Mineral trust sits on funds in Jodhpur, silicosis-hit families left in lurch
Not only Ganderon ki Dhani, the trust has spent no amount for welfare in any mining-affected village in Jodhpur district, officials said.jaipur Updated: Dec 24, 2017 20:10 IST
The husband of 40-year-old Raju Devi, a resident of Ganderon ki Dhani village in Jodhpur district, died of silicosis 10 years ago. Like him, many people working in hundreds of sandstone mines around the village became victims of silicosis — a disease caused by constant exposure to stone dust (silica) pollution.
When the District Mineral Foundation Trust (DMFT) was formed one and a half years ago, Raju Devi was hoping that the environment of the village would improve and medical facilities would be available, but no benefits have been ensured till now.
According to DMF provisions, mining firms will pay 30% of its royalty sum extra, which will go to the trust of respective districts. For every Rs 100 a mining district gets, it will get Rs 30 over and above it to spend on work under DMF.
Not only Ganderon ki Dhani, the trust has spent no amount for welfare in any mining-affected village in Jodhpur district, officials said.
The DMFT was created in 2015 by the Centre through an amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. After the amendment, the state government set up DMFT in all the districts on June 9, 2016. The main aim of the trust is to implement schemes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Yojana, for the welfare of mining-affected areas.
The DMFT of Jodhpur district had a budget of Rs 470.02 lakh till November 2017, but the trust did not spend any amount. “So far 869 proposals have been received, but only 137 are for mining-affected areas,” said an official connected with the trust. “Due to political reasons, decisions are not being made on the proposals nor did the trust fix priorities regarding the proposals,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Trust chairperson and zila pramukh Poonaram Choudhary said, “The process is going on. The matter was pending in the court, so the proposals were not approved.”
According to DMFT rules, funds deposited in the trust are to be used for drinking water, environmental preservation, pollution control, health sector, education, women and children welfare, skill development and sanitation in mining-affected areas. No work has been done in the most essential sectors, such as environmental preservation and health infrastructure, said villagers and mine workers’ organisations.
More than 10,000 sandstone mines with a size of less than a hectare are operative in the district; most of them are adjacent to one another. Simultaneous operations in adjoining mines create huge noise pollution and pose silicosis threat to the labourers working without dust masks. Of the total 236 silicosis deaths in Rajasthan in last three years, Jodhpur district accounted for at least 89, the highest in the state, official data shows.
“Mining operations in Jodhpur district are not safe for workers as mines are small. This has been mentioned in a report submitted to the Supreme Court on silicosis, but the government and DMFT are not taking any steps,” said Rana Sengupta, managing trustee of the Mine Labour Protection Campaign Trust.
Demanding representation of mine workers’ organisations in DMFT, Sengupta said, “It is necessary to set priorities in welfare schemes for areas affected by mining operations.”