HPCL mills national assets, can’t be sold to private entity: JACRU

GUWAHATI: The Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of Nagaon and Cachar Paper Mills has threatened not to allow “occupation” of land and property of the two HPCL mills in Assam by any private entity.

Instead, the committee urged the government to revive and safeguard the national assets, which have been non-functional for the past few years.

The Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district have been non-functional since October 2015 and March 2017, respectively.

Nagaon Paper Mill (File picture)

Both mills are under the central government-controlled Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) and had to be shut because of shortage of working capital.

JACRU expressed serious concern over the government’s attempt to sell all assets of two mills at throwaway prices by bringing down the base price from Rs 1139 crore in May last year, Rs 530.97 crore last month to Rs 429 crore as notified by the liquidator vide an auction notice on February 15, 2022.

“Such a drop in the auction price is not acceptable to the people of Assam. On the one hand, the ‘double-engine BJP government at the Centre and Assam talks about nationalism and self-reliant India (Atmanirbhar Bharat) and on the other, it makes an attempt to sell off national assets to private companies,” JACRU president Manobendra Chakraborty said on Thursday.

“JACRU is committed to protect national wealth at any cost and will not allow any private party to occupy its land and valuable movable and immovable assets,” Chakraborty asserted.

He further said that the umpteen pleas to the governments at the Centre and state to revive the two mills had in the past been ignored.

“India is procuring pulp and paper from other countries by spending more than Rs 80000 crore per annum to meet domestic consumption, a fact which was disclosed in Parliament by Union minister of road and transport Nitin Gadkari. So, we are becoming more reliant on other countries contrary to the Centre’s commitments of making India self-reliant,” Chakraborty observed.

Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram

He regretted the fact that despite the Northeast having abundant raw materials, the region has remained backward as the industries were being destroyed.

“JACRU demands that the national assets should remain in the custody of the nation, either with central or state government, and the Centre should extend all financial support to the state government to revive the industries and honour the commitment made to the people of Assam so that the jobs of 4 lakh youths may be restored directly or indirectly,” Chakraborty said.

He further pointed out that the salaries of the mill workers/employees have been withheld for over 61 months, and that, during the interim, 99 employees have lost their lives owing to various compelling circumstances while four of them have died by suicide.

While the employees/workers of Cachar Paper Mill have not received their salaries since December 2016, those at Nagaon Paper Mill have not been paid their monthly dues since February 2017.

“However, we once again appeal to the government to reconsider their commitments and revive the industries. The mills need to be protected as national entities to avoid social unrest while any attempt to handover the assets may warrant huge resentment which is not desirable at any cost,” he added.

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