Assam Paper Mills: The Death of a Dream
Guwahati: “The nightmare has finally happened. Soon we will be homeless,” cried the family members of Rajiv Biswas, a now deceased employee at the Nagaon Paper Mill. The family still lives in the mill’s staff quarters.
However, they now were in serious crisis as the employees of Nagaon Paper Mill (NPM) and Cachar Paper Mill (CPM) in Assam have been asked to vacate their accommodation/quarters within 15 days or will face legal action.
The two paper mills – Cachar Paper Mill in southern Assam’s Hailakandi and Nagaon paper mill in central Assam’s Morigaon district – have been defunct since 2015 and 2017 respectively. The shutting down of operations in the two mills has leftover 1,200 employees careworn due to non-payment of monetary dues for over 50 months.
Fated to lives of indigence, 83 of these former employees have died since March 2017; four by suicide.
Both mills were owned by the Central government-controlled Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) and were closed due to a shortage of working capital.
Earlier, during the election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a public rally also promised to revive these industries.
“A special committee set up by Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) took serious note of the recent order to the employees to vacate the residential premises at the earliest and in this regard decided to stand by and protect the interests of the employees of the closed paper mills of Assam. The APCC considers the direction of the liquidator Kuldeep Varma to the employees to vacate their residential quarters within 15 days as ridiculous, preposterous and devoid of any compassionate reasoning,” said APCC in a statement.
On September 5, the Committtee members under leadership of MP Pradyut Bordoloi visited Jagiroad and had an interaction with the representatives of the Nagaon Paper Mill employees.
The APCC also demanded the state government to show solidarity with the employees and come forward with a relief package by meeting all their past commitments.
Recently, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma clarified that there was no scope for the revival of the two defunct paper mills in Assam. He also said that the state government can clear the employees’ dues within 10 days if they (employees) agree to take their dues.
Sarma said, “The old and rickety machines of the two paper mills leave no scope for their revival. The employees’ association had talks with us. We told them that we have an Rs 630-crore package for the payment of their dues. If they are ready to take their dues, we can pay them within 10 days.