Chhattisgarh has made DMF more inclusive and people-centric, says CSE

Down to Earth | Sep 12, 2019

At public meeting in Raipur, CSE lauds the amended Chhattisgarh DMF Trust Rules for doing this

  • Public Meeting organised by CSE to discuss the way ahead for implementation of DMF in the state. Over 70 participants from state- and district-levelagencies, civil society organisations and media come together
  • Chhattisgarh amended District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Trust Rules, 2015 to make them more people-centric. State has more than Rs 4,200 crore in DMF Trust
  • Gram Sabhamembers from directly mining-affected areas made DMF Governing Councilmembers — an important step to empower mining-affected people
  • Amended Rules emphasiseon identification of mining-affected people (DMF beneficiaries) and delineation ofmining-affected areas by empanelled agency
  • Stress on developing five-year plans/ vision documents for DMF Trusts through need-based approach. The annual action plan to be based on this
  • Only 20 per cent of DMF funds can now be used on big physical infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, railways, industrial parks etc. Rules mandate spending of at least 50 per cent of the funds on directly-affected areas to ensure worst-hit areas and people are prioritised
  • Sustainable livelihoods made ‘high priority’ for DMF investments. Emphasis on improving livelihoods and standards of living of forest rights holders and forest-dependent communities
  • For better public accountability, elaborates on the social audit process; introduces third party review of five-year plans

September 12, 2019, Raipur: In a public meeting organised here today to discuss the way ahead for implementation of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) in Chhattisgarh, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) welcomed the amendments made by the government of Chhattisgarh in the State DMF Trust Rules (2015). The amendments were notified by the government last month.

Addressing the delegates at the meeting, Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE said: “The Chhattisgarh government has taken the lead to bring in a necessary regulatory reform.The move is significant, considering that Chhattisgarh is one of the top states in India in terms of DMF accrual. The amendments create a huge scope for mining districts in the state to improve the lives and livelihoods of those affected by mining.”

DMF has been instituted as a non-profit Trust under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015. It comes with the precise objective to ‘work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining-related operations’. Recognising that people’s participation is crucial for DMFs to perform effectively and remain relevant, the law specifies that DMF Rules of various state governments should be guided by three people-centric laws — Article 244 read with Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution of India, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, and the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.

A key provision of the latest amendments is the inclusion of 10 Gram Sabha members from directly mining-affected areas, in the DMF Governing Council (GC). In Scheduled Areas, at least 50 per cent of the Gram Sabha members must be from the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. The amended Rules also strengthen women’s voices in the GC by mandating thatfrom each Gram Sabha, there will be one male and one female member in the GC.

Speaking on the occasion, P Anbalagan, special secretary of the Chhattisgarh Mineral Resources Department said: “The Rules have been amended to improve the scope of DMF investments and streamline them. For instance, a 20 per cent cap has been put on the use of DMF funds for developing physical infrastructure. This will not only stop misuse of the funds on big projects such as roads, bridges, industrial parks etc, but will also create more scope to improve investment on soft resources.”

Anbalagan said that a school building or a hospital can never be functional without good teachers or doctors – this has been a major challenge in all through.Adding to this, Chandra Bhushan pointed out that DMF had been envisaged to build ‘social capital’. “The funds provide huge scope for this and they must not be wasted on just building physical infrastructure, which already has other funds given by the state,” he said.

As a step towards making DMFs efficient in their operations and fund use, the amendments have asked districts to identify mining-affected people and delineate mining-affected areas with precision. “Affected areas must be enumerated scientifically and not left to political will,” said Ramesh Sharma of Ekta Parishad.

Provisions have also been introduced to improve DMF planning and achieve outcomes in a targeted and time-bound manner. For instance, districts have to develop five-year visiondocuments for the DMF Trusts through a need-based approach to capture people’s needs and aspirations. This will also guide yearly DMF investments. Civil society experts may also be considered in developing the five-year plans.

“In the absence of a proper planning process, the worst-affected areas and people had been left out from the scope of DMF investments in many states. DMF was increasingly being treated as any other general development fund. For instance, money was being spent on city parking lots, airport strips, convention halls etc. The chief minister of Chhattisgarh has taken note of this and stopped such constructions,” said Bhushan.

The amended Rules have also emphasised that at least 50 per cent of the DMF funds must be spent on directly-affected areas. This is in addition to the requirement that at least 60 per cent of the DMF funds must be used on certain high-priority issues such as drinking water, livelihoods, healthcare, women and child development, education etc.

One of the most important aspects of the amendments is specifying ‘sustainable livelihood’ as a high priority issue, including for forest rights holders. Emphasis is being laid on investments in sustainable agriculture and developing resources to facilitate market linkages. One of the participants in the CSE meeting, GangaramPaikra of Chaupal Gramin Vikas Prashikshan Evam Shodh Sansthan said that investments to improve livelihoods must be done in consultation with the people who would be benefitted by them.

“Specifying creation of sustainable livelihood as a high priority issue is extremely important for the mining-affected people. Our analysis of DMF investments of various mining districts has shown that sustainable livelihood creation has been one of the most neglected sectors for DMF investments. This is despite the fact that poverty and unemployment is a critical problem in most mining-affected areas,” said Srestha Banerjee, programme manager heading the DMF programme in CSE. “The emphasis on livelihoods for forest rights holders is very important for a state like Chhattisgarh as most of its mining districts are rich in forest resources. Besides that, forest-dependent communities who have lost their livelihoods because of mining are beneficiaries of DMF,” she added.

The revisions strengthen the scope of public review as well. A two-step social audit process has been mandated. Besides this, the five-year plan can be subjected to a third party review, if the secretary of the mines department considers it to be necessary.

“The government has made crucial changes in the DMF Rules to maintain the inclusive nature of the institution and improve its performance. DMF recognises the rights of people to benefit from natural resource extraction. The Chhattisgarh Rules must also guide other states to consider similar measures so that the best interests of mining-affected communities are served,” said Bhushan.