GUWAHATI, Sept 15: Employees of Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) blame it on the Corporation for being too stingy about small expenditures and too extravagant with large ones – thereby leaving them (employees) high and dry.
In what can be termed penny wise pound foolish, ASTC was seen taking many luxurious schemes like introduction of Volvo and Mercedes series of buses with trial runs in the past over two years. Such luxurious steps did impress many in the State that the once bankrupt Corporation successfully brought its ailing fiscal health back on track. However, a reality check tells something different. In March this year, the Gauhati High Court had to direct the corporation to deposit the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) premia within five months. However, the Corporation failed to deposit the accumulated PF premia amounting to Rs 39 crore. This prompted the EPF organization to seal all ASTC bank accounts. Of course, the Corporation moved the court and got a stay order. The ground reality remains that the Corporation had not been depositing PF premia of its 3,500 employees, including 834 retired ones, since January 2015.
Talking to The Sentinel, Assam State Transport Corporation’s Retired Employees’ Council chairman Nilomoni Phukan and general secretary Sarbeswar Das have said that when ASTC failed to deposit employees’ PF premia they had no way out to move the High Court. “We made it known to the high court that if our PF premia were not deposited by March 2018, we wouldn’t be allowed to draw our PF deposit at all. Based on our appeal, the High Court registered a case (3571/18). On March 20, 2018 the court issued a directive to ASTC asking it to deposit employees’ PF premia within five months. However, the Corporation failed to comply with the deadline set by the High Court, and that led the EPF Organization to seal all bank accounts of the Corporation,” Phukan said.
Phukan further said: “In the over two years in the past, we’ve seen the Corporation taking many luxurious schemes. It has, however, not been able to deposit the amount that it cuts from our salaries to the EPF. This is a criminal offence. If the Corporation cannot deposit the amount, isn’t it the responsibility of the government to step in to solve the crisis and give the employees their dues? In the past two-and-a-half years, we haven’t seen any solution. We appeal to the government to step in and solve, at least, the problem of the retired employees of the Corporation.”