Rs 3 crore of charity money spent on MIDC land

Loan from Flag Day Fund meant for measures like subsidies for children of ex-servicemen's widows was 'sanctioned by secretary, GAD', while competent authorities are CM, Governor.

Charity money collected from people was used to buy land in MIDC area by city-based Maharashtra Ex-Servicemen Corporation (MESCO), apparently without sanction of competent authorities.

Documents accessed by The Indian Express under RTI reveal that 10,000 square metres (around 2.5 acres) of land in MIDC, Pimpri Chinchwad, was bought by MESCO spending at least Rs 3 crore from the Flag Day Fund. Donations to the fund meant for schemes like scholarship of children of ex-servicemen is exempt from income tax.

The money appears to have been loaned to MESCO by the Department of Sainik Welfare (DSW), without authorisation of the Chief Minister/ Governor of Maharashtra, the competent authority. Col (retd) Suhas Jatkar, DSW director and Managing Director of MESCO, said approval was given by the secretary, General Administration Department (GAD), Government of Maharashtra.

However, retired DSW officials confirmed that only the CM or the Governor can decide on utilisation of the Flag Day Fund. Also, the said approval of the secretary was not shown to The Indian Express when this paper, under RTI, accessed files pertaining to the land.

The effect of slashing Rs 3 crore from the fund was directly felt on welfare schemes. For instance, boarding subsidy of about Rs 500-540 given to children of widows of ex-servicemen until 2009-10 was stopped for two years.

Maj (retd) Milind Tungar, deputy director, DSW, said, "20 per cent of about 2,000 beneficiaries are children of widows. We stopped subsidy for two years but have now resumed it."

Simple calculations show that during the loan period, DSW cut subsidies worth 48 lakh during 2010-11 and 2011-12 and diverted an equal amount from funds meant for children. In 2009, the DSW had done away with boarding subsidy ex-servicemen's children. Jatkar said, "The decision to stop subsidies was taken by the board. We decided to do so since we felt if we offer things free of cost, their value is lost."

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