Not identifying them deprives potential beneficiaries of nearly Rs 29,000 crore
District Mineral Foundation (DMF) trusts are in the fifth year of their implementation and one key drawback that remains is none of them have identified and listed people affected by mining — a major reason for many of the worst-affected to have been left out of DMF benefits.
They include people displaced due to mining, holders of usufruct (user rights) and traditional rights on land being mined and those who lost livelihoods.
Identifying mining-affected people should have been a priority for DMFs as they have been specified as non-profit trust under the Mines and Mineral (Develeopment and Regulation) Amendment Act 2015, the principal Act under which they were instituted.
For a Trust, it is a legal obligation to identify beneficiaries. There cannot be a Trust without its beneficiaries.
For DMF Trusts, the beneficiaries are mining-affected people. Who the ‘mining-affected’ people are has also been clearly defined in the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Khestra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) guideline, which is aligned to DMF and is also part of all State DMF Trust Rules.
These primarily include people who have lost their land rights (including legal, occupational, usufruct and traditional rights) and livelihood (including forest based livelihood) due to mining (See Who are the mining-affected people? below).
The disregard for identifying mining-affected people is undermining the prospects of targeted investments of DMF Trust funds to improve their lives and livelihood. This is clear from the DMF investments of some of the key mining districts.
For instance, take the top coal mining districts of Jharkhand, the state which is second in terms of total DMF accrual — which is more than Rs 4,084 crore.
Ramgarh, a top coal district of the state, has sanctioned around Rs. 4 crore for two fisheries projects from DMF Trust funds (which currently has a cumulative collection of about Rs 568 crore) this year.
These include the Bhairva Jalashay and the Nalkari Jalashay projects. The Bhairva project has 334 beneficiaries and the Nalkari project has 132 beneficiaries according to the fisheries department of Ramgarh district, the agency which is implementing this project.
However, most of these beneficiaries are not mining-affected people. According to officials of the fisheries department, the beneficiaries of the project are ‘dam displaced’. The district DMF project monitoring unit (PMU) also confirmed this. The district also does not have any list of mining-affected people, the actual beneficiaries of the Trust.
Similarly, in Dhanbad, Jharkhand’s top coal-mining district, so far, there have practically been no investments for the mining-affected people of Jharia, for livelihood of the people in the resettlement areas, even though they are the prime beneficiaries of the DMF Trust.
The question therefore for DMF Trusts is not what they are doing, but are the right beneficiaries being targeted? In the Ramgarh case, while a livelihood project is important, the livelihood investment through DMF Trust funds should have targeted its beneficiaries.
The district must arrange for livelihood for the dam-displaced using other financial resources available with the authorities. Otherwise, there is no meaning in having a dedicated fund and scheme for mining-affected people.
It is time the government authorities and particularly the DMF administrative body, which is typically headed by the district collector, pay heed to the DMF law and consider the purpose with which it has been instituted.
DMF has not been brought in as a general development fund for the district. It was conceptualised about a decade ago to address the ironic inequality of India’s mining districts, where these rich areas are inhabited by some of the country’s poorest and most deprived.
DMF came into effect to ensure socio-economic justice for these people. Therefore, by not identifying beneficiaries (mining-affected people), DMF Trusts are not only in contravention with the letter and spirit of the law, it is also continuing to keep the people deprived of the benefits of DMF funds for whom it is meant.
Who are the mining-affected people?
As per the PMKKKY guidelines for DMF Trusts, mining-affected people include:
Srestha Banerjee is Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Community support and mining program), Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi
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