This morning I read EPFO sitting on Rs 1,351 crore in idle deposits. As an individual who has PF accounts with few of my earlier employers and where my repetitive attempts either to withdraw or to consolidate the accounts have failed; I was concerned. 

 

I was also concerned from its poor levels of implementation. During my few interactions with various other professionals who deal with unorganized employees, for whom also Government has introduced EPF deductions, I realized how a policy which could have been beneficial for unorganized employees have actually become an exploiting tool due to its poor implementation. Most of these managers who oversee large unorganized construction sector employees have said that although they have been forced to deduct a small part of daily wages from the wages of their labor base; the money never reaches those because of migrating nature of that labor-pool, their poor literacy levels (and illiteracy rates being high in India), and also due to overly bureaucratic policies when it comes to withdrawing one’s legitimate amounts from the EPF account. 

 

People in organized sector who changed jobs know how difficult and bureaucratic that process is; so imagine the expectations we have from unorganized sector employees. 

 

Still I felt that I should try and give my feedback to these s-called policy-makers. 

 

I spent some time in getting the e-mail ids of PF commissioners of few states with whom my past employers had their PF accounts. I also spent some time in getting the e-mail id of the Member of Parliament (Sudhakar Reddy) who apparently heads the parliamentary panel on EPF. And there I was shocked to see ads (Google AdSense) and banner ads on that page (http://www.sarkaritel.com/parliament/lok_sabha/member_of_parliament_r.htm). Incidentally in Google pagerank, it came higher than http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/. Many of us would naturally be confused on which one is the official site. To me it was apparent that our parliament is accepting hoardings to get money in its drive to markets and competitions and capitalism. Honestly I would not have minded had they did that with the physical Parliament, keeping its website ad-free because we all know how tax-payers money gets wasted over non-productive hours in the parliament. 

 

I did not find e-mail id of Sudhakar Reddy from their too; so I had to mark a mail to his party. 

 

And within minutes, I received ‘Delivery Notifications – Delivery has failed’ mails from all the PF commissioners’ mail ids (accez@vsnl.net, rpfcromh@vsnl.net, & rpfcbglr@vsnl.net – Regional EPF commissioner of Kolkata, Mumbai and of Bangalore accessed from epfindia.nic.in, the official site). The reason was mostly over quota. 

 

True, I was neither pained nor surprised. It was expected as my prior experience was similar. However I didn’t expect that it will be so bad (bounce rate of 75%). And I also realized that many like me must have failed before. Many of these ids were still with rediffmails or so – and I am talking about PF Commissioner Rank and above. 

 

Many of us are also aware how Government is spending thousands of crores of money on e-Governance – aided by mostly private consultants (many times the truth goes that these consultants are favored as much of the funding also comes from multilateral agencies with their preferred list of consultants or due to the lobby these organizations do with our corrupt Government). As academicians and researchers; many also know how e-Governance can really help India in reaching out to grass root levels with basic amenities. I am aware that many faculties from academic institutes of excellence made pitches for e-governance consultancy projects. And in-spite of their rates being much lower than the so-called global and local influential consultancy firms; they were overlooked. 

 

However, the function is always more important than the format. When governance is good; e-Governance can increase its effectiveness manifold. And if governance itself is poor; it does not help. It rather magnifies how poor that governance is. As academicians and researchers, our sole objectives would not have been to make money. We would have tried our best to change Governance first and then implement e-Governance. Otherwise we would not have hesitated to withdraw from the projects even, without caring much for our consultation fees. For global and local private bodies; it has become a gold mine as they know it too well that e-Governance without basic good governance would fail. And that means more and more assignments, and unending projects which will be paid by all Indians for many more years. 

 

One somehow gets a feeling that Government in India is hell bent not to lose its poor governance image; and e-governance would be used to leverage to further strengthen that poor image. In between, few consultants will make money as consultancy firms in India have mostly done with people’s money when it comes to government projects. 

 

 

 

Ranjit Goswami is a research scholar with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, India; and is the author of the book “Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d’“. 

 

 

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