Two paper mills of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL), in Assam have come under the radar after employees working in the units have been dying of poor medical care, as they have no money to pay for it. The recent death was reported on Sunday, March 13, of a 63-year-old Bazlul Hakim Laskar.
He was a technician at the electrical recovery department and was diagnosed with prolonged diabetes and kidney-related ailments. Laskar was suffering for a long time but could not afford the needed treatment owing to the financial crisis. His health deteriorated at around 11:00 pm, and he took his last breath at his residence. The worker's last rites were performed on Monday, March 14.
Fatalities On The Rise
With Laskar, the death toll among the workers has risen to 101. He, too, was one of many mill employees whose salaries have been pending for nearly 62 months (5 years and counting).
The fatalities are of the employees who worked at the Cacher Paper Mill in the Hailakandi district and the Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in the Morigaon district.
In February, another employee, Manindra Chandra Das, had died of a severe heart attack. The 56-year-old was reported ill for the past two years but was still hoping to get his pending salary and dues cleared and buy quality medical care.
Last year, in December, 62-year-old Mohan Singh, a native of Binnakandi in the Cachar district, died while being taken to a hospital in Shillong. He was suffering from liver and heart disease. He was an employee of the Cachar Paper Mill and is now survived by his wife and four children. He was suffering from the disease before the mill closed in 2015, but hoped for proper medical treatment. With no work and savings, stress took on his deteriorating health.
Mills Non-Functional For Years
According to the Northeast Now report, the Cachar unit has not been operating since October 2015. The same goes for the Nagaon unit, which went non-functional in March 2017. With the closures, hundreds of people were rendered jobless.
Reportedly, the authorities were asked to revive the non-operational paper mills, but no steps were taken despite repeated pleas. Instead, the mills are currently under liquidation.
Remit Workers' Dues To Avoid More Deaths
Speaking to EastMojo, President of Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of the two mills, Manobendra Chakraborty, expressed his condolences to the bereaved families.
Chakraborty said while some workers succumbed to severe diseases, others died of stress and trauma of unpaid income. The President accused the government of the deaths, stating that the workers had hoped the authorities' helping hand to take them out of slumber and help clear the dues.
He stressed remitting mills workers' dues to avoid more deaths. Chakraborty threatened of launching a protest if the government did not address the concern.
According to the report, in 2021, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had assured to resolve the pending salary issue.
For the same, the government had announced a relief package of Rs 570 crore for the employees within two months on approval by the National Company Law Tribunal of the proposal submitted by the Assam government.
On Monday, Sarma spoke on the matter and confirmed that the government was working towards providing relief and disbursed the package.
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