Under attack over a proposal to tax EPF, government told Rajya Sabha that it is in discussion with all stakeholders and will consider the issue as the Opposition parties joined hands in the House to corner it. “We are in discussion with stakeholders. There are many stakeholders. Now I cannot reveal many things. Our government is considering all options,” Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said when the issue came up during Question Hour.
“We are discussing with all stakeholders. We are in touch with the Ministry of Finance. Government will also consider these issues. Up to now I can say this,” he said without disclosing further details on the issue.
The Minister’s remarks came amid indications that the government is reconsidering the proposal after facing flak from political parties and trade unions including some RSS affiliates.
Tapan Kumar Sen of CPI-M, however, took strong objection to the minister’s claim, saying that he being a stakeholder has not been consulted at all.
“At no point of time stakeholders agreed to the taxing of the Provident Fund. Please do not put the gun on stakeholders for this offence,” he said.
The minister further said that the government’s main focus is give social security to the workers in the unorganized sectors by bringing them under the purview of EPF.
Dattatreya also chose the occasion to seek the support of various parties in the passage of a bill seeking to amend the EPF Act, which is stuck.
He said the amendment seeks to bring down the total number of workers in a unit covered under the EPF Act from the present 20 to 10 so that more people are brought under the ambit of coverage.
Dattatreya also listed a number of new schemes implemented by the government for social security to unorganized workers.
Sen, however, said hardly 35 percent of people working in organized sectors are being covered and asked how many of those have Universal Account Numbers (UAN). Dattatreya said in view of the Prime Minister’s focus on e-governance, his ministry is focussed on proivding UAN to workers.
“Out of 6.32 crore workers, 2.41 crore workers have got their UAN number activated. By the end of March, we are going to increase more. We are going to get it mandated for all organized sector workers which are under EPF,” he said. He said the annual accounts of 15.54 crore subscribers for the year 2014-15 have been updated but a total of 3,25,944 accounts are pending for updation.
The minister was also asked about untraced idle accounts in which around Rs 35,000 crore are pending. He said all accounts will be updated as a reconciliation is going on. Claiming the process of settlement has been simplified, the minister said an online payment facility has been developed for employees for payment of dues, which is available to 56 nationalised and private sector banks.