With CSR investments likely to boost funding for SBM projects, the DMF must now be used only to address other pressing issues in mining-affected areas
Giving a call for cleaning habitations around mining areas, the Union Ministry of Mines has appealed to all mining companies to contribute towards the goal of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in their best possible way. Narendra Singh Tomar, the Minister of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Mines has appealed to various constituencies of the mining sector to come forth and contribute towards cleanliness in all habitations around mines. The Mines Ministry is currently observing Swachhata Pakhwada, from December 16-31, a programme to raise awareness about SBM and progress towards its goals.
The SBM was launched on October 2, 2014 to achieve clean India by 2019. It is a consolidated effort of the government to improve cleanliness in the country, to achieve universal sanitation coverage and to focus on solid waste management.
The ministry has now directly roped in the mining sector to achieve such goals. The appeal, addressed to all public and private sector mining companies by the Mines Secretary Arun Kumar, underscores that the hope is all “will rise to the occasion and ensure that the dream of a clean India is attained during the mission period”. The ministry has appealed to the public and private sector mining companies to adopt villages/inhabitations near the mines to make them open defection free (ODF). Companies can adopt as many villages/towns as possible, says the appeal.
Investments are already being made through SBM and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Officials of the Mines Ministry clarified that the current appeal will further direct CSR investments towards this.
The SBM is currently being undertaken through a lot of consolidated/add on investments. Even funds such as the District Mineral Foundation (DMF), which are meant for improving the socio-economic and human development status of people living in some of India’s most distressed areas, are being used for making habitations in mining-affected areas ODF. For example, the Jharkhand government had given clear directions on this in October 2016. Currently, more than 200,000 schemes/ projects for ODF villages are being undertaken through DMF funds in various mining areas of the state.
While SBM is an important endeavour, addressing other pressing issues in India’s mining-affected areas is of equal importance. For example, in most mining-affected areas, healthcare infrastructure and resources, education level and livelihood opportunities are nearly at rock bottom. Therefore, funds such as DMF should be targeted for investing on these issues and not prioritise ODF. The SBM kitty already available with states and districts, along with the recent proposal of the mines ministry, will secure enough funds for meeting ODF target in mining areas. The government, therefore, should secure the rest through funds such as DMF.
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