THE MINISTRY of Labour and Employment has kicked off a survey that requires establishments contributing to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), including from the private sector, to furnish information on the number of SC and ST employees in their ranks.
The survey being piloted by Niti Aayog was initially to be restricted to public sector undertakings (PSUs) but has now been extended to cover private firms. Through this month, regional provident fund offices have been sending out queries in a specified format to companies seeking “employment data of the proportion of SC & ST employees in total employment”.
Sources said the data on the number of SC/ST employees is being collated to provide them financial incentives for social security benefits. The objective of this new scheme, rolled out in consultation with the Labour Ministry, is for the Centre to eventually foot the bill for employee contribution being made by SC/ST employees towards their provident and pension funds with the EPFO. The Labour Ministry is the nodal Ministry of the EPFO.
The communication sent by regional provident fund offices states: “Ministry of Labour and Employment has desired to have a sample study of employment data of the proportion of SC & ST employees in total employment… the data was requested at the first instance with respect to PSUs from whom it can be calculated in short time. However, the Ministry desired to have stratified sample data across the establishments. Therefore, it is kindly requested to collect data from other establishments also.”
Companies have been asked to furnish details in a four-column table that seeks the name of the company, total number of employees, number of SC employees, and number of ST employees.
The conceptual discussions were held by NITI Aayog over the last couple of years in the run-up to the survey being launched earlier this month. Some officials are learnt to have flagged the possibility of statistical errors in conducting such a survey in the private sector, where employees are not hired on the basis of reservation.
“There is no legal mandate for SC/ST hiring in the private sector. Such a survey was initially planned to be conducted for PSUs. For private companies, there might be some roadblocks as employees may not be forthcoming with their caste details,” sources said.
Sources indicated that while employer contribution would still be paid by companies, the government will make the EPFO payments on behalf of the SC/ST employees. “The government already has data for SC/ST employees working in the public sector companies. After the government has data on SC/ST employees in the private sector, it will be able to make targeted transfers towards EPFO payments. This benefit from the government will help lift the financial position of SC/ST employees,” sources said.
The need for data from all establishments was felt as there was a view that a substantial portion of funds allocated for SC/ST schemes were going unutilised, officials said.
The EPFO and the Labour Ministry did not respond to queries from The Indian Express on the survey. Currently, the government has allocated over Rs 1.3 lakh crore towards more than 300 schemes being implemented by 38 ministries and government departments under the “welfare for SC/ST” employees head. As funds under many of these schemes remain unspent, the government plans to provide benefits to SC/ST employees by making their provident and pension fund payments.
“Our intent is to improve financial status of SC/STs at a faster rate. Since it will be difficult to target SC/ST employees in the unorganised sector, we are first starting with organised sector employees enrolled with the EPFO,” sources said.
The guidelines on earmarking government funds for SC/ST under various schemes by ministries and departments have been framed by NITI Aayog.
As on September 23, government data for Development Action Plan for Scheduled Castes (DAPSC) showed that out of the total allocated Rs 77,748.90 crore, it has released only 29.19 per cent of the allocated amount at Rs 22,694.77 crore.
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