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Millennium Post

EPFO washes hands off duties

The decision of the EPFO, Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, which manages provident fund of more than 6 crore employees in India has decided to voluntarily give away its powers to investigate into provident fund (PF) irregularities unless individuals come up to it for action. Previously, EPFO could have taken ‘suo motu’ cognisance and show cause the concerned organisation for such a violation. Now, there is no mechanism available that would let the EPFO take cognisance of any such default while it is in effect, unless the employee brings it to their notice.

This also means that the organisation will have to first seek out the details of the concerned employee from the organisation to be able to take relevant action on default, which makes the employee further dependent on his organisation. The announcement was made by the outgoing chairman of EPFO, R C Mishra.

This will doubtlessly give an upper hand to rogue organisations who default on submitting the regulatory 24 per cent of an employee’s income to his provident fund. But this decision cannot be seen as a concern of trade unions only, who have vouched to fight against it. Every professional across sectors who are entitled to PF should be concerned and scared. Moreover, there is a proposal that defaults only up to the last seven years will be addressed by the EPFO if at all it goes out to investigate, which further can erode employee confidence.

Mishra has reasoned that open-ended assessment, inquiry and investigation serves no real purpose and it harasses the employees, as if the EPFO has been mandated to look after the welfare of organisations and managements rather than employees and individuals. This directive may lead to a spiralling of cases of violation of PF in which the record of Indian companies is far from satisfactory. There is real and authentic fear that this directive will amplify cases of default and will let defaulters act with far more impunity against employees.

This kind of a directive, which could affect the lives of literally thousands, if not millions in this country, should not have been left at the mercy of a chairman and should have concerned the legislative and if required, the judiciary. After all, the EPFO is sitting on a whopping corpus of Rs 5,00,000 crore, a corpus,  which some of the financial giants are eyeing to access. Who can vouch that individuals are not acting at the behest of corporate behemoths and trying to regularise this huge fund! Who knows, this may be the first step in that draconian direction!
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