An under-utilized $3.1 billion fund targeted at the poorest in India’s mining belt could prove to be a crucial resource in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Created under a new law in 2015, the so-called District Mineral Foundation funds have nearly Rs 23,800 crore, after less than 40% of the amount accumulated over the past five years was spent, according to data from the country’s mines ministry. The funds were created from contributions by miners in addition to royalty payments and were aimed at improving the lives of people in areas affected by mining.
That could come to the aid of mining states, which decide how the funds should be used, after a nationwide lockdown shut factories, malls and offices, bringing the economy to a halt. As restrictions begin to ease, the states will need the funds to buy protective equipment, strengthen their medical infrastructure and create jobs.
“The DMF has come as a huge support for mining districts,” Amit Kumar, the deputy commissioner of Dhanbad district in Jharkhand known for its coal mines, said on Friday. “At the moment we have seven positive cases, but should the numbers rise, we will not be short on funds to deal with this.”
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