Only 26% diamond workers covered by Provident Funds Act at Surat
Employees’ Provident Fund Organization’s (EPFO) Surat regional office revealed that the diamond industry has less than 1.3 lakh workers against total workforce of over 5 lakh registered under Employee
SURAT: Despite an annual turnover of over Rs1 lakh crore, most diamantaires in the world’s largest diamond cutting and polishing centre in the city deny the workers their provident fund dues.
According to information sought by TOI under Right to Information (RTI) Act, Employees’ Provident Fund Organization’s (EPFO) Surat regional office revealed that the diamond industry has less than 1.3 lakh workers against total workforce of over 5 lakh registered under Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act until June 2018, which puts the number at just 26%.
About 280 diamond units owners have failed to deposit provident fund of their diamond workers until June 2018 with Employees’ Provident Fund Organization. About eight diamond units, including big units, are yet to deposit an amount of Rs42 lakh which happens to be the diamond workers’ share of provident fund deducted from their salaries with the EPFO.
EPFO’s Surat regional branch has registered 41,253 diamond workers under the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act so far and the drive to register more diamond workers was on. It must be recalled that the EPFO had recently served notice to a well-known diamond company for not depositing PF amount to the tune of Rs16.66 crore with it. The company employs 3,165 employees, including diamond workers, but had registered only 17 of its employees under PF Act in violation of government rules under different acts.
From the last few months, the glitter of Surat’s diamond industry has faded due to host of issues including dwindling demand for polished diamonds, escalating rough diamond prices, weak rupee against dollar and squeezing of bank finance following multi-crore scams.
According to Surat Ratnakalakar Vikas Sangh (SRVS), about 50,000 diamond workers have become jobless in the past few months. About 95 per cent of the workers were not registered under the PF Act and not getting any benefits under the Factories Act.
SRVS president Jaisukh Gajera told TOI, “We have filed a number of applications in the EPFO and labour department on behalf of jobless diamond workers in the last few months. The applications are still pending. The workers are treated very badly during recession. This is not in good spirit when the industry earns thousands of crores per annum.”
Official sources said the EPFO had launched a scheme last year where the employer could make a declaration regarding enrolment of his employees from April 1, 2009 to December 31, 2016. The employer was liable to pay only employer share of provident fund along with simple interest at the rate of 12 per cent. For employees whose provident fund was not deducted by the employers, they were not required to pay employees’ share.