Allotted fake Provident Fund accounts by contractors

Workers hired through multiple contractors by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) here have alleged that companies have been denying them their minimum wages and have allotted fake Provident Fund and health insurance accounts to siphon off their money.

Questioned about this, officials said that while they were aware of the workers’ complaints, they had not yet blacklisted any company, despite the fact that the Delhi Metro paid a share of the workers’ PF, which runs into crores, as part of contractors’ bills.

The DMRC employs over 4,900 workers through more than 19 contractors to work as ticket-vending operators, security guards and housekeepers who clean and sweep metro stations.

Rajni Saxena (40) worked as a ticket vendor at Akshardham metro station till January, and was diagnosed with pyelonephritis, an infection in her kidneys, last year. She has regularly corresponded with 11 public offices. Among those she petitioned were President Pranab Mukherjee, the Union Labour Ministry, DMRC, and Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Office during weeks ofhospitalisation last year and even after undergoing a kidney surgery three weeks back.

Since last December, she has fought the case at the Regional Labour Commissioner’s office against her former employer Bedi & Bedi Associates for allotting fake PF and health insurance accounts. The Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police Crime Branch is now investigating the complaint of Rajni and 58 of her colleagues. “We would work all 30 days without weekly offs but be paid for 15-20 days. On paper our wage was Rs. 8100 but they would pay only Rs. 4500 – that, too, after three-four months’ delay,” said the mother of three at her Preet Vihar residence as she recuperated from the surgery.

Rajni was allotted an Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) card which entitled her to free treatment at ESIC hospitals. But when she was referred for speciality treatment for her kidney at the ESIC hospital at Jhilmil, she found there were no funds in her account. Inquiries at the ESIC office at Kishanganj by Rajni and 24 of her colleagues showed that Bedi & Bedi had not contributed Rs. 25 lakh — including Rs. 6.8 lakh deducted from workers’ salary — to ESIC. Fourteen of the 25 workers had been allotted numbers which did not exist in government records.

In December 2011, her employer agreed to provide her PF arrears in a meeting attended by DMRC DGM (Operations) Amit Jain at the Delhi Government’s Mediation and Conciliation Centre. Two months later, the EPF office in Wazirpur responded that the PF account numbers shown by the company did not exist in government records.

“DMRC officials know what is going on. But this January when Bedi & Bedi’s contract to provide ticket operators ended, DMRC awarded it a second contract to provide security guards,” alleged Rajni. “Also, the company had a contract to provide 800 ticket operators but it hired and gave login IDs to over 3,400 employees after charging Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 1 lakh from each applicant. Why did DMRC officials not question why 2600 extra login IDs were provided?” she demanded.

DMRC officials defend their actions saying they allowed Bedi & Bedi a second contract because the company had made a prayer to the Delhi High Court that the investigation against it was still pending. They admitted that they had not been able to verify the genuineness of the PF accounts allotted by contractors. “We have started paying 93 per cent of the workers through banks now and will soon introduce a biometric system for attendance,” said DMRC GM (Civil) Surya Prakash.

However, guards, sweepers, Acme Enterprises, A2Z Securities, and even workers hired by Prehari Security Services as guards outside the DMRC office in Connaught Place said they still do not have PF or ESIC accounts and contractors continue to pilfer over a fourth of their wages this way. Documents obtained through Right to Information (RTI) applications showed that Keshav Security Services, a company similar to Bedi & Bedi, and also the largest supplier of housekeepers to DMRC, allotted two different PF account numbers to workers in 2009 and 2010.

Calculating PF contributions at the rate of the 24 per cent of Rs. 7254 per month, the minimum wage for unskilled workers, about Rs. 1.26 crore is siphoned off in a year from just 607 employees.

“The company keeps two accounts — one for DMRC records and a separate register where they keep our accounts. I have worked here for eight years since the Metro started, but never heard of anyone getting their PF funds,” said a worker who took part in the strike at 11 stations on the Blue Line on October 13.

(The reporter is a Media Fellow, National Foundation for India)

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