Delhi-based research body Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) organises meeting of community groups in Bhubaneswar on District Mineral Foundations (DMF)

Odisha setting up DMFs in all its mining districts 

DMFs aimed at ensuring people get their rights over natural resources, but the state is lagging behind in making the system inclusive – finds the meeting

Bhubaneswar, December 8, 2016: “What District Mineral Foundations bring to the people is not a grant or a donation, but their unassailable right to benefit from the resources they live on. DMF therefore is a vehicle through which the socio-economic status of the mining affected regions can be changed for the better,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), speaking at a meeting of civil society groups organised by CSE here today to discuss DMFs in the state, the implementation of the programme, and the road ahead. 

The meeting was attended by NGOs from key mining districts in the state, working on crucial development issues like health, nutrition, livelihoods, environment, education etc. 

DMF has been instituted to work for the interest and benefits of people affected by mining related operations. DMF was instituted under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2005. As per law, DMF has to be to be set up in all mining districts of the country and mining companies have to contribute resources equivalent to 10-30 per cent of the royalty to this fund.

In Odisha, one of the major mining states in India, DMFs have been set up in all the mining districts and more than Rs 1,600 crore has already been collected from the mining companies. The meeting comes at a time when mining districts are already in the process of planning for DMFs -- some districts like Kendujhar and Angul have also allocated funds for various works and projects. 

Bhushan called DMF a “game-changer”, and said that it is a vehicle through which some of the most pressing human development issues in mining affected areas can be effectively addressed. 

Community groups feel rules and planning non-inclusive
While DMF planning in most districts in Odisha is ongoing, community groups attending the CSE meeting felt that people in mining affected areas have been left out of the planning process which is supposed to be for their own welfare. 

“No consultation was done by the government when the DMF rules were being finalised. This is the reason why there is no representation of the affected communities in the DMF governing board or managing committee,” said Dileep Samal of Odisha Voluntary Health Association (OVHA). In Odisha, health remains a major challenge in the mining areas of most districts. 

Community groups insisted that not involving people in planning is against the spirit of the law. In no districts -- particularly in Scheduled Areas – have people been consulted for identifying beneficiaries or planning as the law requires.

Another concern that emerged was the diversion of DMF funds towards ‘planned projects’ which are parts of state or central government schemes and which already have ample fund allocation. Biplab Mishra of Kendujhar-based Prakalpa, which works on health and livelihood issues in the district, pointed out that the district has allocated a substantial amount of DMF money for such projects.

“DMF should not be used for regular planned works which are a primary responsibility of the state government. The priority of DMF is to build the human capital. DMF money should be used to end hunger and malnutrition, improve education and health and provide energy and clean water to mining affected people,” said Bhushan.

The community groups demanded change in the Odisha DMF Rules so that affected communities can be part of the governing body and managing committee. They also called for a bottom-up planning involving gram sabhas. Sharing of information and putting all DMF-related information in the public domain as per the provisions of the law was strongly emphasised on by the organisations present in the meeting.

The meeting ended with groups agreeing to set up civil society forums at the district and state levels to act as a watchdog on DMF its activities.