Cachar Paper Mill's premises.

Silchar: Amid growing opposition from a large section of workers of Dolu tea estate in Assam’s Cachar district over the government’s decision to set up a greenfield airport in the tea estate, the All Barak Youth Students’ Association (ABYSA) has demanded that the proposed airport be built on the premises of the non-functional Cachar Paper Mill in Panchgram in Hailakandi district.

Cachar Paper Mill, the only industry in Barak Valley, has been lying non-functional since October 2015. It is about 24 km from Silchar town.

In a press release on Wednesday, the ABYSA alleged that the government is trying to capture the land in Dolu tea estate for setting up the airport without caring about the future of the tea estate’s workers. A huge number of tea bushes will be destroyed if the project is materialised and this is not acceptable, the association has stated.

It said a large section of the tea garden’s workers and various organisations are opposing the airport’s construction in the tea garden and the government should consider their views and opinions, and take a judicious decision. Further, the association stressed that the proposed airport be built in Panchgram, which is equidistant from the three districts (Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi) of Barak Valley.

The president of the Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of the state’s two paper mills Manabendra Chakraborty told EastMojo on Friday that they strongly oppose ABYSA’s demand.

“We will never let this (setting up of the airport in Cachar Paper Mill’s premises) happen. The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) had, in connection with a hearing over the paper mills’ issue, ordered that the two mills should be kept as ‘going concern’ (running units) and the government should abide by the order,” he said.

He said they are hopeful that the government, which has already taken over the assets of the Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited, including the two mills, will take necessary steps to revive the industries soon.

“Revival of Cachar Paper Mill, which is the only industry in this industrially-backward Barak Valley, will help in employment generation and boost rural economy as well,” he said.

The general secretary of the Cachar Paper Mill Officers and Supervisors’ Association, Dipak Chandra Nath, said the chances of Cachar Paper Mill’s revival will be totally finished if the greenfield airport is set up on its premises. Setting up of the airport will also destroy the chances of industrial development and large-scale employment in the area in the future, Nath said. He added that the government should initiate steps as required so that the non-functional industrial units are reopened soon.

Last month, the All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) had demanded that the government should begin the process of setting up the greenfield airport at Dolu tea estate after proper consultation with the tea estate’s workers.

A large section of the workers, the AIUTUC feels, fear that they would lose employment if the project is materialised. The Forum for Social Harmony and Bagan Bachao Committee have also raised objections over construction of the greenfield airport in Dolu, claiming the project’s materialisation would result in a huge number of workers losing their jobs.

Silchar BJP MP Rajdeep Roy said a section of “evil elements”, by “brainwashing” the tea estate’s workers, is trying so that the airport project does not materialise. The government will act tough against any conspiracy against the project. The government will also ensure that the tea estate’s workers are not deprived of their rights and employment, he added.

The idea of setting up of the greenfield airport in Cachar district’s Dolu tea estate gained certainty on January 21, 2022 which Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had announced at a programme at Silchar Medical College and Hospital that the new airport in Cachar would be built in Dolu.

With time, the project’s work progressed with signing of a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Dolu tea company private limited, various trade unions representing the tea garden workers and the district administration at the Cachar deputy commissioner’s office in Silchar on March 7.

Also read: Assam BJP, coalition partners meet on future govt schemes


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