EPS95 pensioners launch struggle to secure pension on full salary

The Employees Pension Scheme 95 (EPS95) run by the Provident Fund is applicable to employees who made contributions between 1995 and 2014 to this scheme.

The pension contributions were made on a salary ceiling of Rs.6,500 earlier, from out of the employer’s PF contribution.

In 1996, an option was made for employees to contribute on their actual salary, rather than on the limited ceiling amount above, which in any case provided only a meagre pension. Since this was not communicated to employees, no one knew about it, and hardly anyone opted for it. It required a joint option with the employer also, which would have been difficult without the employer’s backing.

In 2014, the EPFO was asked to close this option with a 6 month deadline from September 1, 2014, by which employees had to opt for the contribution on full salary, again with a joint option with employer. This was also not communicated to anyone, and the office also did not make this offer known. If one did not opt in, one is deemed to have opted out of the scheme, although no one knew it existed in the first place.

The EPF authorities in the regions are now refusing to accept claims for pension on full salary [where employees are ready to pay the
difference amount for contribution out of their own funds] citing the time limitation.

However, in 2015, a set of employees led by R C Gupta went to the Supreme Court and got an order in their favour, in which the court observed that there was no limitation envisaged in the PF pension scheme, and the six month deadline was arbitrary.

Against this backdrop, fresh claims are being made to EPFO, to include employees and retirees, for pension on full salary, where they will pay the difference in contribution to the PF Organisation.

A Public Notice was put out by EPFO in The Tribune in Chandigarh, on January 25, 2018, in pursuance of Supreme Court orders in SLP No. 33032 and 33033 of 2015 regarding revision of pension.

Today, EPFO is rejecting claims for inclusion, stating that it is not possible to opt for the full pension because members did not exercise the option before the 2014-15 deadline.

But Clause (ii) of the notice published in the Tribune indicates that members of EPS-95 are eligible for pension on full salary, if they pay the difference between what was remitted under wage ceiling, and amount to be remitted under full salary along with interest. This notice is in pursuance of a case that was decided, rejecting the very limitation that the EPFO continues to cite.

Politically, this is a sensitive issue for the Narendra Modi-led government because a lot of pensioners are litigating for relief in various courts, including the Supreme Court, against the arbitrariness of the government’s move. The Opposition parties including the Congress, CPI (M), Trinamool, DMK, CPI are yet to take it up.

The struggle is harder for members of exempted establishments, since their scheme was administered not by EPFO, but by a Trust.

One resource person on the issue is Praveen Kohli (pkkohli) (phone: +919810306699) who is in Gurugram.

He has won his case and has launched a Facebook drive to bring all aggrieved persons together, and has a membership of close to 42,000 and growing.

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