Assam gov’t announces relief package for defunct paper mills

Package worth Rs 570 crores, plus gov't will take over assets of Nagaon and Cachar paper mills
paper mill
In some relief for employees of two defunct paper mills belonging to Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd. (HPCL) in Nagaon and Cachar, the Assam state government has announced a relief package worth Rs 570 crores. It has also agreed to take over assets of the mills spread of 2,000 acres. 
The announcement was made after Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma presided over a meeting with representatives of the mills and workers late on Tuesday night in Guwahati. The four-hour long meeting concluded in the early hours of Wednesday morning, after which Sarma said, “Finally reached agreement with the workers and employees of Hindustan Paper Corporation to resolve long pending issues of their salaries and dues.Discussion lasted over 4 hours in my office and concluded at 2 AM. Back to home now. Will leave for north Assam tour at 8 AM.”

As many as 1,200 workers had lost their jobs and therefore a steady source of income, when production stopped at the Cachar mill on October 20, 2015 and at the Nagaon mill from March 13, 2017. They had not been paid for over 50 months and had been demanding that the mills be revived. As many as 95 workers have died since the mills shut down. 
The mill revival was a major poll issue as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself assured that the mills would be revived. While campaigning for the 2021 Assam assembly elections, Union Minister Amit Shah also promised that the paper mills would be revived.  
But in a shocking turn of events, liquidation process was initiated under directions from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT). This is because HPCL owes Alloys and Metals India about Rs 98 crores that the latter wants to recover. HPCL was also unable to continue operations due to shortage of working capital. However, though the auction was initially set for June 2021, there were delays as no private entity deposited the requisite earnest money of Rs 55 crores by June 15, reported The Hindu. The reserve price was set at Rs 1,139 crores.

Meanwhile associations of officers and employees had moved court challenging the liquidation. At the hearing on June 16, when the court was informed that earnest money had not been received, the court observed that e-auction was not going to take place.
Now that the liquidation has been scrapped and a relief package has been announced, workers’ unions are focusing on the details of the relief package, to ensure the workers get justice. Manobendra Chakraborty, president of the Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) for the two mills, told The Telegraph, “It is the first step towards a solution to our long-standing problems. The Rs 570 crore package will take care of 28 months’ salary and other dues but the government has assured it will not prejudice the claims of workers pending in courts.”



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