The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has settled 36.02 lakh claims during coronavirus lockdown, disbursing an amount of Rs 11,540 crore under the EPF scheme, according to a statement released by labour ministry on Tuesday. Out of this, 15.54 lakh claims amounting to Rs 4,580 crore were related to the recently introduced COVID-19 advance under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY).
"Despite the lockdown restrictions EPFO settled a staggering 36.02 lakh claims, thereby disbursing Rs 11,540 crore to its members during the last two months of April and May 2020," Ministry of Labour & Employment said in a press release.
In terms of wage slab, more than 74 per cent of total claimants during the lockdown period belonged to bracket of less than Rs 15,000 wage, the data showed. The high income category with wages more than Rs 50,000 accounted for a mere 2 per cent of the claimants. Around 24 per cent of claims were made by the members with wages falling in the Rs 15,000 to less than Rs 50,000 category, the ministry said.
In March, the labour ministry had announced that about 4.8 crore EPF beneficiaries can withdraw 75 per cent of the amount standing to their credit, not exceeding their three months' basic pay, to tide over the COVID-19 pandemic. The ministry had issued a notification in this regard to amend the Employees' Provident Fund Scheme 1952, so that organised sector workers can withdraw the non-refundable advance.
The availability of these facilities through online services has brought much relief to the needy subscribers during the lockdown period, coming to their rescue during these testing times.
"The COVID-19 advance has been a great help to EPFO's members during these difficult times, especially for the members with monthly wages of less than Rs 15,000. Receiving the COVID-19 advance to the extent of basic wages and DA for three months or up to 75 per cent of the amount standing to member's credit in the EPF account, whichever is less, has provided timely relief to many workers, preventing them from falling into indebtedness," the ministry said.
It further added that nearly 54 per cent of the COVID-19 claims are now being settled using artificial intelligence (AI) tools, which is expected to drastically cut down claim settlement time for EPFO in future. The use of artificial intelligence played a big role in achieving new benchmarks in claim settlement, it added.
"With automation and dedicated workforce, EPFO is settling more than 80,000 claims every working day amounting to about Rs 270 crore, ensuring social security support for its members in times of crisis," labour ministry said.
By Chitranjan Kumar