Bengal told to probe PF scam at Metal Box

Kolkata, Oct 29 | Updated: Oct 30 2004, 05:30am hrs
The Prime Ministers Office (PMO) has instructed the West Bengal government to investigate various allegations pertaining to the default in provident fund payment in the ailing Metal Box India Ltd.

According to documents available with FE, the PMO has forwarded the instruction to West Bengal chief secretary Ashoke Gupta, who has in turn passed it on to the state labour and judicial departments for their perusal.

The PMO has also instructed the state to submit a report after completing the investigation.

Metal Box sources said that the PMO instructed the state government following a petition from Metal Box Workers Union to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking his intervention to resolve the matter.

On receiving the instruction the state government is believed to have forwarded a letter to Metal Box Workers Union general secretary Aloke Mukherjee, asking him to immediately submit the complaint to the state labour and judicial departments.

Mr Mukherjee filed the complaints on behalf of the union to the departments concerned on October 18, 2004.

Mr Mukherjee told FE the main allegations against the companys management include non and irregular payment of provident fund and gratuity to the employees and reluctance to reopen the companys viable unit in Kolkata. Inspection of the provident fund account of Metal Box by the provident fund commissioner found misappropriation of about Rs 12 crore, Mr Mukherjee said.

Meanwhile, state government sources said that it is unhappy with the role of ICICI Bank, the chief operating agency for the updated rehabilitation scheme for Metal Box. The department of industrial reconstruction of the West Bengal government had sent two letters to ICICI Bank on January 15, 2004 and May 31, 2004 seeking details of the scheme. However, ICICI Bank is yet to give any reply to the state government on this matter, a state government official said.

It is learnt that the Bengal government is equally unhappy with the role of Metal Box managing director Vinod Krishna.

On July 7, 2004, state industry & commerce minister Nirupam Sen instructed Mr Krishna to be present for a review meeting on the implementation of the sanctioned scheme scheduled July 14, 2004. However, Mr Krishna did not attend it.