The day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejigged the Union Ministerial Council, there was another major reshuffle under the administrative watch of an outgoing minister — in a statutory body tasked with managing lakhs of crores of rupees.
Nearly 120 top officials in the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) that oversees the retirement savings of India’s formal workforce, were transferred in an unprecedented en masse mid-year transfer on July 6 through two separate orders.
Moreover, before the oath-taking ceremony of the new ministerial council at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Wednesday evening, these officers in the rank of Additional Central PF Commissioner and Regional PF Commissioner – 1 (RPFC-1), were also relieved of their duties so they could take charge of their new assignments.
As many as 12 Additional Central PF Commissioners were transferred, while 105 RPFC-1 rank officers (almost half of the sanctioned cadre strength) were shifted to new postings as per the transfer orders reviewed by The Hindu.
“The officers shall be relieved with immediate effect and shall join their new place of posting within three days without availing joining time,” the order said, sparking concerns among several officers about making such a swift move amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sources said the process for effecting the transfer orders was hurried through so as to complete it before former Union Minister of State with Independent Charge of the Labour and Employment Ministry Santosh Gangwar demitted office, and a new minister assumed charge.
Mr. Gangwar resigned from his ministerial post on Wednesday and his successor Bhupendra Yadav assumed charge on Thursday afternoon.
While routine transfers are approved by the EPFO chief — the Central Provident Fund Commissioner or CPFC — based on the recommendations of a committee, all transfers that constitute a deviation from the norms, need an approval from the Chairman of the EPFO’s Central Board of Trustees — the Union Labour and Employment Minister.
“There are several officers who have been transferred out prior to completion of their term and some officers have been transferred to far off places against the options exercised by them,” the EPF Officers’ Association pointed out in a missive to CPFC Sunil Barthwal on Thursday.
Detailed queries on the transfer orders ‘issued with the approval of the competent authority’ sent to the Union Labour and Employment Secretary Apurva Chandra and CPFC Sunil Barthwal didn’t elicit a response. The new minister Mr Yadav did not respond to queries on whether he will review the orders.
Veteran EPF officers said the latest transfer orders are not compliant with the policy laid down in 2016 for EPFO, after a Supreme Court judgement in 2013 had directed the government to improve transparency in postings and transfers and ensure a fixed tenure of postings for officers, in response to a civil writ petition filed by former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramaniam and others.
As per the transfer policy, annual general transfers are to be timed so that officers can take charge of their new roles on April 1. The minutes of the EPF Officers’ Transfer Committee (EOTC) are to be placed on the organisation’s website and aggrieved officers are given a chance to seek reconsideration.
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