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EPF scam: New set of documents spell more trouble for Yogi govt

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Lucknow, Nov 4 : The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) scam in Uttar Pradesh seems to be becoming the Achilles’ heel for the Yogi Adityanath government.

A fresh set of documents revealed that the decision to bring in controversial private firm Dewan Housing Finance Limited (DHFL), which is involved in the Rs 2,600 crore EPF scam, was taken after the Yogi government came into existence on March 19, 2017.

Earlier, Power Minister Shrikant Sharma had claimed that the decision to bring in DHFL to hold EPF funds was taken by the previous Akhgilesh Yadav-led government.

Referring to the FIR and minutes of the meeting of the UP State Power Sector Employees Trust, the leaders of UP Power Employees Joint Committee said that the decision to invest the hard-earned money of the employees in a shady company was taken on March 24, 2017, five days after Yogi Adityanath took oath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

Prominent power union leader Shailendra Dubey told IANS over phone that though he welcomeed the state government’s decision to initiate a CBI inquiry into the EPF scam, the Chief Minister should first remove higher officials of the Energy Ministry to ensure that files and documents relating to the DHFL issue remain intact.

“It is now clear that the decision was taken on March 24, 2017, during the Yogi government’s rule. We have seen the minutes of the meeting, where the present government authorised two trust officials to invest EPF money. As huge funds were transferred to DHFL between 2017 and 2018, the present set of officials should not remain in the Power Ministry,” said Dubey, Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation.

In fact, UP government’s alleged dealing with DHFL has caused a stir in Lucknow. The FIR registered with the Lucknow Police revealed that state-owned UP Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) invested its employees’ funds worth over Rs 2,600 crore with DHFL, whose promoters were recently grilled by the Enforcement Directorate for their links with a front company of the late Iqbal Mirchi, a former aide of Dawood Ibrahim.

The decision to invest EPF money in a shady private company has been vociferously raised by the engineers and the employees’ unions. In a letter to the UPPCL Chairman, several employees’ unions have questioned the decision to invest money related to General Provident Fund (GPF) and Contributory Provident Fund (CPF) of employees with DHFL.

Facing opposition’s attack, particularly from Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, over the investment of the part of EPF in DHFL, the Uttar Pradesh government tried to set the record straight, asserting that the “dubious” decision was taken by the Akhilesh Yadav-led government in April 2014, and the process of investment was further carried forward during 2016.

The Yogi government, taking a swift decision, registered an FIR and arrested two senior officials, Praveen Kumar Gupta, the then Secretary of the UP State Power Employees Trust and UPPCL’s Provident Fund Trust, and UPPCL’s erstwhile Director (Finance) Sudhanshu Dwivedi.

On Sunday, Energy Minister Shrikant Sharma revealed to the media that the decision to bring in private players was taken during the Akhilesh government. He said the decision to invest in DHFL from March 2017 was taken by Gupta and Dwivedi without bringing the matter to the knowledge of the UPPCL Managing Director.

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‘National Conference won’t be part of political process unless 370 restored’

“We have faith in Supreme Court,” the NC leader said. “It is a fact that Article 370 was revoked without taking the approval of the J&K Assembly.”

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Farooq Abdullah

Srinagar, Dec 10 : Senior National Conference leader Mustafa Kamal has said the NC won’t take part in the political process until the restoration of Article 370 and statehood to Jammu & Kashmir.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, Kamal, the brother of detained former Chief Minister and NC chief Farooq Abdullah, said the National conference will not be a part of any political process that doesn’t serve the interests of the people of J&K.

“They demolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. We can’t take part in any political process in this system,” he said. “New Delhi will like to manipulate us for changing the demography of Jammu & Kashmir and enslave the people.”

He said those clamouring for the extension of Article 371 to Jammu & Kashmir are free to do so but the National Conference won’t budge from its stated position.

“We don’t want Article 371, those who want it, let them take it,” Kamal said. “They are talking about a third front, let them go with it, National Conference will not change its position.”

Kamal said Article 370 was scrapped to end the Muslim-majority character of Jammu & Kashmir and to pave the way for “demographic change”.

He said his party is preparing the ground for moving a motion against the Centre’s “unilateral decision” and is hopeful the Supreme Court will declare the move on Article 370 as unconstitutional.

“We have faith in Supreme Court,” the NC leader said. “It is a fact that Article 370 was revoked without taking the approval of the J&K Assembly.”

He said they were taken aback by the removal of Article 370 because both the Governor and the Prime Minister had denied that the article was being revoked.

“Our leaders met with (then) Governor Satya Pal Malik and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and both denied the Article was being revoked,” he said.

He said international pressure is mounting on India over Kashmir and the present situation cannot continue forever.

He said the National Conference will keep on pressing for an agreement between India and Pakistan for a resolution of Kashmir.

He said he is in touch with Farooq Abdullah and said he won’t make any “compromise”.

“Farooq Abdullah has always stuck to his principles, why would he change his stand now?” Kamal said.

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Rahul Gandhi returning to lead Congress again?

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scindia rahul gandhi priyanka gandhi

New Delhi/Wayanad (Kerala), Dec 6 : Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi is all set to return to lead the party and is likely to take over after the Delhi assembly polls early next year. A hint to this effect was dropped by Congress General Secretary, Organisation, K.C. Venugopal who said that country wants his leadership more now.

Venugopal, who is accompanying Gandhi to his Kerala constituency Wayanad, told reporters: “The nation is going through a critical phase… The party needs his leadership and there is loud chorus from the workers to bring him again and we hope he will listen to them.”

A Congress session is scheduled in the next few months to ratify the appointment of interim President Sonia Gandhi. A source said that in the same meet, a chorus will grow to bring again Rahul Gandhi as planned by young leaders in the party.

Rahul Gandhi’s elevation to the party organisation was first demanded at the AICC’s Hyderabad session in 2006 where workers from UP raised slogans in his favour and he was made party General Secretary in 2007. After that, the demand to make him Vice President was raised at the brainstorming session in Jaipur in 2013.

He was elected President unopposed in 2017 after demand from different quarters of the party, but during the 2019 General Elections, the party was routed under his leadership and he resigned in May taking the responsibility of poll debacle and did not budge to the party’s repeated requests to reconsider. In August, Sonia Gandhi was appointed interim party chief.

Though he may not be the party chief, but Rahul Gandhi’s decisions are evident within the party’s decisions as evinced by appointment of Nitin Raut as minister in the Shiv Sena-Congress-Nationalist Congress Party coalition government in Maharashtra and of Nana Patole as the Assembly Speaker.

The party is finalising a venue for the AICC session, which could be held in the Congress-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan in January and February, a source said.

By: BY SAIYED MOZIZ IMAM

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RBI holding repo rate bodes well for savings: Economists

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Reserve Bank of India RBI

New Delhi, Dec 6 : Even as many see the RBI’s pause on repo rate as a setback for the growth, some economists argue that any further cut could have affected households savings which have already seen a decline in recent times.

“Reduction in interest rate will work negatively. The interest rate is like a double-edged sword. It will have an impact on savings and it will have an impact on investments. We know very clearly that it does not have much impact on investments. Now, what is it doing? It is basically hampering the savings,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP).

He also said that monetary policy is not just about interest rates.

“There are many things which monetary policy does. It can ensure that credit flow is better and the banking sector is in good shape. They can create money supply. So, it can do many things. They have to now see how savings could be improved,” the NIPFP professor said.

M. Govinda Rao, Chief Economic Advisor, Brickwork Ratings, said that transmission of the reduction in the policy (repo rate) requires the lending rates to fall. Further, that would also require the deposit rates to fall, which could result in reduced saving by households.

“When the inflation rate is perking up, if the banks also reduce the deposit rates, the rate of return on savings will decline which could not only reduce the incentive to save but also can hurt the elderly who maintain themselves from the interest income,” he said.

As per Economic Survey of FY19, gross savings fell nearly 60 basis points as a share of GDP in two years to 30.5 per cent in 2017-18. Household savings led the decline as its share contracted from as high as 23.6 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 to 17.2 per cent of GDP in 2017-18.

“The household sector savings declined from 23.6 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 to 17.2 per cent in 2017-18 and its net financial savings and a ratio of GDP declined from 7.2 per cent to 6.5 per cent during the same period. Thus, besides inflationary expectations, ensuring adequate real rate of return on the savings could be an objective of keeping the repo rate constant,” Govinda Rao said.

As against market expectations of a rate cut, the RBI on Thursday maintained the policy repo rate at 5.15 per cent. With this, the reverse repo rate also stands unchanged at 4.9 per cent. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was unanimous in its decision to maintain status quo on both rates and ‘accommodative’ stance.

(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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