Bhopal, May 6: The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has 15.84 crore members and not 3.7 crore as claimed by union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last March in connection with his proposal to tax PF withdrawals, an RTI applicant has learnt.
"According to the EPFO's 2014-15 report, the number of members is 15,84,70,000," Regional PF Commissioner Navendu Rai informed Chandrashekhar Gaur on April 1 in response to a right to information (RTI) request.
The membership of 15.84 crore is more than four times the figure of 3.7 crore that Jaitley used in referring to the employees who would be affected by his controversial budgetary proposal to tax 60 percent of EPF balances at the time of withdrawal.
"The EPFO has about 3.7 crore members, of whom about three crore members are those in the earning category of Rs.15,000 and below," the minister was quoted as saying in a newspaper report in March.
Jaitley used the figure of 3.7 crore in arguing that the large majority of the EPFO members would not be adversely affected by his budgetary proposal.
Asked about the number of EPFO members who earn less than Rs.15,000 and those who earn more than that threshold, the EPFO informed Chandrashekhar Gaur that no such information was available with it.
Gaur, who belongs to Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh, told IANS that he was intrigued by wide variation in the strength of EPFO membership as claimed by the minister and the figures cited in some media reports.
"How could there be such difference in those figures? So I decided to file an RTI request," he said.
Set up in 1951, the EPFO administers a contributory provident fund, pension scheme and an insurance scheme for workers in India's organised sector. It's one of the world's largest social security organisations in terms of membership and volume of funds managed.
The organisation is under the administrative control of the union ministry of labour and employment.