paper mill assam
File image of Nagaon Paper Mill in Assam

Silchar: Various unions of Assam’s two paper mills have expressed optimism over Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma‘s announcement that they would release a financial package of Rs 500 crore by June 30 for employees and workers of the two now-defunct industrial units.

The two mills—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.

Their employees have not received their salaries for the past 64 and 62 months, respectively. According to the mills’ unions, at least 106 employees have died (including the death on Sunday) after the industrial units became non-functional, mostly due to poverty, trauma and lack of medical treatment.

Himanta, who was in Diphu on Wednesday, said: “We will release a financial package of Rs 500 crore to the workers and employees of the two paper mills by June 30 to provide relief to the workers and reward their years of hard work.”

Manabendra Chakraborty, president, Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions, told EastMojo on Thursday that they are hopeful that the government will fulfil its commitment of releasing Rs 500 crore by June 30 and provide relief to the two industries’ employees.

“The government had made several such promises in the past. In September last year, it had signed an agreement with various unions of the mills as per which it was to release a financial package of Rs 570 crore for the mills’ employees. Last month, the Assam cabinet approved the release of Rs 308 crore, but nothing happened. Now, the chief minister has announced another financial package of Rs 500 crore. We hope the government keeps its promise this time unlike on earlier occasions,” Chakraborty said.

He said the financial package would not cover all their dues. “As per our information, this (financial package) will cover only a portion of our dues. Provident Fund and pension money are not being covered under this. The picture will become clearer after the financial package is released and we receive the money,” he said.

Dipak Chandra Nath, general secretary, Cachar Paper Mill Officers and Supervisors’ Association, said they appreciate the government’s move of deciding to release the financial package of Rs 500 crore and bring some respite for the mills’ employees. “Himanta Biswa Sarma is a very proactive leader. We hope he will fulfil his commitment and release the financial package by June 30. We will be indebted to him forever,” Nath said.

He said the picture (about how much money they will get and how much dues will be left) would clear up after the financial package is released. “As of now, we are not sure how much we will get. The picture will be clear after the release of the financial package,” he said.

Santosh Bhattacharjee, secretary, Family Members and Citizens’ Forum, HPC (Cachar Paper Mill unit), said they are confident that the government will release the package of Rs. 500 crore by June 30. “After Himanta Biswa Sarma became the chief minister of Assam, the paper mills’ issue got proper attention. We have full faith in him (Himanta), and we believe the financial package will be released by June 30 as promised by the chief minister,” he said.

He said the financial package would cover the mills’ employees, contractual workers and the families of deceased employees (who died after the industrial units ceased functioning).

Azizur Rahman Mazumder, general secretary, Cachar Paper Project Workers and Employees’ Union, said the mills’ employees have been facing untold hardships for years because of the financial crunch and many have died helplessly after not being able to afford medical treatment despite suffering from various ailments. “Life is becoming tougher and tougher for the mills’ employees day by day. The government must release the financial package by June 30 and bring some smile to the faces which have not smiled for years,” he said.

Also read: Assam Congress to hold protest against Delhi Police entering party HQ

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