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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Tejpal case: Tehelka shortchanged staff on PF, medical dues

Moushumi Das Gupta and Vivek Sinha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 30, 2013
First Published: 00:20 IST(30/11/2013) | Last Updated: 00:48 IST(30/11/2013)

Tehelka, in the eye of a storm after sexual assault charges were slapped against its former editor Tarun Tejpal, could be in for more trouble.

In clear violation of labour laws, Anant Media Pvt Ltd — the holding company that publishes Tehelka — does not have statutory provident fund (PF) accounts for its employees. Staffers at the magazine told HT they got neither PF nor any medical benefits.

The Employees’ Provident Fund Act, 1952, mandates that organisations with over 20 employees need to maintain a PF account with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). However, some companies sign contracts designating employees as “consultants” to avoid paying PF dues.

Over 40 people, including journalists, work out of the publication’s two offices in Delhi.

“We take serious view of firms that do not maintain EPFO accounts. It is a cognisable offence that may lead to a penalty of up to 100% of the defaulted amount or three years’ imprisonment,” a senior EPFO official said.

The blatant violation, however, did not stop the magazine’s top editors from commissioning stories on how labour laws are flouted in other organisations. “Once a staffer mentioned in the course of discussing a story that even Tehelka staffers do not get any such benefit, but Shoma Chaudhury just brushed it off,” said a Tehelka employee.

The magazine doesn’t give any medical benefits either to its employees. Last year, Tehelka had invited criticism after one of its photographers, Tarun Sehrawat, died after contracting a virulent strain of malaria while on an assignment to a tribal region in Chhattisgarh. Like his colleagues, he too did not have any company medical cover.

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