Parliamentary Panel finds irregularities in Labour Department

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New Delhi, Apr 27 (UNI) A Parliamentary Panel has indicted the Labour and Employment Ministry for its failure to contain the growing trend of contract employment even in the public sector and absence of system to blacklist the defaulting establishments by the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), among others.

The 14-member Standing Committee on Labour and Employment headed by CPI senior leader S Sudhakar Reddy in the 28th report submitted to Parliament, has also taken a serious view of lack of proper infrastructure for the ESI benificiaries whose number has grown substantially as on March 31, 2007.

Ascertaining the exact number of contract workers, the Panel deplored that no estimate of contract workers in the country was available with the Government. ''Outsourcing of jobs has become the order of the day not only in the private sector but also in the public sector.'' The 90-page report noted that although the Ministry had stated that the contract labour was employed to meet the exigencies of the situation and their number varied, it was an established fact that contract workers were mostly employed by establishments offering jobs that were perennial in nature.

This segment of workforce was employed even in the strategic sectors like Defence, Railways, Telecom, Coalmines and Petroleum, among others.

It asked the department to devise a suitable and foolproof mechanism to ascertain the exact number of contract workers employed in various establishments in private and public sectors. For this, the services of the Regional Labour Commissioners, Trade Unions and other bodies representing the contract workers might be required.

Referring to the increase of Rs 600 crore in the outlay of the Ministry's budget for 2008-09 (against Rs 1,897.27 crore for 2007-08), the Panel noted that the scheme-wise scrutiny displayed that the percentage of expenditure incurred on execution of some of the important schemes during the last year was ''far from satisfactory''.

It cited that the holding of Lok Adalat, rehabilitation of bonded labour, elimination of child labour, Rashtriya Swasth Bima Yojana, information technology, grants-in aid to research and academic institutions, among others, were some of the " glaring examples" in this regard.

The Parliamentary Panel expressed concern over 'non-expenditure on important schemes', saying ''it was disappointing to find that in some of the other schemes like construction of houses for beedi workers and low income occupation clusters, social security for unorganised sector workers, there had been no expenditure.'' On action against the defaulting establishsments, the Committee said the EPFO has no system of blacklisting these. ''The periodical and regular scrutiny is undertaken in respect of major defaulters only.'' This approach not only deprived them of their rightful claims but encouraged the dishonest employers to indulge in some malpractices.

The Committee, therfore, desired that a suitable mechanism apart from Computerised Compliance System be devised to identify the defaulting establishments for initiating a panel action against them, including blacklisting.

On vacant posts in the EPFO, the Committee said as against 23,344 sanctioned staff strength there were only 19,510 people in postion during 2006-07.

''The explanation of the Ministry that appropriate action for filling of the vacant posts is taken from time to time is not acceptable to the Committee because despite the efforts made by the government for filling the positions, a large number of vacancies still remain vacant,'' the Panel said, adding it not only eroded the efficiency of the EPFO, BUT also snuffed out the confidence of the subscribers expecting the services promptly.

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