For the first time, the right of people to benefit from natural resources has been recognised. DMFs have made it possible, say CSE experts
But people remain unaware of this right, and have no role in deciding how the DMF money should be used, finds the meeting
Ranchi, September 17, 2016: “The District Mineral Foundation (DMF) is a vehicle for people to benefit from resources which they have been denied for decades. It offers an opportunity to address some of the most pressing social and human development issues that burden India’s mining areas,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). He was speaking at a civil society meeting organised by CSE here today to discuss issues of implementation of DMFs and the way ahead.
The meeting involved civil society organisations from three states -- Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The meeting was organised at a time when DMFs have been set up in almost all mining districts of India. Some of the bigger mining districts – such as Korba (Chhattisgarh) -- have even started rolling out their plans for using the DMF money.
Little or no knowledge about DMFs among community
The objective of DMF is very clearly specified in the law -- the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR), 1957, as amended in 2015. DMFs have been instituted to “work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining related operations”.
However, what emerged from this meeting was that there is a distressing lack of knowledge and understanding about the institution among people. “Most people in Jharkhand do not know about DMFs,” said Gopi Ghosh of BIRSA Human Rights Desk, one of the civil society organisations which participated in this meeting. “The awareness is particularly worse among people who are actually the affected ones and entitled to benefit,” pointed out Ramesh Sharma of Ekta Parishad.
Major concern: Use of DMF funds
One of the key concerns the meeting brought out is about people’s participation and role in deciding how the DMF money can be used. According to Korba-based civil society groups, “people came to know about Korba’s DMF plan at a much later stage, after the plan had already been rolled out”.
At the meeting, CSE unveiled a detailed analysis that it has done of the DMF plan of Kendujhar district in Odisha. Commenting on the plan, Srestha Banerjee of CSE’s community support programme said: “The Kendujhar plan has missed out on addressing all the pressing issues of the district, such as poor health conditions of the people, access to safe drinking water, electricity and clean fuel etc.”
The way forward
At present, planning around DMFs is at its inception stage. “There is a huge opportunity at hand, and also scope for creative planning. The planning process must not become one focused around fund utilization,” said Bhushan. He emphasised that “DMF is not a short-term development fund. It is an opportunity to address the present needs as well as to provide security for the future.”
What also emerged from the meeting is that the people remain hopeful about the institution. Surender Tirky of Adidi Haq Dhan Sangharsh Morcha, from Tandwa block of Chatra district in Jharkhand, said that they suffer from a critical problem of clean water. Tandwa block is one of the worst affected areas from coal mining in Jharkhand. However Tirky looks forward to the effective use of DMF funds to address this problem.
Summing up the way ahead on the final day of the meeting, Bhushan said: “To ensure that the people’s hopes and aspirations from DMF are not dashed, capacity building and training of gram sabhas is vital. Communities must be made aware of their rights to benefit from DMF so that they can monitor the works being conducted by the Foundation in their district. The money must be spent on providing affected people with basics like nutritious food, clean drinking water, education and health services.”
For more on CSE and its work on DMF, contact Hemanth Subramanian, CSE Media Resource Centre, firstname.lastname@example.org / 098367 48585.
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