Effectively using RTI Levers to Expedite EPFO Processes: My Experiences

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 09-08-2011

I belong to an industry in which 20% people change jobs every year. With every change, we need to ensure that the EPF Account with created by the new employer(‘Target Account’) gets credited with the balance accumulated in the EPF Account created by previous employer (‘Source Account’). If the previous employer and current employer are headquartered in different EPFO jurisdictions (such as different states), then the process becomes quite time consuming, even stretching into years. Though EPFO provides a web interface to check the status of the transfer request (Called ‘Claim Status’ in official lingo), you may find yourself wondering which end you should check, whether the source end or the target end. Even when you try both ends, you may find yourself no wiser on the status! And it is quite possible that you may see no action for several quarters. Having used provisions of  Right to Information Act 2005 against IIM Calcutta earlier and seen the speed it magically brings to stalled processes,  I recently user the Right to Information intervention to get an update on my PF transfer request. In fact, within 4 days of receiving my RTI query, the concerned PF office has carried out the pending transfer and followed it up with multiple SMS updates.

In case you are in a similar dilemma as to how to follow up, here are my recommended steps:

 Step 1: Find the EPFO office having jurisdiction over your case (both target and source). Then send a gentle reminder for expeditious processing to the head of both offices by registered post giving details of the case. You should also enclose a copy of the letter forwarding the Form 13 from target (submitting office) to the source office, if available. There are only two things to keep in mind.

  1. Please look up the head of the concerned office in this directory and then identify the senior most officer in that office. Usually they would be at PF Commissioner level. If there are more than one in an office, please address it to PF Commissioner 1. But the real trick is in addressing him/her by name in your letter and also on the envelope cover. Typically this would mean Mr ABC, PF Commissioner 1, EPFO City XYZ. This would ensure the letter reaches the table of the officer concerned and that significantly raises the possibility of quick action.
  2. Please send your letter by Registered or Speed Post.

Step 2: Wait for four weeks and check the status online. I know of several individuals where such simple interventions have worked like magic. However, do not expect a reply back in most cases. You may still not learn how much money actually got credited into your Employee Provident Fund Account setup via the current employer.

Step 3: Prepare to file RTI at the target EPFO office. Suppose your previous account through your previous employer was in Pune (‘source’) and the current one is in Chennai (‘target’),  file your RTI at target office first. Follow the following steps:

  1. Get a Rs 10 postal order from the nearby post office (Yes, contrary to your likely belief, both the postal order and the post office continue to exist!). Fill the ‘Pay to’ party as Accounts Officer, EPFO Chennai.
  2. Draft your RTI letter. The Right to Information Act 2005 DOES NOT specify a format so it is upto you to prepare it. I recommend this template that I have prepared and shared for illustrative purposes.
  3. Send it by Speed Post or Registered Post.

Step 4: The PF office is obligated by law to reply to you within 30 days of receipt of your query. In his reply, the PF office will either confirm that that the process has happened successfully, or let you know (as it happened in my case) that the matter is pending at the source EPFO office. If it is the former, you should be happy. If it is latter, there are a few more ends to close. Read on.

Step 5: Prepare your next PF query, this time to the source EPFO office.  And this time, do enclose a copy of the response received in Step 4. Follow this template and don’t forget to enclose the all important Rs 10 fee via Postal Order.

Step 6: In my case, the response was delighting. The transfer was effected within a week of my filing the RTI query. I subsequently received the details by SMS and of course, the RTI response that arrived in a matter of two weeks. Bingo!

Step 7: After awaiting for two weeks, if the online status does not change you may consider filing an RTI query at your local EPFO (that holds the target account). That should complete the process.

For those who do not find visiting post office easy or convenient, you may choose to use the services RTINATION website to file your query. At first the site would help you create the letter, then you have to download the same and sign it and scan the letter and send it back to the site. They would speed post it to the concerned officer and also enclose the fee. However, you need access to a scanner. Send back the letter to RTINATION by courier or ordinary post if that helps your convenience. For all this convenience, you pay the site a sum of Rs 150 as a fee. Though I have not availed their services yet, my friend Gurdev Singh Parmar finds it quite convenient and has all the recommendations for it.

Hope this is found to be useful. The only idea of posting sharing the experiences here is to help fellow citizens. Do share your experiences and queries here. While I cannot call myself an RTI guerilla, I have nevertheless used it earlier and benefitted from it.

Exercise Your Right to Information, It Works, But How!

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 10-06-2010

Tagged Under :

I had heard of Right to Information Act as a powerful tool so when a premier academic institution delayed issuing the certificates to the course participants, I filed a query using RTI. My query was as follows:

Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, in association with NIIT Imperia conducted a certificate programme called Executive Programme in Supply Chain Management (or EPSCM). The first batch of the programme completed its requirements in January 2010.The institute has chosen not to inform the participants of the programme about the status of the certificates. The undersigned is one of the participants of the programme.

Please provide :

· the status of the certificates of the of EPSCM batch that finished the exams in Jan 2010

· the reasons of the extraordinary and ongoing delay

· The reasons for non-communication by the institute regarding the reasons for the delay to the participants.

Sure enough, I received the response soon enough. Reproduced below for your reading pleasure.

rajesh_cert

Look at the way the non-specific response has been craftily drafted, which defeats the purpose of seeking information.

Let’s examine:

Q 1: Please provide the status of the certificates of the of EPSCM batch that finished the exams in Jan 2010.

Ans 1: Certificates have been either dispatched or are being dispatched  (Oh God, why did they invent present continuous usage in English language at all?!) depending on(variable – it depends, you see) the status of the students(rich, poor, what?).

Q 2: Please provide the reasons of the extraordinary and ongoing delay.

Ans 2: The delay is routine (A 4 month delay is just ‘routine’, you see. Reminds me of passenger train somehow). There is no extraordinary or ongoing delay (Really? The Chandrayaan took only few days to reach the moon) in cases where students have followed the proper procedure(conditional if, and what is an ‘improper’ procedure, pray? Isn’t a procedure a procedure?).

Q 3: Please provide the reasons for non-communication by the institute regarding the reasons for the delay to the participants.

Ans 3: The service provider (NIIT Imperia) (Blame it on them) had been informed regarding the reasons for the delay(Finally, they accept, there was delay, but then, what if it did not reach us).

PS: Curiously enough, between the filing of this RTI query and the response, I received the certificate!

If you would like to access some quality discussions and resources on how citizens can use Right to Information Act to your situation, please check out  RTI India portal.

Obtaining Your Credit Report in India is Easy

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 02-06-2010

It is commonplace to have a dispute with a service provider and cancel a service, but if the service provider happens to a financial institution, there’s always a possibility of silent damage – at least in India. That’s because one can never be sure of how that reflects in the credit bureau records. In fact, India has Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited (CIBIL) established just few years back by a group of Banks and Dun & Bradstreet.

demo2

A big drawback for us Indians is that we are not used to seeing our banks looking at our credit score, and therefore, do not care what is written in there. Many of us do not even know about the existence of such a bureau.That means the credit report available to your bank may have some subjective elements inserted to your adverse impact, which you may not even realize. The best way to keep track of such obnoxities is to watch your credit report. Yes, very few of us know that it is possible to get access to your credit information report(C.I. R).

The process is fairly simple. A very basic form to be filled and sent along with a Demand Draft of Rs 142/- to be sent to CIBIL through the post office only.While many identification documents are allowed in the application, it is recommended to provide the PAN number, since all bank transactions require the same.

If you notice a discrepancy in your C.I.R, you can take that up with the concerned financial institution as the credit bureau cannot update the records at your instance.

Link: The CIBIL Site can be reached here. The report contains details of which institutions have asked for your data, maximum amount you ever borrowed, and how much outstanding you have with each bank.  To see what a typical report available on yourself and what information it contains, click here. Below is just a snapshot for quick reference.

Credit Bureau of India Sample Report Snapshot

Updated June 04, 2010: Learnt offline from my professional colleague Chinni Krishnan that the report does not carry a credit score, (as credit reports in US do). He feels that this is a good start and there is much scope for the report to have ‘less English, and more Math’. His experience in getting the report was marked by very quick response time from CBIL authorities.

Dad Blogs and Son Blogs too!

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 18-07-2008

Have you heard an instance of a dad and son both being bloggers? I learnt about Asit and Aniket Barma, who both hold their point of view via their respective blogs. Read More..

Quitting Smoking Is Not Easy, Neither Impossible

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 07-07-2008

The reaction of most smokers to the suggestion of quitting smoking is either of derision, or brushing aside, or in labeling the idea as plain and simple unachievable. Some even judge the thought of giving up their smoke as noble but impossible. I think the truth is somewhere in between, and certainly quitting smoking is not that big a deal. Read More…

What's in a magazine cover? Nothing..

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 20-06-2008

DSC00262 ..Except the fact that when I as looking at these two trade magazines published from two different parts of the world (Auto Monitor – India & Automotive News – US), they looked like lost cousins!

Paying Taxes Online, is it a great idea?

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 17-06-2008

It might appear surprising that I have tried to create a debate around an argument that appears settled – I mean why would you not want to pay income taxes online, when you do not have to write a piece of paper form or a cheque, you do not have to run to the bank, you do not have to stand in a queue, and you can do it with the comfort of your home or work, you can do it last minute and so on. The advantages appear so obvious.

Almost so, till you try it out, something I did last week. The process is simple. You go to this site, locate the form and get going. So far so good. It even matches your PAN number with the Income Tax Department database to see if you have typed the correct PAN Account number, so that typos do not result in disasters of wrong credit. The form has no computational intelligence, which means it will only take values of the tax, surcharge and education cess etc. The portal also appears to offer direct transfer from several banks which is a great help.TIN NSDL

All went well, the name matched, the transfer happened alright. Only when the receipt (‘counterfoil’) was being generated, it failed to save on my machine, gave some error, thank you, and failed to save. It was frightening, since the ‘counterfoil’ copy is supposed to be enclosed with the return. Luckily I had a screen shot of the whole document, taken in parts. That one moment was enough to generate sweat beads on my forehead, after what happened last year at ICICI Bank.

Suggestion: Please do take a screen shot of the receipt, atleast of the counter foil and save it. Or select all and save it on MS Word. A great system improvement could be to ask people for an email id and mail them a PDF of the receipt if they want it and also to include a text on what common taxpayer should do, if none of the above works.  

Living Life Kingfisher size!

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 17-02-2008

Earlier this week, I went to Goa for a conference.For me this was a new state added to my list, having been to sixteen of them earlier. Yes, number 17 and the youthfulness of Goa go so well together!

I and some of my colleagues chose to stay in beachside tents at a resort on Varca beach.And we flew Kingfisher where we had a completely different experience, which is certainly setting up very high standards. Will tell you why, in the next few lines.

To be frank, we did feel a little weird in choosing to stay in a tent, which did not even have a lock on the door, only a zip slider! But then I have been a little adventurous type in these matters. The Mumbai Goa Kingfisher flight was an A321, which not just had a personal screens on all seats, but had two channels, that were better than the live TV that was playing on other 31. One of them was the GPS channel, which gave the aircraft location, speed, altitude, and time to destination etc. The other one was a real treat. The aircraft had a camera facing the front, so that one could see the pilot view during take-off, landing and indeed during the entire journey. It was an instant hit as soon as we learnt about this channel, and even before the aircraft took off, this was playing all over! The Goa airport is on the coastline, and one should give premium to get this awesome view, as the aircraft comes in to land. We kept talking about it much after we landed. We found Remo Fernandes waiting for his bags at Dabolim baggage carousel and I lost no time in shaking hands with him. That really got us into the mood.

Upon conclusion of the business sessions, we had a little beach party, which of course was attended by King Momo and his entourage. It was good fun.

We also had the chance to have a dinner on a boat ambling lazily in gentle waters of Mandovi river, and we soon learnt that the Goan party does not stop, especially for tourists like us. Goa, trust me, we will be back.

Breathtaking views from Kumarakom

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 23-01-2008

Backwaters: Venice would feel dejected in this natural beauty!We returned fairly convinced from Kumarakom that those who have not experienced the backwaters of Kerala remain inferior beings. I hold similar views of Kashmir valley too but then circumstances are different there.

Actually, along with the picture post card views of Vembanad lake, there was a freshness and calm in the breeze, that perhaps the visuals cannot capture. Thank God we planned this Kerala trip.

Kumarakom town is few kms from Kottayam city, and the ambience completely changes once you reach there.
The house boats, which are nothing but floating hotels, replete with a kitchen, sit-out and a bed room are an experience by themselves. The Kumarakom town is criss-crossed by canals and it is such a pleasure to be travel in one of them on a boat. It is also an expensive place. A night in a house boat will set you back by 7-10 k rupees. Worth every penny I would say. We certainly came back with what appeared to be a true out of the world experience.

It was also noticeable that thanks to the web, all arrangements can be lined up even before you reach there.

A Stunning View of the Periyar Lake

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 20-01-2008

A recent vacation trip took us to Periyar Dam in Kerala. We had fortunately arranged to stay inside the Park in KTDC run Periyar House (mind you, you are not allowed to step outside the Hotel after 6 PM) and experienced the wild like never before. The boat ride on Periyar Lake was quite an experience and gave us some amazing views like the one above taken from the upper deck of the boat . While the elephants refused to show up, it was still quite an experience.

PS:I will attempt to post some more pictures in days to come.


About Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh is based in Chennai, where he works for Defiance Technologies in Marketing. The views on this blog are his own. Rajesh Kumar