Make the EPFO India accountable to its members who can't access their hard earned money.

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If you are a middle class citizen who's been in a salaried job, you know that a portion of your hard-earned salary goes towards the Employee Provident Fund every month. This is not an optional contribution. This is supposed to be a relief fund for you in case of emergencies and possibly at the end of your career.

By definition, it should be a godsend or 'provident' fund. However, it is really challenging to withdraw the funds when you actually need them. I have been on a professional break for a few months and decided to get my EPF out.

First I found that there was a clerical mistake in my date of birth which has to be corrected. There is an online UAN portal which accepts the request but every time the request gets rejected. To find out what was wrong I visited the PF office and there the officers in charge were automatically rejecting all online requests where the date of birth is off by more than 1 year! The problem is there is no feedback to the user unless he or she visits the PF office.

After running around and submitting a joint declaration about the detail change, this got done in a few weeks and my Aadhar card finally matched the EPF account details. Now, I wanted to raise the request to withdraw my PF finally. Surprisingly though, this was not enough.

On the UAN portal, which is supposed to integrate all your PF accounts in one place, I can only raise a request to withdraw my last PF account's funds. Also, there will be a 34% tax charge since this period is less than 5 years. Now, I have two PF accounts, which cumulatively cover more than 10 years of work experience, but I can't raise a request to withdraw the funds from both through the portal. The EPFO also has instructed the HR at my last organization, withdrawal requests are to be made only online.

Now, I want to understand what's the progress on my previous request for which I raised a grievance. There is never any response to grievances. I call up the number and the designated officer Manish Agnihotri is never available. One of his assistants gives me a confused/confusing solution to submit a paper application, beyond which there is no support. I visit the EPF office again and the officer there blames the older organization's PF office and asks me to get things sorted there.

Right now, I am following up with my last organization HR and their PF consultant to understand what in the world is even going on here. My money is still stuck in some government account and I have no clue when I will ever see it.

I understand this is the case with many others in my position. The inefficiencies of the EPFO office and its online portals need to be corrected. The officers need to be made accountable to its members. Most of all, the members should be able to use their 'provident fund'.