 crore which increased to Rs 4,521.52 crore and Rs 5,301.48 crore in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 respectively.

The DMFT fund is made up from the contributions of mine lease holders who, in addition of the royalty, have to pay a fixed percentage of the royalty amount to the trust.

As per data, in 2018-19, the total funds deposited in the various DMFTs were Rs 932.94 crore while in 2019-20 (till January 31) it was Rs 861.9 crore. At present, the DMFTs have a total remaining deposit of Rs 2,755.15 crore.

However, despite the accumulated funds with the DMFTs, the data reveals that out of the Rs 1,420.06 crore sanctioned for the 8,550 projects, only Rs 676.34 crore has been spent in which 3,325 projects have been completed.

The DMFT rules 2016 state that in each district the trust will have a governing council and a managing committee with chairperson and trustees including the district collector, mining engineer, representatives of other government departments and public representatives such as MLAs and Zila Pramukh.

The data shows that in some of the districts, the numbers of completed projects are much lesser than others.

The data reveals that in Udaipur district, financial sanction for 545 projects has been received in the last three years but out of these the number of completed projects is only 14. Similarly, in Ajmer out of the 541 sanctioned projects work has been completed in 193 while in Bhilwara, out of such 2,083 projects, 762 projects have been competed in the past three years.

“We had information that 14 projects have been completed and have now asked for latest progress reports from all the departments and once it will be reviewed at the district collector’s level the exact situation will be known. It is up to the individual departments, who have to follow their own processes, come up with tenders and that’s how the work is done,” said Jinesh Humad, mining engineer Udaipur and member secretary, governing council of DMFT Udaipur.

Officials said that different government departments have to produce certificates in several stages of the work to avail instalments of the fund for the projects and status of the project is only updated as completed after a final certificate is presented in this regard with the process being quite lengthy.

Activists say that due to lack of proper planning and monitoring the funds don’t reach the sections of the society which are affected by mining.

“Instead of spending the DMFT funds primarily on infrastructure projects, the government should ensure that the welfare of people affected by mining such as labourers suffering from silicosis, their families, children, maternity benefits to women labourers is emphasised through the funds. Each government department already gets a budget for development of their infrastructure and there is no need to spend the large chunk of DMFT funds on it. The government can also invest in healthcare facilities for mine workers to take preventive action to stop spread of diseases such as silicosis,” said Rana Sengupta, managing trustee, Mine Labour Protection Campaign Trust.

He added that there is a need to consult with the people in mining-affected areas through initiatives such as public hearings before allocating funds from the DMFT for the projects.

“Where is the accountability of the district mineral foundation trust to the people of areas where mining is prevalent? Instead of working for the restoration of environment, protection of labourers and benefit of villagers living near mines, the trust fund is being spent on other avenues. This has to be rectified,” says activist Kailash Mina, who has been working for the rights of people living near mining areas.

The DMFT rules 2016 mention several areas such as welfare of displaced families, drinking water systems, environment preservation and pollution control measures, healthcare and education as avenues where the funds can be utilised. It also says that up to 40 per cent of the funds will have to be utilised under the heads of physical infrastructure, irrigation, energy and watershed development and any other measures enhancing environmental quality in mining districts.

However, according to the data available on the website of the state mines department, in some districts such as Rajsamand over 55 per cent of the DMFT funds sanctioned are for development of physical infrastructure.

The data from the mines department also shows that the total number of new projects in which the work started during the current financial year of 2019-20 is much less than that of the previous financial year of 2018-2019.

The data reveals that work on 4,252 new projects were started in the 2018-19 while in the current financial year of 2019-20, work on only 795 new projects were started till January 31.

“Actually the mines department is in a way the funding agency for the DMFT while the work is done by the other government departments such as the public works department, public health engineering department, samagra shiksha abhiyaan according to their own speed. We can advise them, but we can’t dictate to them and ultimately the entire power lies with the district administration. Each district takes into consideration factors such as their needs and budget. However, the state government has told all the districts that first priority should be given to silicosis related work,” said Harsh Sawan Sukha, additional director, directorate of mines and geology, Udaipur.

Sengupta said that there is a need for a body constituted specifically for the purpose of identifying issues in each mining-affected area and allocating DMFT in order to ensure that the benefit reaches the right people.