paper mill assam
File image of Nagaon Paper Mill in Assam

Guwahati: Another employee of the defunct Nagaon Paper Mill of the Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) died on Saturday in Assam, taking the total fatalities since the closure of the PSU’s two mills in the state to 92, including four suicides, a union leader claimed.

Dharani Saikia, the 61-year-old employee who was suffering from diabetes, hypertension and heart-related ailments, died following a massive cardiac arrest at Jagiroad in Morigaon district, President of Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of both Nagaon and Cachar Mills, Manabendra Chakraborty, said.

Saikia did not get proper medical treatment, he said.

Also Read: Assam: Another employee of closed PSU paper mill dies; toll up to 91

This is the fourth death of an employee of the closed units since June 14 and the sixth in the last two and a half months since the second BJP government, led by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, assumed office, according to Chakraborty.

Eighty-five others had died either due to starvation or lack of medical treatment during the tenure of his predecessor Sarbananda Sonowal, he claimed.

”Most of the employees who died did not receive proper treatment as they had not received their salaries or dues for the last 55 months. These are not normal deaths. They are dying due to the apathy of the authorities”, he said.

Chakraborty appealed to both the state and central government to fulfil their commitments and release all legal dues of the workers and save the lives of the remaining employees.

The two paper mills — Cachar Paper Mill and Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district — were units of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited. They have been non-functional since October 2015 and March 2017 respectively.

The BJP government had promised to revive the paper mills since Sonowal assumed power in 2016 and while campaigning for the assembly polls held earlier this year, the party had said that steps will be taken to revive the mills.

The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), after several rounds of meetings between all stakeholders and a number of hearings, had ordered the liquidator on April 26 to sell all assets of the two closed paper mills as per the decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

Accordingly, the HPC Liquidator Kuldeep Verma in June one issued advertisements seeking bids for the e-auction of the company at a reserve price of Rs 1,139 but there were no bidders till the last date on June 15.

Subsequently on June 22, a new auction notice for the sale of the two mills was issued by the liquidator at a reserve price of Rs 969 crore, Rs 170 lower than the previous price.

Opposition parties – the Congress, AIUDF and the Assam Jatiya Parishad – have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the state chief minister to intervene and ensure that the paper mills are not auctioned but steps are taken to revive them. PTI DG NN

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