The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Job dues unpaid for 25 years
- Widow missing, sons become bus cleaners; court raps PF office for ‘loss of papers’

Their father died 25 years ago after a cardiac arrest. Sixteen years ago, their mother, who had become mentally unsound by then, just disappeared from home one morning.

Poverty forced them to drop out of school and take up cleaners’ jobs at the Garia bus depot. They would never have come to such a pass had the provident fund (PF) authorities not lost their father’s papers and failed to pay them their dues.

When they finally went to court to claim their dues, courtesy a neighbourhood lawyer, their case was buried under the system for three long years. At long last, luck seems to have smiled on Swapan (now 33) and Tapan (30) Biswas. The case came up for hearing — for the first time — on Wednesday, and Calcutta High Court asked the PF commissioner’s office to speed up things. It directed the PF commissioner to explain the 25-year delay in clearing the dues.

But, for the two brothers, all this may have come just a bit too late in the day. Given their limited education, it will be difficult for them to land better jobs.

Swapan and Tapan’s father, Shakhanath Biswas, was an accountant with a small private firm in Lalbazar. He died in 1978 at 45, when his sons were eight and five, respectively. His widow was a little “mentally unbalanced”. But she still tried to make both ends meet. However, with their meagre savings drying up, education became a luxury. First Swapan and then Tapan were forced to take up cleaning jobs at Garia bus stand.

The widow went to her husband’s former office to plead for a job. She was denied that but was told about her husband’s PF money — Rs 53,000. She was given the relevant documents.

According to the affidavit filed before the court, the widow visited the PF office several times. Time and again, she was told to “come back another day” and, ultimately, the PF office allegedly told her that she stood little chance of getting her dues as the relevant papers were “missing”.

This, perhaps, was too much for the woman to bear. She disappeared one day in 1986.

In 1989, advocate Subrata Mukhopadhyay bought a house near Swapan and Tapan’s home. But it was not till the 1990s that they met the advocate in a bus.

Mukhopadhyay filed a petition but it took three years for the case to be heard on Wednesday. Justice Girish Gupta directed the PF office to explain why the duo — and, earlier, the mother — had not been paid their dues. He told the office to file the relevant documents by March 21.

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