NEW DELHI: In an indication of hardships being faced by the working class due to lockdown, over six lakh subscribers have withdrawn three-month basic salary in advance from EPF accounts while Rs 1,954 crore was disbursed to them within 15 days of an amnesty scheme being introduced
Last month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced a slew of measures under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) to help citizens deal with the crisis emerging out of the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the measures was to allow advance withdrawal of three-month basic salary from EPF accounts.
On Wednesday, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation said in a statement that a total of 10.2 lakh claims of which 6.06 lakh were related to COVID-19 lockdown, was processed in 15 days.
“This involves disbursal of a total amount of Rs 3,600.85 crore, which includes Rs 1,954 crore in COVID claims.”
The new provision under the PMGKY provides for non-refundable withdrawal to the extent of basic wages and dearness allowance for three months or up to 75 per cent of the amount standing to member’s credit in the EPF account, whichever is less.
A labour expert asserted that most of the people are being forced to withdraw money, which they generally would have saved, from the scheme due to delay or non-payment of salaries.
“Despite repeated appeals from PM Narendra Modi to employers not to cut pays and terminate employers during the lockdown, many companies have done just that. Though we cannot ascertain the reason for the withdrawal of funds, this seems the most realistic one,” the senior official of the Society of Labour and Development, an NGO working for labour rights, said.
Praveen Garg (name changed), who works at a reputed jewellery store in Ghaziabad, said the shop is closed since March and there is no chance of opening till May. Garg has two children and stays at a rented accommodation in Vasundhara area.
“I was paid half salary in April and have been told that will not be paid in May. What other option do I have?” he questioned.
“I need to pay my rent and my children’s fees. To tide through this crisis, I had no option but to withdraw the amount from my Provident Fund account.”
According to him, there are at least 45 others in his store who face the same fate due to the ongoing lockdown.