Billions of dollars in pot, but Indian mining villages remain buried in poverty | News | Eco-Enterprise
When NH Malliswamy first heard about a fund meant to improve the lives of those affected by mining, he wondered why his village in an iron ore mining center in Karnataka n ‘had never benefited from it.
For the past year, the ex-employee of a mining company, closed for illegal exploitation, has tried to trace the millions of rupees the companies pay each year into this kitty, known as the district mining fund.
“The soles of my slippers frayed while trying to get details of the spending of these funds,” Malliswamy, 45, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, sitting outside the elementary school near his home in the village. from Deogiri to Sandur.
âSlowly I began to understand why these funds were created and how they are either misused or not used at all. All this money can change our lives.
In 2015, the Indian government required mining lease holders to pay 10-30% of their royalties to funds set up in areas affected by mining-related operations – from iron ore to coal, quartz , mica and granite.
India has the world’s fourth largest reserves of coal and is the fourth largest producer of iron ore, the key material in the steel industry.
Growing infrastructure development and growing demand for electricity are expected to boost mining in India after the Covid-19 pandemic, with more mines likely to be permitted.
The District Mineral Foundations (DMF), which have been established in 600 districts in 21 Indian states, contents more than 500 billion Indian rupees ($ 6.8 billion) in July, according to data from the Ministry of Mines.
The law requires that money be spent on “high priority” social goals such as health care, education, child development and improving sustainable livelihoods in places affected by the disease. mining.
But the data shows that only half of the funds have been spent and about half of the planned projects completed so far.
Human rights activists said the 2015 law recognized the right of local people to benefit from natural resources for the first time in a country where many mineral-rich regions are also among the poorest and most underdeveloped.
â(The) DMF (model) is India’s tool for a just transition,â said Bhanumati Kalluri of the Dhaatri Resource Center, who works with women in mining areas and advocates for more spending on their health and nutrition.
âHowever, there is a huge gap in the purpose of setting up these funds and how they are spent. Spending is one-off and often not in major mining areas. The beneficiaries are not always the affected ones. and who are most in need of change.
“Health, not hockey”
There have been frequent protests in mining districts over the past year, with rights activists and elected officials denouncing what they say is widespread misuse of funds.
Laxman Munda, a lawmaker from the eastern mining state of Odisha, raised in the state assembly a “embezzlement” for the construction of a sports stadium two hours from an ore center in iron.
Bonai’s lawmaker has said âso much moneyâ is being made from mining in his state, but it hasn’t translated into progress for residents.
âThere is no good road connectivity and a good hospital is 80 km (50 miles) away. People die on the way. It is obvious that we need health care and not hockey fields, âhe said in a telephone interview.
Kalluri said much of the funds were spent in parts of mining districts not affected by the industry, including on airstrips, supplying electricity to an airport, building colleges and modernization of urban infrastructure.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, there were also protests in western Goa state as DMF money was spent on coronavirus relief, with most of the equipment purchased and infrastructure built being intended for city hospitals.
Government data, however, shows that DMFs have allocated about 40 percent of their spending to a âpriority categoryâ to improve drinking water facilities.
This includes setting up water purification plants and providing water tankers to villages where water is often polluted due to mining activities.
But in Sandur, part of the mineral-rich Ballari district, locals said most water purification plants, which can be accessed after paying a 2 rupee user fee, were not working. .
Pavan Kumar Malapati, administrative head of Ballari, pointed out a lack of technical expertise and manpower to maintain the water purifiers.
But efforts are being made to fix the problem, he said, with a three-year action plan in place and consultants hired.
Lack of transparency
In July, the federal government warned states not to divert funds from mining districts or other programs.
Vivek Kumar Sharma, director of the trade union ministry of mines, which oversees the funds, said review meetings were held regularly.
âThe goals are very clear and the focus is on people,â he said, noting that at least 60 percent of funds must be spent to improve local life.
A 2018 status report on DMF by the New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment suggested the reality on the ground was different.
He highlighted that the DMF had not clearly identified their beneficiaries, often limiting themselves to those living in the immediate vicinity of the mines.
They have often left behind those displaced by mining and others who have lost their livelihoods because of it, including in the forests, according to the report.
There had also been no investment in improving child nutrition and under-five mortality rates, a big problem in most mining districts, especially with large tribal populations. he noted.
Report co-author Srestha Banerjee said not much has changed since 2018.
âMining has increased – the money coming in is huge but there is no plan on how to spend itâ¦ No one really knows what’s going on,â she said.
Instructions are not standardized and state spending websites are not updated, she added.
Student N Parshuram, 22, belongs to a youth club that travels through the âmining settlementsâ of Sandur to educate people about DMF and their rights.
âAll of our families are linked to the mines. Some club members also work as drivers for mining companies, âhe said. âWe live in slums where water, electricity and health are real challenges. If this money is for us, we want to make sure we get it.
In Deogiri, Malliswamy was elected in December to the village council, which plays a key role in steering the DMF.
Pointing out the lack of transportation, the polluted open pits and the muddy road to the hill, he said few people here know about the funds and participation in spending decisions is low.
Government officials assume that mining companies will tackle local issues as part of their corporate social responsibility work in affected communities, he said.
âAnd companies are doing the bare minimum. I think we will have to get more involved and claim our rights, âhe added.
This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate.
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