The cash-rich Punjab State Co-operative Agriculture Development Bank has neither paid 1,200-odd pensions for three years nor contributed to the employees’ provident fund.
The bank owes its retirees Rs 12 crore under the older scheme since November 2013. Where’s the undistributed money gone? After pensioner Rajinder Pal Meelu approached the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), it has asked the state vigilance bureau to find the answer.
Since a July 25 notice, the bank’s pension-wing officials have appeared thrice at the bureau’s economic offences wing in an inquiry into their operating in a nexus with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) regional office in Chandigarh. That notice was based on a CBI letter of June 28, which came also to the chief vigilance officer of the EPFO, a wing of the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment.
While the pension is halted since November 2013, the bank has filed three false affidavits in the Punjab and Haryana high court that about paying it under the 1995 scheme of one-time settlement. On January 24, 2015, the court had ordered the scheme to be implemented “without prejudice to the rights of pensioners”. Started without the mandatory consent of the EPFO, the employees, and the retirees, the scheme was bound to fail.
The pensioners later found that the bank had not even put employer’s share into their EPF accounts, so the EPF office had sealed one of its accounts for March 30 and recovered Rs 14 crore (all the money in it that day). On May 9, the EPFO gave the bank 15 days to reply or face prosecution. Employer’s contribution was a must to implement the 1995 scheme but the bank failed to deposit about Rs 250 crore of it with the regional provident fund commissioner. This was for pension to be paid with effect from 1989.
Resolution against pension payment?
Bank managing director Harinder Singh Sidhu, accepted that the pension was due. “It pertains to a period before my joining in January and the matter is in court, so I’d not like to comment,” he said. Punjab co-operative societies registrar Arunjit Singh Miglani said bank had “passed a resolution against distributing pension”. He had signed the approval for the one-time-settlement scheme.