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Supply woes for Cachar mill

Silchar, Dec. 24: The Cachar paper mill, a Hindustan Paper Corporation enterprise at Panchgram under Hailakandi district, is now facing problems regarding the supply of essential commodities like bamboo and coal.

The supply of the bamboo from the nearby districts, and coal from Meghalaya, to the mill has been dwindling.

Arabinda Chakravarty, senior manager of the mill’s public relations and human resource development departments, told this correspondent that the amount of bamboo, that arrives from adjoining Dima Hasao district, has plummeted to an all-time low of 600 tonnes a day, against the demand for 1,200 tonnes every day.

The amount of coal received has now dwindled to an average of 300 to 400 tonnes a day, against an average of 575 tonnes a day earlier.

This has severely affected the production at the mill, which employs nearly 2,000 officials and workers.

As a direct fallout of the dwindling supply, Chakravarty added, the production level has been steadily declining.

The mill had an expected target of nearly 80,000 tonnes of paper in the current fiscal, 20,000 tonnes short of its target output figure of 100,000 tonnes.

Only for two consecutive fiscals —2006-07 and 2005-06 — the mill was able to surpass its production target since it began operations in the late eighties.

The mill was commissioned in 1988 at the cost of Rs 384.89 crore.

The production level touched the lowest mark in 2010-11 when it could produce only 52,781 tonnes of writing paper.

Moreover, the prices of bamboo and coal have been increasing steadily, forcing the mill to periodically postpone payment to its suppliers because of a financial crunch.

A source said the price of a tonne of bamboo, Rs 1,020 in 2005-06, has escalated to Rs 4,231 a tonne this fiscal, mainly because of alleged price manipulation by bamboo suppliers based in Cachar and Dima Hasao districts.

Chakravarty said, “Our condition is so desperate that we are now even forced to beg for the uninterrupted supply of the bamboo and coal from the suppliers.”

The Panchgram paper mill was forced to shut down twice in September and for three days in this month.

The HPC authorities, at its headquarters in Calcutta, had to import paper and wood from Andhra Pradesh and also from Indonesia and Malaysia three years ago. However, this was a temporary reprieve.

A few years ago, the Union ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises had sanctioned this mill Rs 275 crore to update its technology but to no avail.

A senior HPC official said they were toying with the idea of appealing to the Centre.