Opposition Congress and various other organizations and individuals in Assam urged the state government to stop the sale of Nagaon and Cachar paper mills, owned by Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd (HPCL).
The paper mills are listed to be e-auctioned as “scrap” on June 30.
Production at the HPCL’s Cachar Paper Mill (CPM) in Hailakandi district closed on October 20, 2015 while the Nagaon Paper Mill (NPM) at Jagiroad has remained shut since March 13, 2017. Over 2,500 employees of both have not received salaries for over four years.
Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev, in a letter to Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, requested him to stop the sale of the two important paper mills.
“Kerala government took over the unit of Hindustan Newsprint Ltd at Kottayam. Your government recently approved the biggest-ever investment of over Rs 2,000 crore to raise Assam government’s stake in the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL) in Golaghat to 26 per cent from the 12.5 per cent. I hope the Assam government will show the same spirit and rescue the two paper mills and protect the interest of the employees from going into private hands at a meagre cost of Rs 1,100 odd crore,” she said.
Dev noted that the CPM in Panchgram is the only public sector industry in Assam’s Barak Valley and prime minister Narendra Modi himself had repeatedly assured that these industries would be revived in the greater interest of Assam.
During the recently-held assembly election, Union home minister Amit Shah also renewed his assurance to save the two mills, she added.
“More pertinently the election manifesto of BJP also gave commitment for the re-opening of the NPM although, to our dismay, there was no mention of the CPM,” Dev said.
The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) recently allowed the HPCL to hold an e-auction of the two paper mills on June 30.
President of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the unions of the two paper mills, Manabendra Chakraborty said that the value of the assets of the two mills would be at least Rs 5,000 crore even though the reserve price for the e-auction has been set at Rs 1,139 crore.
“Last year only, the NCLT asked the HPCL to resume the production of the two paper mills. But mysteriously the NCLT, all of a sudden, changed its decision,” he said. According to the JAC, so far 87 poverty-stricken workers of the two mills have died, four of them by suicide.