A 3-billion-dollar package to support the people of India’s mining belt after the COVID-19 havoc

  |   June 09, 2020

A 3.1 billion USD fund targeted at the poorest living in India’s mining belt could prove to be a significant resource in the country’s fight against a global health crisis. According to the data from the country’s mines ministry, the District Mineral Foundation funds have about Rs 23,800 Crores left after nearly 40% of funds collected over the past five years were spent. These funds were accumulated from several contributions by miners, along with royalty payments with an objective bettering the lives of people residing in areas that were affected by mining. That would be used to the aid mining states, and states will decide how the funds will be used, after a nationwide lockdown caused the shutting down of factories, malls, and offices, putting a pause on the whole economy.

As restrictions gradually begin to ease, states would need funds to strengthen their medical infrastructure, buy the required protective equipment, and create jobs in the market. Dhanbad has been using the funds to fill in the staff vacancies at hospitals and for several water and sanitation projects. The outbreak is escalating in India, with nearly 150,793 infections, including 4,344 deaths as of Wednesday. To contain the spread of the virus, the Indian government imposed one of the world’s longest lockdowns in March and extended it until 31st May, while easing some of the restrictions in certain sectors with an objective to boost the economic activity. The lockdown has severely damaged the economy, with the country going towards its first full-year contraction in over four decades.

According to data of the mines ministry, some states like Chhattisgarh have spent a large portion of the funds on various welfare projects, while other states like Odisha, which has collected the highest amount of Rs 10,000 Cr, have just spent nearly 35% so far. There is an increasing need for a mandatory monitoring mechanism that would be tracked by the federal government, to ensure that these funds are spent on projects that actually benefit local communities and their environment and livelihood rather than only on capital and infrastructure projects.

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