Keonjhar: The New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has raised objection to sanction of Rs 396 crore to the Government Medical College and Hospital in Keonjhar when healthcare in the district is in a shambles.
A report published by CSE details release of funds of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) and their utilisation in various sectors. It has expressed concern over the slow utilisation of the funds in the district.
It said only four per cent of villages in Keonjhar district have healthcare coverage while 77 posts of specialists in hospitals are lying vacant.
While Rs 396 crore has been sanctioned for the hospital, Rs 132.4 crore has been sanctioned for tube wells in rural areas. Only 14.3 per cent of drinking water provision has been made in Joda and Barbil areas.
People in many mining-affected areas alleged that major problems have been ignored while funds have been utilised for tube wells without testing iron, fluoride and nitrate content of the groundwater.
In many cases, people do not use those tube wells.
According to a survey, 70 infants (below five years) in every 1000 die in the district. Despite this fact, only Rs 1.9 crore has been sanctioned for their welfare. Besides, the rural healthcare sector is miserable.
Only four per cent of villages in the district have healthcare coverage while 77 posts of specialists in hospitals are lying vacant.
Given this scenario, CSE has raised objection to sanction of Rs 396 crore to the Government Medical College and Hospital.
The CSE has also pointed out that DMF funds have not been sanctioned for another critical area — skill development.
It said the monthly income of about 90 per cent bread earners of the families living in rural areas is not even Rs 5000, but steps have not been taken to hone their skills. Only 2.6 per cent of the funds has been utilised.
Till March 2018, only Rs 983.6 of Rs1,524 crore of DMF has been sanctioned for several sectors.
In the district, 491 villages have been identified as mining-affected.
In its report, the CSE pointed out that funds in mining-hit areas of the district have been under utilised. Significantly, most of the DMF-funded projects have been carried out without approval at the Gram Sabha.
Three years have passed since DMF was implemented, but projects are being executed sans approval of Gram Sabha.
“Basic needs of the people in mining-hit areas will be met if the DMF funds are utilised properly in critical sectors. Then only, the purpose of the DMF will be achieved,” Chandra Bhusan, Director General of the CSE.
Transparency and accountability in DMF fund utilisation will be maintained if project proposals are drawn up at the grassroots level in the mining-hit areas, he added.
Nrushingha Charan Swain, the project director of DRDA, said that projects are being executed as per the decision of the DMF Trust Board. Critical sectors in the mining-affected areas are being attached priority, he added.