March 13, 2018
- Under five mortality rate (U5MR), infant mortality and malnutrition instances in mining-affected West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand among the highest in India.
- Investments for improving healthcare facilities and resources in the region imperative; as there is a gross deficit – both in terms of healthcare facilities and doctors and other health staff - as per the CSE report.
- The state government’s direction to allocate majority share of DMF funds for piped water supply and sanitation cannot be the only priority for a district like West Singhbhum. The districts ground situation and most grinding issues – such as nutrition and healthcare, should be considered for DMF investments.
- Providing treated clean water to households in mining-affected areas, anganwadis, schools and healthcare centres should be a priority due to severe water pollution and adverse health impacts.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi based non-profit think tank has analyzed the situation of mining-affected areas in West Singhbhum district, to identify issues which need priority investments through District Mineral Foundation (DMF). CSE has also given a model planning approach, highlighting some key ways that DMF funds can be spent in the region.
The findings and recommendations have been shared with the district administration.
In a public meeting on March 13 held in Chaibasa, the CSE team also interacted with more than 60 panchayati raj institution (PRI) members and representatives of civil society organisations from mining-affected Noamundi, Manoharpur and Jhikpani blocks to share the findings and recommendations.
The CSE report is based on the assessment of official district data as well as a one month ground survey. During the ground survey, discussions were held with various people in mining affected areas – people from different caste groups, women, PRI members, block development officials etc.
DMF funds in West Singhbhum and its scope
Jharkhand currently has more than 2,500 crore under DMFs. West Singhbhum is the top iron ore mining district in the state and has one of the largest shares of DMF funds - more than Rs. 370 crore. The district estimates to receive about Rs 165 crore every year in DMF, which can in fact go up with proposed revision in royalty rates.
“DMF is a huge opportunity to improve the life and livelihoods of people who have been affected by mining” said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, CSE, while speaking to PRI members and civil society at the meetings. “For West Singhbhum with more than Rs. 370 crore in DMF, it will be very unfortunate if infants and children continue to be malnourished or die because of poor nutrition and healthcare support. The state’s mandate for prioritizing piped water supply and sanitation is important, but cannot be a blanket approach for a district like West Singbhum.” added Banerjee. In rural West Singhbhum IMR is 57, and U5MR is 96, with about 60% children below the age of 5 years suffering from malnourishment.
“There is huge opportunity to make innovative investments to improve child health, healthcare infrastructure and resources, education and sustainable livelihood opportunities. The money can be used to work on these through immediate and long term investments” said Banerjee.
The representatives from panchayats also shared their observations and concerns. However, almost after 3 years of DMF coming into effect in 2015, the knowledge of PRI members and people of mining-affected areas still remains poor. They have not been able to participate in the planning process despite the DMF law’s clear specifications on the role of gram sabhas, particularly in Scheduled Areas, in identifying beneficiaries, and their importance in DMF planning and monitoring.
Key findings of CSE report and recommendations
- Child health and nutrition needs priority foccus- While infant and under 5 mortality in the district is very high, the implementation of ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) is still ineffective. In mining-affected areas Noamundi, Jhikpani, Manjhari, Chaibasa, anganwadi’s are serving 3 times their capacity. Moreover, many anganwadis do not have permanent structures, drinking water and toilet facilities. In Noamundi which is the most mining-affected area, 46% anganwadis do not have permanent structures. Almost none of the anganwadis have drinking water facilities within their premises; let alone treated water supply for children, shows CSE’s survey.
DMF in West Singhbhum should build up on ICDS. CSE researchers have recommended providing permanent structures and drinking water and sanitation facilities in all existing anganwadis .
The CSE report has also recommended providing crèches in each mining affected villages through DMF funds. “This is extremely important for improvement of child health and nutrition – for children between the ages of six months to 3 years; and is a common demand of several health care practitioners and organizations working on the issue” said Banerjee.
- Rural healthcare a major challenge, needs investments through multiple approach- There are no functional primary health centres (PHCs) in Jhinkpani, Manjhari and Chaibasa blocks, which all are mining-affected. In other places PHCs are serving 2 to 3 times their capacity. Hospitals, in the area, face a similar situation.
The CSE report shows that there is an overall 60% deficit in doctors/medical officers in PHCs and CHCs. In district hospitals about 55% positions (of doctors) are lying vacant. The shortfall is similar or worse for all other medical staff such as nurses and laboratory technicians.
“The Central Government this year in the budget has also highlighted the poor status of rural healthcare. The state government and the district must use DMF funds to improve the healthcare status. This is a fundamental factor to improve the life of people here” said Banerjee. CSE report has suggested several ways to improve this. For infrastructure, at least 2 PHCs need to be developed in Noamundi, Jhinkpani, Chaibasa , Manjhari, Jagannathpur blocks. The health sub centres can also be upgraded to fill the deficits.
The deficits in health staff, particularly doctors and nurses can be filled in by contracting in trained staff. Providing health vouchers to the poor can help them afford better healthcare both at public and private facilities. “These are important steps to ensure that the health facilities are well resourced and health issues in the region are addressed effectively,” said Banerjee.
- Supplying clean (treated) and adequate water: Water pollution in high in mining areas. Both ground and surface water pollution happens due to run-offs from mining areas, leachate, mine discharges etc. But about 92% households in Manoharpur and about 68% in Noamundi do not have access to treated tap water. While providing piped water will be helpful, the water must also be clean, which means it has to be treated properly before its safe for consumption, highlight CSE researchers.
- Completion of education post elementary level a key challenge: Enrollment in secondary schools is nearly half of primary and upper primary schools in almost all parts of the district including mining areas. In the 20-39 age group, only 13% people have completed higher secondary education. About 50% of the elementary schools and 80% secondary schools do not have the necessary number of teachers, as required by the government standards under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, shows CSE’s report.
“Hiring teachers through better salary will be necessary” said Banerjee. Also elementary level schools can be upgraded to initially fill in some deficits. Also since many children dropout due to financial issues, extending the scope of the mid day meal scheme to secondary school level can be helpful, indicated the CSE report.
- Livelihood around local resources needs focus for long term solutions: About 54% people in West Singbhum district are non workers shows government report. Even among them, half are manual or casual labourers with no stable income. In rural areas, even for working households the earning is low. The 50% of rural households, which are said to have the highest earning heads in the region, are still earning below Rs. 5,000 a month,” said Banerjee.
The district needs to start investing on viable and sustainable livelihood options, to improve lives of people in mining-affected areas. Their needs to be focus on forest and agriculture based livelihoods for locals. The district and the government need to act on ensuring forest based livelihoods because in mining-affected areas such as Manoharpur and Noamundi, the forest area is almost about 40%. “This will require pro-active action on settlement on forest rights and well as supporting livelihoods around minor forest products” highlights CSE report. Besides potential of agriculture must be improved by long term approaches such as ensuring watershed based management. Ensuring stable livelihood for people dependent on local resources and their knowledge will not only help them today, but will secure their future, as the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Khestra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) emphasizes”, said Banerjee.
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