ROURKELA: When it comes to using the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund, Sundargarh district appears to have a soft corner for Rourkela. The DMF guidelines are clear about priority and non-priority areas but DMF funds find their way to the Steel City which is neither directly nor indirectly affected by mining, a criteria for spending the funds.
Last year, when Rourkela Police unveiled a fleet of 25 brand new Innova Crystas to patrol the roads of Rourkela, eyebrows were raised because the multi utility vehicles were procured using `4.65 crore from the DMF. Of the 25 MUVs, 20 are meant for Rourkela while five are deployed in Bonai sub-division. Interestingly, before that the district administration is learnt to have spent ` 25.52 lakh from DMF pool for what it called ‘engagement of police patrolling and traffic management’ for Rourkela city, reveals information secured through RTI. How the new vehicles helped police intensify patrol is another story, given the spate of crimes that rocked the Steel City last year.
RTI activist Rashmi Ranjan Padhi citing the RTI reply said the administration spent ` 25.52 lakh towards ‘engagement of police patrolling and traffic management’ in Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) limits but details were not provided, not even year of expenditure. However, reliable sources informed that the expenditure was incurred during 2017-18 towards hiring of police patrol vehicle for Rourkela.
“Rourkela city is not directly or indirectly affected by mining operation. Besides, using DMF on swanky MUVs and police patrolling makes very little sense,” said Padhi, who also is former Secretary of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC).As per available information, the total collection of Sundargarh DMF stood at ` 2,133.27 crore till June 30, 2020. Till then, at least ` 2,094.12 crore was spent or work orders awarded against 3,672 projects. Padhi claims that many of the spendings do not comply to DMF norms.
The mineral foundation released ` 78.56 lakh towards construction of main gate, boundary wall and 30 shops at Madri Kalo Bhawan of Sundargarh town. Similarly, approval was given for ` 64.99 lakh towards construction of boundary wall of a truck terminal at Amlipali in Sundargarh town in February 2019. In July 2020, ` 49.12 lakh was sanctioned towards raising of boundary wall and barbed fencing of Circuit House of Sundargarh town. Sundargarh Collector and DMF Chairman-Cum-Managing-Trustee Nikhil Pawan Kalyan did not reply to written request for comment.