A common complaint about the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), which is otherwise known to be a financially sound retirement scheme, is that the EPFO (Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation) does not respond promptly to account-holders’ queries. Employers as well as employees have to wait in a queue even for routine enquiries. For example, finding out your EPF account balance on the last working day of a month, quarter or year can be a frustrating and time-consuming process.
The good news is that you can now invoke the Right to Information (RTI) Act to get any detail about your EPF account and that too without having to physically go to the EPFO office. Here is the process you need to follow to file an RTI application:
1) Your RTI application must be addressed to the public information officer (PIO) in charge of your EPF account. Go to the EPFO website at http://www.epfindia.com and use your EPF account number to locate the EPFO office in which your account is maintained. Your EPF account number will be mentioned in your salary statement. If you are still unable to locate your EPFO office, you can address your RTI application to the PIO at the EPFO head office in Delhi, who will forward the application on your behalf, although this may delay the process by about 15 days. The address is: The Public Information Officer, Office of the Chief Provident Fund Commissioner, Bhavishya Nidhi Bhavan, 14, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi 110066.
2) Write your RTI application in simple language. Here is a sample application: “Please provide me with comprehensive information and the latest statement pertaining to the balance in my EPFO and pension fund account number ‘ABC/12345/789’ as on (last date of last month).” Ensure that your name, address and other details mentioned in the application are correct in all respects. If you are the rightful heir to the deceased holder of the account, you need to prove your bona fides.
3) Make three copies of the original application and head for the nearest post office that accepts RTI applications. The list of post offices that will forward your RTI application can be found on the India Post website at http://www.indiapost.gov.in/rtimanual16a.html.
4) Submit the original plus two copies of your application, along with a payment of Rs10, to the PIO or nominee of the post master handling RTI applications and collect the receipt. Attach this receipt to the original copy of your application. Once again, ensure that your full name and address is correctly listed everywhere.
5) Wait for a response. If you don’t get a response in 15 days, wait for another 15 days before you go to the next step in the RTI process which will be explained in a subsequent issue of Moneylife. You can also write to Moneylife for further assistance on filing your RTI application.
Good luck. The money in your EPF account is yours by right and, if your employer is creating hurdles to accessing your account, the RTI Act is a potent legislation that will help you enforce your rights.