ESIC acting tough on Jammu business community

JAMMU, NOV 21: It is irony that in the crown State of the world’s largest democracy, Government authorities harass people in the name of different laws despite the fact that said laws do not provide any jurisdiction or authority to the officers, behind this game plan.
One of the unprecedented examples is that the future of multiple industrial units in State is in doldrums, courtesy the ESIC authorities running the show and harassing the unit holders to the highest degree. To be more specific, ESIC has initiated penalty proceedings against some units in the absence of any territorial jurisdiction over areas, where these units are located. It is pertinent to mention here that no requisite notification under the ESIC Act on covering such areas has been issued in instant cases.
The authorities of ESIC, Regional office, Jammu froze bank accounts of the units, on grounds of non-payment of arrears or contribution of employers towards ESIC, which is totally unlawful and illegal, as some of the units are still out of notified zones of ESIC. The said action has been taken without verifying covered limits.
Talking to Greater Jammu Correspondent, Regional Director ESIC Jammu, M K Arya, a proper procedure is followed before taking action against erring units. 15 days notice is issued to erring units for producing relevant documents for clarification of issues, failing which, such harsh steps are taken.
He further added that ESIC is for betterment of employees and takes all necessary steps for providing best possible facilities to employees and their dependents. ESIC provides limitless and cashless coverage to employees registered under ESIC and all expenses are borne by ESIC, right from the very first day, he added.
He further suggested that all employers must cooperate with ESIC authorities with regard to payment of backlog contributions and current contributions. He said, “Cases referred for recovery are those wherein ample opportunities were provided to employer for presenting relevant records to plead their case. Harsh steps like seizure of bank account etc are not taken all of a sudden. There is a well defined set of rules of assessment and demand of contribution in ESIC under ESIC Act, 1948 and defined procedure of recovery by designated recovery officer,” Arya explained.
Expressing resentment against such harsh action by the ESIC authorities, President Gangyal Industrial Association, Rattan Dogra said such immediate move of the ESIC by penalizing some industrial units, is highly deplorable.
“This decision is quite dangerous for the industrial fraternity, as there are many sick and closed units, which are unable to meet even their routine expenses. Moreover, seizure of bank accounts of industrial units is not the solution. Government should hold talks with the Industrial Associations for finding a way out in the matter,” he maintained. He lamented that a large number of claim cases are pending disposal at ESIC office for want of Police reports and various other formalities not known to the subscriber.
An industrialist, Rakesh Kumar Sawhney, who is partner of Roliflex Cable Industry, situated at Narwal Bala, is one of the main sufferer, whose bank account was frozen despite prior intimation to ESIC authorities in the year 2013, informing that his unit was out of the preview of ESIC Act, as it is located out of its jurisdiction and number of employees is less than 10 but unlawfully, the bank account of the unit was frozen on 24th Oct, 2017 by ESIC authorities.
The same was released on 16th Nov, 17 after a period of 22 days, that too after the intervention of higher officials at ESIC Headquarters, New Delhi. He further alleged that officials of ESIC, Regional Office, Jammu are adopting wrong ways and harassing various units, just to fulfill their recovery targets on monthly basis. There are similar other cases, wherein ESIC has targeted various units by freezing their accounts, which were later released either on the intervention of Court or Higher Officials.
It is pertinent to mention here that the process to get bank account released through Court is cumbersome and quite lengthy. Half of the recovery amount raised by Recovery Officer has to be deposited with the court to get stay on recovery proceedings without caring whether the unit falls under notified area of ESIC or not. The pendency of such cases in different courts is increasing day by day without any positive outcome for unit holders, who have to face harassment due to unlawful actions of ESIC authorities. Among the cases going on in various Courts, majority fall in the extended municipal limit of Jammu city, as there is no proper notification issued by ESIC Regional Office, Jammu in this regard. Moreover, ESIC authorities are not following the notification issued by the concerned Ministry, clarifying limits and un-authorized covers, within extended municipal limits of Jammu. It is worth mentioning here that the Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India has notified only two villages, namely Thanger and Barnai in Jammu for implementation of ESIC Act in extended municipal limits. Remaining all other extended municipal limit areas are unauthorizedly covered by ESIC authorities.
While interacting with Greater Jammu, President CCI Jammu, Rakesh Gupta said that business fraternity of Jammu has always been following the rules and regulations, framed by the Government till date, but such arbitrary actions are not in favour of business class, which is already passing through a tough phase. Such random orders issued by ESIC without discussing the same with business fraternity are unacceptable.
ESIC should take stakeholders on board before finalizing any such harsh step, besides holding awareness camps to educate business class for effective implementation of its schemes on ground level, he added.
As per the statement of Recovery Officer, Darbara Singh, “Recovery Officer has complete powers to seize bank accounts of erring units. He also has quasi judicial powers u/s 45(A) and has the authority to sell out the property of defaulters or even collect recovery amount from successors of defaulters.” He further informed that the cases, on which he is working presently, are pending from 2012 and required action is being taken after 5 years.