The employees of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited’s defunct Cachar Paper Mill in Panchgram of Hailakandi district on Thursday voted for a “change”.
The mill workers and their family members had voted in the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 Assembly polls but boycotted the panchayat elections last year over non-revival of the mill and non-payment of pending salaries.
A woman worker of the mill said, “We voted this time for a change as we want the mill to be revived and our dues cleared.”
Panchgram falls in the Karimganj (Scheduled Caste) Lok Sabha constituency.
There are 1,300 voters in two polling booths in Panchgram. Congress president Rahul Gandhi during a poll campaign at the Intuc field of Panchgram on April 9 had said the mill would be revived within six months if the Congress came back to power.
The HPC Paper Mills Revival Action Committee also submitted memoranda twice to Rahul, seeking the mill’s revival.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also promised to revive the mills before the 2016 Assembly polls. A convener of the committee, Azizur Rahman Mazumdar, alleged that Modi had visited Barak Valley twice before the Lok Sabha polls but never said anything about the mill’s revival. He added that the mill workers also campaigned against the BJP’s “false promise” and urged people across the valley to think about their own conditions before exercising their franchise.
Mazumdar said 51 mill employees have died so far. Of them, two committed suicide owing to penury. He said they were unable to pay for their children’s education, treatment or insurance policies.
He said owing to the closure of Cachar Paper Mill of Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill of Jagiroad in Morigaon district, at least 2 lakh people have been affected.
Following the suspension of production at both the mills, a crisis of paper has occurred in the domestic market. The price of paper is being controlled by the private parties. Private parties have doubled the price of paper and the country is being compelled to import paper from China, Korea and Bangladesh to meet the domestic requirement, one of the memoranda said.
Cachar Paper Mill falls under Karimganj (SC) constituency, while Nagaon Paper Mill under Nowgong constituency.
Both the constituencies went to the polls on Thursday. The distance between both the paper mills is about 450km. Panchgram is approximately 350km from the state headquarters, Guwahati.