Our Bureau

New Delhi, Jan. 11

A day after the Government notified the Employees' Provident Fund interest rate at 8.5 per cent for 2005-06, the Left parties sought the restoration of the interest rate to the earlier 9.5 per cent.

The issue may figure at the UPA-Left Coordination Committee meeting on Thursday. Threatening to go on a nationwide agitation, they said that the Government could not "impose" the principles of market economy on the only social security available to over 40-million fund subscribers and their 100-million dependents.

The Senior CPI (M) Leader and Polit Bureau member, Mr M. K. Pandhe, said it was unfortunate that the Government had taken the decision without consulting the Left parties or the Central trade unions. He said that the Government could easily provide Rs 700 crore to retain the 9.5 interest rate.

Mr Pandhe also suggested that the Government could increase the interest rate on the Special Deposit Schemes and Government bonds to enable the EPFO (Employees Provident Fund Organisation) to retain the interest rate.

Other issues to figure in the UPA-Left Coordination Committee meeting include the Left's 13-point alternative tax proposals to raise the tax-GDP ratio, the Government's decision to cut food subsidy and the move to privatise Mumbai and Delhi airports.

"The EPF issue is very serious; we will like to raise at tomorrow's meeting," the CPI National Secretary, Mr D. Raja, said. He said the alternative tax proposals include seeking special dividends from 57 Central public sector units and a flat rate of 0.10 per cent for the securities transaction tax (for delivery-based as well as non-delivery based transactions).

The proposals, among other things, include raising the rate of taxation on the short-term capital gains, imposing a nominal ad valorem tax on all foreign exchange outflows and an increase in excise duty on cars that run on diesel.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 12, 2006)
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