Assam paper mills’ staff toll rises to 105 after back-to-back deaths
Koliman Basumatary

GUWAHATI: Back-to-back deaths of ailing employees of two closed paper mills, formerly owned by Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL), and now taken over by the Assam government, have taken the staff toll to 105.

Koliman Basumatary, 57, an ailing employee of the Nagaon Paper Mill, passed away on Monday at his residence at Dewshal village in Jagiroad under the Morigaon district. Basumatary died of a severe cardiac attack around 4 pm on Monday.

The unfortunate news comes just a day after Hizfur Rahman (54), another ailing employee of Cachar Paper Mill and a resident of Badarpur Ghat in Karimganj district, passed away at a nursing home in Silchar on Sunday evening.

“Basumatary passed away at his residence in Dewshal village yesterday after a severe cardiac attack. As it is, he was suffering from serious heart diseases but could not afford the desired treatment due to financial crisis in the wake of nonpayment of salary for the past 64 months,” Manobendra Chakraborty, president of the Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of the Nagaon and Cachar paper mills, informed in a statement on Tuesday.

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

“With two deaths back-to-back, the death toll of employees of the two mills has now gone up to 105, including four deaths by suicide. This is also the 20th death after the new government in Assam came to power in May last year,” Chakraborty said.

“The workers have lost all hope to live life with dignity as they are unable to meet the expenses of medical treatment with their salaries not paid for the past five years,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Assam government took over the assets of the paper mills at Jagiroad and Panchgram, with Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) declared the successful bidder.

It may be noted that although the Assam government had no stake in the paper mills, it has been relentlessly pursuing to resolve the matter on humanitarian grounds.

The government had announced a general relief package of Rs 700 crore, which includes settlement of various outstanding dues of employees and workers of HPCL’s assets at Nagaon and Cachar paper mills. 

The Assam government and the representatives of officers and supervisors’ associations and workers unions of the HPCL (in liquidation) had signed an agreement to this effect. 

The Cabinet approved a relief package of Rs 700 crore on September 30, 2021.

Also read: Assam: RPF rescues 4 minors, arrests 3 traffickers in one week

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