Ex-servicemen need to be cautious when seeking info from DSW

Ex-servicemEn in Maharashtra seeking 'unnecessary information from the Department of Sainik Welfare (DSW)' of the state government may be blacklisted, according to a unique resolution of the DSW that runs ex-servicemen welfare schemes in the state.

It adds that blacklisted ex-servicemen stand to lose their benefits.

Department officials said the resolution does not apply to 'information sought under the RTI' but activists backing the Right to Information Act believe any information is covered by RTI 'by default'.

Questions are now being raised on as to what the DSW deems 'unnecessary information.'

The resolution, although not very recent, surfaced only recently when the department published it as part of a publicity kit.

Part of the resolution, passed in presence of state minister for ex-servicemen welfare, says "ex-servicemen in the state who present forged documents to seek benefits from the benevolent fund" need to be blacklisted.

This is justified given that according to its officials, the department has faced such cases prompting DSW to pass the resolution. But it is the next line many feel goes against the purview of the RTI and basic Constitutional rights.

"Some seek unnecessary information... to cause trouble," reads this sentence.

Major (retd) Milind Tungar, deputy director, DSW, justified the resolution saying it ensures benefits of Flag Day Fund reach genuine beneficiaries.

"We are talking of blacklisting those who produce fake and forged documents for financial benefits from the department. The decision was prompted by a case in Aurangabad. And even though the provision has been created, we have not yet blacklisted any ex-serviceman," said Tungar.

He backed the claim with schemes such as CSD or ECHS, where such an act by beneficiaries results in suspension of CSD or ECHS cards. It may be noted these schemes do not talk of blacklisting beneficiaries for 'seeking information'. There is penalty for 'providing false information by individuals'.

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