Sromona Bhattacharyya Bhattacharyya
Hailing from Kolkata and now a resident of Bengaluru, Sromona is a multimedia journalist who has a knack for digging stories that truly deserve attention.
The fight to revive Assam’s dying paper mills got even stronger after an employee of the Nagaon Paper Mill, a unit of the state-owned Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC) Limited on December 24 tried to commit suicide. The employee, identified as one Kathsingh Bordoloi attempted suicide by trying to jump off a mobile tower in Morigaon district.
Reportedly, Bordoloi decided to take the extreme step after he did not receive his salary for the past two years. Sadly, Bordoloi is not alone as thousands of employees of the now-defunct Nagaon and Cachar Paper Mills (both units of HPC) have been left without getting paid for 24 months at a stretch. The Logical Indian in May 2018 had reported on the ongoing protests which sought to highlight the plight of the employees.
Commiting Suicide has become compulsion for the workers of HPC Cachar & Nagaon Paper Mills of Assam due to inhuman…
Manabendra Chakraborty, the president of the Cachar Paper Project Workers’ Union, while talking to The Logical Indian said that the man had been depressed for some time over the closure of the paper mill. Police officials, the fire brigade officials and the employee’s family members had to persuade him to climb off of the tower.
Chakraborty, who is also the chief convener of the HPC Paper Mills Revival Action Committee said that state and central government’s apathy towards the employees of both the paper mills have resulted in 49 premature deaths including two suicide cases. He said, “These people could not pay their medical expenses and hence, succumbed to their ailments.”
To pay respect to the 49 deceased employees, other employees of both the paper mills held candlelight rallies on December 24. Moreover, to bring the condition to the Prime Minister’s notice, who was visiting Assam to inaugurate the Bogibeel bridge, the employees of Nagaon Paper Mill on December 25, formed human chains in front of the paper mill. The employees of Cachar Paper Mill on December 5 had also formed human chains during the Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s visit before the Panchayat elections.
THE HUGE "CANDLE MARCH" HELD TODAY TO PAY HOMAGE TO THOSE 49 INNOCENT WORKERS OF CACHAR & NAGAON PAPER MILLS OF ASSAM WHO DIED DUE TO NEGLECTING & TORTURING ATTITUDES OF THE GOVERNMENT.
While the employees have been lobbying actively for the revival of the paper mills for close to a year, prospects of a brighter future look bleak. Chakraborty said that the employee unions have urged to both the central and state governments multiple times over the last year but to no avail.
Cachar Paper Mill, a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the larger Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HCPL) is the lone heavy industrial undertaking in south Assam and the adjoining states of Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura, which started its production in 1987.
Before the closure of the mill on October 20, 2015, it had a production capacity of 300 metric tonnes (MT) of writing and newsprint paper a day, while annually, it could produce up to one lakh metric tonnes of paper. Dipak Nath, Secretary of Officer and Supervisor Association at Cachar Paper Mill, while talking to The Logical Indian said that the paper mill sustains the small township of Panchagram and its surrounding villages. “Business in the town has gone down by 50% ever since the mill shut down operations in 2015,” added Nath.
Surojit Ghosh, General Secretary of Centre Of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), while talking to The Logical Indian said, “Bamboos worth Rs 50 crore, and coal worth Rs 10 crores have been wasted since the mill has been dysfunctional for two and a half years.”
The Nagaon Paper Mill, located just 80 km from Guwahati is another dying mill under HCPL which also needs revival. This mill shut down its production in 2017 under similar circumstances. Both the paper mills, which serve as important serves as a means of sustenance for rural hinterlands of Assam, have been shut and jobs have been lost. The Logical Indian urges the authorities involved to look into the matter at the earliest and find a probable solution to the problem which has been plaguing the employees for close to two years.
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