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Hard-pressed printers draw the line
- Unpaid dues prompt panchayat poll boycott

Nov. 28: A printing press owner is not a likely find among casual workers at a PHE sanitation complex construction site, except perhaps here.

Allegedly denied their dues since 1992, several owners of printing presses have been doing odd jobs to keep their home fires burning. Some have even had to sell off their machines and equipment for money. Now, with panchayat polls round the corner, they have decided to strike where it hurts most.

Members of the Hailakandi District Printing Press Owners’ Association have threatened not to print rolls or other papers related to the forthcoming panchayat polls.

The association has issued an ultimatum to the district administration to clear their dues — a whopping Rs 27 lakh — and threatened not to print anything pertaining to the polls if their demand is not met.

The secretary of the association, Nikhil Chandra Dhar, said no money has been paid till date for papers and other documents printed for the panchayat elections of 1992 and 2001. The voters’ list for this year’s panchayat polls, too, has been printed, but no payment has been received, he said. Dhar said the authorities had assured them a few months ago that their dues would be cleared before Durga Puja and Id, but did not act on their promises.

The secretary said the first memorandum was submitted to the district administration on September 10, which was followed by another exactly a month later, but the authorities had not responded. This had prompted the press owners to issue the ultimatum, threatening not to co-operate during the elections, he said.

The press owners took their plight to the minister of excise and border areas development, Gautam Roy, last week. Roy promised to take up the matter with the panchayat and rural development minister so that the pending dues are cleared.

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