Trade union leaders said that it would be impossible for EPFO members to provide Aadhaar numbers as the scheme is not operational in many parts of the country
New Delhi: Trade unions (TUs) have raised the red flag against the retirement fund body Employees' Provident Fund Organisation’s (EPFO) suo moto decision to make submission of Aadhaar mandatory for its over 50 million existing subscribers and new members, reports PTI.
Questioning the decision of the EPFO, the trade union leaders said that it would be impossible for the members to provide Aadhaar numbers as the scheme was not operational in many parts of the country. Also it was cumbersome to get the numbers in states where the scheme is operational.
“They should not have taken this decision suo moto. It should have been discussed in the EPFO’s apex decision making body the Central Board of Trustees (CBT)”, Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh General Secretary Baij Nath Rai told PTI.
Rai who is an EPFO trustee also, further said, “It cannot be done out rightly as there are a lot of hiccups in making the Aadhaar number in many parts of the country.”
EPFO has recently gave direction in its order to its field staff to mandatorily ask for Aadhaar numbers from new members joining the scheme from 1 March 2013 and existing members by 30th June.
Another EPFO trustee and All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) secretary DL Sachdev has outrightly opposed it saying that EPFO does not need to use Aadhaar number as unique account number of its members.
“We are opposing this move. All members do not have Aadhaar numbers. They should make it voluntary,” he said adding that EPFO can give unique account number of all members without using the Aadhaar number and platform.
Sachdev who is also an EPFO trustee said that AITUC would raise the issue with the labour minister as well as take it up in the CBT meeting on 15th February.
Admitting that having Aadhaar number of all EPFO members is a herculean task, another EPFO trustee and Hind Mazdoor Sabha Secretary AD Nagpal said, “I do not think that this could be done by 30th June. We will ask for extension of the deadline in the forthcoming meeting of CBT next month.”
Earlier, the EPFO had envisaged replacing its members’ account number with Aadhaar numbers to avoid inconvenience to those who had to apply for transfer of PF money to the new account with the new employer.
EPFO is working towards creating a central database where all members would have a unique account number and would not require to transfer PF accounts to another one in the event of changing jobs.
EPFO recently digitalised its database of regional offices and launched its e-passbook service where subscribers can access their account online. Now the body is working towards integrating this digital data base and bring them together at one place.
This will help EPFO members, particularly construction workers, who often change their jobs or contractors.
Saritsa Foundation assists people with disabilities caused by disasters
In 2012, 1,503,320 Indians were displaced due to natural disasters. Each disaster leads to thousands being displaced and lives torn apart. When a disaster strikes, the poor and underprivileged are the worst affected. Col Nagar M Verma, who used to lead the 7th battalion of the Sikh Light Infantry, noticed during the rescue operations, which the army is often called to undertake, that people were clueless about routine safety measures and that even elementary first-aid could help save lives or alleviate suffering. Most often, people simply wait for government to provide succour. Delays in administrative response often lead to loss of lives or disabilities and, consequently, loss of livelihood. Many, especially women and children, remain traumatised for years. So when Col Verma retired, he put in some of his retirement funds to set up Saritsa Foundation on 5 June 2000 with the unusual aim of providing information, knowledge and training in disaster management to save lives and return to earning a livelihood.
Col Verma says that many of his ex-colleagues help in imparting training. Although there is a national policy for disaster management, in reality, there needs to be a structured framework to guide its working and constant evaluation to study its efficacy. Also, because disaster management is a top-down approach, it takes time for help to reach the grassroots. The only solution, feels Col Verma, is for people to be trained and become self-sufficient to take care of themselves, until help arrives.
Despite the initial resistance, Saritsa has make remarkable progress in the past 12 years working through schools, colleges, political organisations, NGOs, international and religious groups as well as social institutions like Rotary Clubs. But a lot more needs to be done; knowledge about safety and disasters is still very poor. Col Verma’s team works at building understanding and trust among communities, to hone skills and to sensitise individuals on how to respond to disaster situations and to promote a culture of safety. Saritsa imparts education and training for disasters such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, tsunami, droughts, cyclones, terrorism, bomb blasts, as well as chemical and biological hazards. It conducts workshops, seminars, debates, mass contacts, family conferences and street plays on issues of rescue and trains through evacuation drills.
Saritsa Foundation has established a mobile university for disaster risk reduction. It has already reached out to thousands of volunteers, including a few people with disabilities, across rural and urban areas of 18 states. At the national level, the Foundation has empowered over 0.2 million school children, orphans, women and differently-abled people, along with vulnerable citizens. Its programmes have raised the awareness on the right to life and has helped people in cultivating skills to respond to disasters using local resources.
People who have been trained by the Foundation are inspired to raise further awareness among their families and friends, and are implementing disaster preparedness plans in schools. Next on its agenda is to equip and empower 15,000 school children, women and differently-abled citizens annually. It is working towards raising funds for this initiative which, even with the use of local resources, requires administrative expenses of around Rs300 per head or Rs45 lakh. Col Verma says that Saritsa’s accounts are audited and it makes ethical and judicious use of donations. You can help Saritsa in its mission by volunteering to train people or by financial support. Donations to Saritsa Foundation are eligible for tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act.
Contact: Col Verma / Prof Smita Kadam Flat No 3, Ground Floor, Pankaj CHS, Sitaram Keer Marg, Bhandar Lane,
Mahim (W), Mumbai - 400016
Tel: 91 22 24366370, 24370138
Information about defaulters of payments cannot be considered third party information and in fact must be available suo moto under Section 4 of the RTI Act. This is the 27th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
Taking a serious note of denial of information about defaulters, the Central Information Commission (CIC), ordered the Public Information Officer (PIO) of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) to put up the list of all defaulters with amounts on the website of NDMC. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said, public authorities are allowing large amount of defaults by some people for which the normal law abiding citizen suffers.
“The PIO is also directed to put up the list of all the defaulters giving the amounts on the website of NDMC under its Section 4 obligations. This will be done before 15 December 2009 and a compliance report will be sent to the Commission before 20 December 2009,” the CIC said in its order issued on 10 November 2009.
Delhi resident Piyush Jain, on 2 June 2009, sought information about defaulters in property tax at NDMC. He asked...
a) The number of people who regularly pay their property taxes in New Delhi Municipal Council area.
b) The names and addresses of people who owe more than Rs50,000 to NDMC in property taxes.
The PIO in his reply on 27 July 2009, stated that there are number of assesses against whom property tax of Rs50,000 and more is outstanding. “However, the information sought by the appellant (Jain) has not been complied in the said format. The appellant could, if he so desired, inspect the records available with the department,” the PIO said.
Not satisfied with the answer, Mr Jain then filed first appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA). On 7 August 2009, the FAA directed the PIO to provide the information of third parties without disclosing their names and addresses, subject to payment of relevant charges. He said, “The charges would have to be computed and communicated to the appellant within a week. In case the appellant was interested in knowing the names and addresses of the third party, the PIO was instructed to proceed as per provision of section 11 of RTI Act.”
Here is what Section 11 in The Right To Information Act, 2005 says...
11. Third party information.-
(1) Where a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose the information or record, or part thereof, and invite the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information: Provided that except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.
(2) Where a notice is served by the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, under sub-section (1) to a third party in respect of any information or record or part thereof, the third party shall, within ten days from the date of receipt of such notice, be given the opportunity to make representation against the proposed disclosure.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within forty days after receipt of the request under Section 6, if the third party has been given an opportunity to make representation under sub- section (2), make a decision as to whether or not to disclose the information or record or part thereof and give in writing the notice of his decision to the third party.
(4) A notice given under sub-section (3) shall include a statement that the third party to whom the notice is given is entitled to prefer an appeal under Section 19 against the decision.
Mr Jain then filed a second appeal before the Commission due to failure of the PIO to comply with the orders from the FAA. During the hearing on 10 November 2009, Mr Gandhi, noted that the FAA had erred in asking the PIO to make a demand for additional fee for the information since the 30 days already elapsed. The PIO has sent a letter after the FAA’s order and demanded Rs276 for supply 138 pages of information.
The Commission mentioned that according to information provided by the PIO, the annual budget of NMDC was about Rs1,000 crore while the amount due from defaulters just from property tax was over Rs650 crore.
Mr Gandhi, then directed the PIO to put up the list of all defaulters giving the amounts on the website of NDMC so that citizens can know the individuals and institutions who are being financed by public funds. “The PIO will provide the information free of cost to the appellant before 25 November 2009 on a CD. The PIO is also directed to put up the list of all the defaulters giving the amounts on the website of NDMC under its Section 4 obligations. This will be done before 15 December 2009 and a compliance report will be sent to the Commission before 20 December 2009,” the Commission said in its order.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/002317/5452
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/002317
Appellant : Piyush Jain,
Respondent : PK Sen
Public Information Officer & Accounts Officer
New Delhi Municipal Council
House Tax Department,
Palika Kendra, New Delhi