When it comes to development of rural and tribal areas in India, mining sector is perhaps one of the most prominent sectors that leads the initiatives. The days of legacy of mining companies that used primitive technology and excess man-machine interaction have been reducing each day. Today, with application of global mining technology, even the small companies have transformed into tech-oriented mining activity.
“Minerals are not found on trees; you have to explore them from within the mother earth. Utilizing them sustainably for the betterment of society is the key. Mining is a business that origins from below the earth and creates wealth for the nation and society. Today, mining companies are very sensitive towards upliftment of society living around their business locations and they provide them education, drinking water, sanitation facilities, health benefits, empower rural people socially and economically, establish health clinics, hospitals and other infrastructure that are necessary for them. The social benefit that mining companies bring to the rural society cannot be ignored” says R.K. Sharma, Secretary General of FIMI – the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries, an apex body of about 500 Indian mining companies.
India CSR Network team has visited several mines in India and has seen the community service work done by Indian miners. While visiting Rajasthan, the mining companies have been working on providing nutrition, health and education to Anganwadis children. There is a consistent effort by mining companies to ensure that children from rural areas reach Anganwadis centres regularly and their physical and overall development is monitored and measured.
The mining companies in the States who possess rich mineral resources like Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Karnataka have been extensively developing green belt to ensure the loss of environment is replenished. Besides to be done compulsorily by the law of land, these mining companies have gone beyond compliance.
Each year mining companies plant lakhs of samplings to mark the world environment day. The families of the employees are encouraged to plant saplings in their vicinity, townships and common areas. On the other side the employees plant saplings in the factory premises, making the environment green. Millions of families take this initiative and that makes the difference.
Health has been a major area of concern for rural people. The hospitals and dispensaries are far from villages and thus not easily approachable. Mining companies have been organizing regular health check-up camps in villages and organize free distribution of medicines. The involvement of village Sarpanchs in such initiatives have been very fruitful. They help in mobilizing villagers to benefit from such camps.
Self-help-groups in villages are not the same anymore. They have been involved into product development after given extensive training and financial support by mining companies. They are linked with banks, post offices, district welfare centres, and markets to sell their products. There are many examples when mining companies in association nationalised banks have got opened their bank accounts and they now receive government subsidy directly in their bank accounts. They use ATM cards and cheque books for withdrawal of money, which is a symbol of their social empowerment.
While India CSR Network team visited mines in Karnataka, it found many mining companies have set-up blood-banks, modern schools, training centres to train rural women in stitching, embroidery, embellishments and packaging. These women are then directly linked with few known brands for value addition of garments. The restriction of export of iron ore has not dampened any social initiatives by mining companies in Karnataka. The college going girls are provided computer knowledge so that once they complete their formal education, they are ready to be employed in companies in related field.
To bring forward rural and tribal youth, few mining companies are providing training in mining operations, particularly in the areas of operation of drilling machines, operating jumbo trucks and other technical areas. This has also encouraged rural youth to complete their formal education and take up higher jobs in mining sector.
If the government is able to spend the much accumulated Rs.32,550 crore welfare funds collected under District Mineral Foundation, for the purpose they have been collected, mining sector would emerge as most sought after sector in terms of employment generation, education in rural area, health & sanitation benefits in rural areas, agriculture development, empowerment and training of rural youth for self-employment.
Each direct job that mining sector creates formally, also gives passage to creation of 10 more jobs indirectly. Likewise, this sector alone has capacity to create about 5 crore jobs, that would benefit the rural and tribal belt the most.
World over, nations have seen tremendous growth by utilizing the mammoth mineral resources they possess. South Africa, Canada, China, America, Australia and Brazil have ensured optimum utilization of mineral wealth in most systematic and sustainable manner to benefit their society and nation.
A country where 70% population resides in rural areas, and infrastructure, social upliftment and employment are three prominent areas of concern, a boost to mining sector will certainly be a game changer for the Indian government.
Image: India Briefing