Dhubri, March 11: Hundreds of AASU activists of the Bongaigaon unit staged a blockade on National Highway 37 at Kabaitary near Ashok Paper Mill of Jogighopa today demanding reopening of the mill.
The activists protested against industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi’s reply in the Assembly that the paper mill could not be reopened.
Responding to a question by AGP legislator Bhupen Roy on March 6, the minister said the mill could not be reopened as the machinery of the mill was outdated.
AASU and other organisations of Bongaigaon district have been demanding the mill’s reopening for a long time.
The reopening of the paper mill was also set down in the Assam Accord in 1985.
Expressing utter dismay, the Bongaigaon district unit president Chandan Medhi said the government had been delaying the reopening of the mill though Dispur and Delhi had made a commitment to reopen the mill in the Assam Accord signed 28 years ago.
“We burnt an effigy of industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi on March 9 and staged a blockade on National Highway 37 at Kabaitary. A delegation of the district unit of AASU will move to Swahid Bhawan soon and meet the central committee leaders and discuss the future course of action,” Medhi added.
Medhi said in view of growing unemployment among the youths, the paper mill was a viable industry where hundreds of youths could be absorbed directly and indirectly.
Hence, the organisation would intensify its movement in days to come and compel the government to reopen the mill.
Sources in AASU said the Centre and the state were implementing various schemes. Yet Bordoloi downplayed hope of reopening the mill.
Industrial sources in lower Assam expressed shock over the statement saying the paper mill was one of most viable and profit-making industries in lower Assam.
It produced the best quality paper in Asia but because of the indifferent attitude of the government, it had remained neglected.
“The paper mill, which began production on July 1, 1976, had come to a halt in March 1983 in the wake of losses incurred, misappropriation of funds, mismanagement, coupled with corruption at the high levels,” a source said.
The mill is situated over an area of 2,270 bighas and is continuously being encroached upon.
If the government did not take immediate steps to evict them, it would create another problem in the reopening of the mill, a source said.