Increasing political members in Rajasthan's DMF body is highly problematic: experts

Grossly neglects the scope of mining-affected people to have a say in investments and decisions of DMFs 

By Chinmayi Shalya
Published: Saturday 09 June 2018
Unless there is an equal representation of mining-affected people and mine workers in the governing council, the needs of people affected by mining can not be addressed. Credit: Chandra Bhushan

Rajasthan mines department has increased political representation in the decision-making body of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Trust which is established in mining districts for the benefit of mining-affected people and areas. 

In an amendment dated June 1, the state mines department included all members of the Parliament (MP) representing the districts as trustees in the DMF governing council (GC). The GC, which takes decision on the works to be undertaken with the DMF funds, already has a heavy political representation of all MLAs in the district. Experts warn that having heavy political representation will make the non-profit Trust a tool to serve political agenda rather than the actual needs of the mining-affected people and areas. 

Apart from MPs, the state has also added nine more district-level officials to the GC, toppling the balance in favour of political and district administration, rather than inclusion of mining-affected people.

DMF was instituted under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 2015, to be established as a non-profit trust to “work for the interest and benefit of persons, and areas affected by mining.” As per the law, all districts with mining activities wil have a DMF Trust and respective states should develop Rules to guide DMF operations.  

The mining companies, which operate in the district, will be putting a defined proportion of the royalty to DMF. In Rajasthan, all 33 districts have set-up DMFs and the cumulative state collection as on April, 2018 is a whopping Rs 1,782 crore. Bhilwara and Rajsamand are two districts with the highest estimated DMF accruals per year. 

Direction from the union ministry

The decision to include MPs in DMF comes close on the heels of a suggestion made by the Union Secretary (Mines) at the central coordination cum empowered committee (CCEC) meeting convened in March this year, where he called for MPs to be co-opted in various bodies/committees of DMFs, at least where the ministers and MLAs are already part of the body. 

“DMF is a people’s institution with a very clear objective of benefitting people and areas affected by mining. The states should have amended the Rules to have representation of mining-affected people in the DMF body, so that their needs can be understood and best served,” says Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, environmental governance unit of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). “A DMF administration heavily dominated by MPs in addition to MLAs will leave a huge scope for investments to be guided by political investments,” she adds. Banerjee has been working on DMF for the last two years and closely following the effectiveness of the works undertaken. 

Incidentally, the decision also comes at a time when political parties are gearing up for the upcoming general elections in 2019.

The GC in DMFs in Rajasthan has a negligible representation of mining-affected people in the decision-making. Only up to five representatives from areas affected by mining operations are part of the GC and they have to be nominated by the district in consultation with the gram sabha. However, no process or description of the nominee has been provided in the Rules, leaving it abstract. “There has to be an equal representation of mining-affected people, mine workers, including women, in the GC. Only then will the needs to people who are affected by mining can be put forth and addressed. Since this has been lacking, the DMF budget investments in the state are largely missing out on the pressing issues faced by people,” says Rana Sengupta of mine labour protection campaign (MLPC). Sengupta has been seeking better representation of mine workers’ union in the GC. 

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