GUWAHATI: Hit hard by liabilities leading to some of their colleagues committing suicide, the employees of two dying units of Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC) in Assam have demanded a “revival package” from the Centre.
The Nagaon Paper Mill (NPM) and the Cachar Paper Mill (CPM) are public sector undertakings (PSUs) under the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises with 100 per cent Central shareholding.
The NPM and the CPM — each with an installed capacity of 1 lakh metric tonnes per annum — started commercial production from October 1985 and April 1988 respectively.
Operations at the CPM have remained suspended since September 2015 while the NPM suspended operations since March 2017. Employees have not received salaries since the end of 2016. The number of regular employees number around 1,500 but starting from bamboo cutting to production, the livelihood of two lakh people is linked to the two units.
They have a combined liabilities of Rs 1,400 crore and they are demanding a revival package of Rs 900 crore. “We need Rs 900 crore to resume operations. Around Rs 200 crore each will be needed as working capital for the two units while Rs 500 crore will be needed to make payments of dues and salaries of employees,” said Hemanta Kakati, president of NPM Officers and Supervisors’ Association.
Earlier, the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises had submitted a revival package of Rs 1,347 crore to Niti Aayog but there has not been any response so far.
“We are at the receiving end as many of us are burdened with liabilities vis-a-vis housing, car and other loans. Three employees committed suicide while several others received notices from the police as they have not been able to pay EMIs against loans,” said Atul Mahanta, vice-president of the Association.
He also said that around 70 children of NPM employees applied for free education in colleges under a scheme meant for below poverty line (BPL) families. Their parents drew salaries between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh a month but non-receipt of them for months together, besides liabilities, has suddenly turned them into paupers.
After making profits for about a decade, the HPC suffered a major setback in 2007-08 due to large-scale gregarious bamboo flowering in parts of the Northeast. The resultant crisis of raw materials continued for three to four years forcing the CPM to reduce its production volume. A subsequent ban on the extraction of bamboo from Mizoram had only compounded the problem.
For the NPM, non-execution of fresh agreement for bamboo supply with a tribal council was a big setback. For 30 years, the HPC received bamboos following an agreement with the council. After it refused to renew the pact, other bamboo traders took advantage of the situation. They hiked the prices which led to escalation of costs of paper production. The HPC also suffered due to the National Green Tribunal ban on mining and transportation of coal in Meghalaya. The phenomenal rise in cost of other raw materials, transportation and associated services also hiked production costs. Some major clients of the HPC are CBSE, NCERT, State Text Book Corporations of Assam, Bihar, UP, Gujarat, Maharashtra etc.