Union slams govt as staff death toll of defunct Assam paper mills rises to 100

Guwahati: An employee of the now non-operational Cachar Paper Mill passed away on Sunday evening, taking the death toll of workers of two Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL)-owned ‘closed’ paper mills, including Nagaon Paper Mill, to 100.

“Manindra Chandra Das, 56, an employee of Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram, died of a severe heart attack around 7.30pm on Sunday. It is extremely unfortunate that in a welfare state like India, 100 premature deaths have occurred, including four by suicide, under various compelling circumstances. There is immense financial distress among the workers as salaries have been withheld for over 61 months now,” Manobendra Chakraborty, president of Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of Nagaon and Cachar Paper Mills, said on Monday.

It may be noted that 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.

“Currently, the other workers of the two mills are passing their days with unbearable suffering, stress and trauma, and have lost all hope to live life with dignity even as their salaries have not been paid for over five years now,” Chakraborty said.

On September 28 last year, there was “relief and optimism when the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led state government and the workers’ representatives reached an agreement to resolve their pending issues of salary payment and other dues after a marathon meeting.

According to the agreement, a relief package of Rs 570 crore was to be disbursed for the employees within two months on approval by the National Company Law Tribunal of the proposal submitted by the Assam government.

“Unfortunately, the relief package has not been provided till date. Hence, no one knows now how many more workers of the two mills will die under trauma and compelling circumstances,” the JACRU president rued.     

“While natural justice is rejected by the government and there is increase in inhuman torture, the only option remaining for us is to appeal to the citizens of national and international communities to help us and raise a voice for justice to save lives and livelihoods of two lakh youths and the future generation,” Chakraborty said. 

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