M A I N   N E W S

Left garners support on EPF rate
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 22
The UPA government at the Centre may soon be forced to rethink its decision on lowering interest rate on employees provident fund (EPF) to 8.5 per cent, as the Left parties today stepped up the pressure while garnering support of other alliance partners.

It became evident today when the Left and Samajwadi Party MPs, along with Shiv Sena members, staged a walk out in the Lok Sabha in protest against lowering of EPF interest rate to 8.5 per cent, and later met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding that the interest rate should be retained at 9.5 per cent.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier assured that he would speak to the Labour Minister to find a way out.

After targeting the government on the WTO issue, the Left parties, supporting the UPA government from outside, have warned the government to avoid confrontation on this crucial issue pertaining to crores of workers across the country.

“Around five crore people are being affected by this reduction, mostly being aged persons. If they have a family of three, the number of affected goes up to 15 crore. We demand that the interest rate on EPF be restored to 9.5 per cent,” Left MPs Rupchand Pal and Gurudas Dasgupta told reporters after the meeting.

Mr Dasgupta said the Prime Minister “gave no assurance but said he will look into the matter”.

Asked how the hike in the interest rate would be funded, Mr Pal said the government’s proposal to corporatise the mints at a cost of Rs 700 crore would not be implemented this fiscal and suggested that this amount be spent for the purpose.

Mr Dasgupta said if no action was taken by the government, all trade unions would call for a joint action and “take the battle to the streets”.

He said the government also had over Rs 1,00,000 crore under the Special Deposit Scheme, the interest on which could also be used to meet the additional expenditure on restoring the EPF rate to 9.5 per cent.

Earlier, replying to a calling attention motion, Minister of State for Rural Development A. Narendra, said the interest was reduced by the EPF Central Board of Trustees (CBT) Chairman, who had been authorised by the CBT.

Further, the interest was decided on the basis of the earnings from the EPF accruals, the minister said.

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