New Delhi:

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said around 12 lakh members of the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) withdrew Rs 3,360 crore retirement savings during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.


Earlier, on March 28, the EPFO allowed formal sector workers to withdraw a non-refundable advance from their retirement savings to deal with the hardships due to the lockdown.


The government on March 25 imposed a nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic.


Unveiling the fifth and final tranche of the Rs 20-lakh crore economic package, Sitharaman on Sunday said 12 lakh members of the EPFO have withdrawn as non-refundable advance of Rs 3,360 crore during the past two months.


The EPFO, under the Union labour and employment ministry, has settled a total of 12 lakh claims under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) package.


The provision for a special withdrawal from the EPF Scheme to fight the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the PMGKY scheme announced by the government and an urgent notification on the matter was made to introduce a para 68 L (3) of the EPF Scheme on March 28, 2020.


Under this provision non-refundable withdrawal to the extent of the basic wages and dearness allowances for three months or up to 75 per cent of the amount standing to member''s credit in the EPF account, whichever is less, is provided.


Sitharaman also told that 2.2 crore building and construction workers got Rs 3950 crore under the PMGKY to sustain in lockdown.


Earlier in March, Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar had asked all state chief ministers to provide financial aid to over 3.5 crore construction workers from Rs 52,000-crore construction cess available with them amid Covid-19 outbreak.

An advisory was issued on March 24, by Gangwar to all chief ministers, Lieutenant Governors of all the states/union territories.


In the letters, the minister had said: "Under Section 60 of the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act, 1996, all states/UTs have been advised to transfer funds in the account of construction workers through DBT (direct benefit transfer) mode from the cess fund collected by the Labour Welfare Boards under the BOCW cess Act."


It was mentioned in the letter that about Rs 52,000 crore is available as cess fund collected by states and UTs, and about 3.5 crore construction workers are registered with these construction welfare boards.


The minister had stated in the letter that in this challenging situation, it is imperative that we devise probable mechanism to support unorganised workers, who sustain their livelihood on daily wages.


The minister had also said that state building and construction workers welfare boards have collected sufficient funds.


The cess has been levied and is being collected at 1 per cent of the cost of construction as notified by the central government in its official gazette.


The BOCW Welfare Cess, 1996, provides for levy and collection of cess at such rate not exceeding 2 per cent, but not less than 1 per cent of the cost of construction as the central government may notify.