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Regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

One-time grant irks mill unions

Unions and various organisations demand a permanent solution to the issue

Swapnaneel Bhattacharjee Silchar Published 13.02.20, 06:57 PM
The mills — Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district — have been non-functional since October 2015 and March 2017, respectively.

The mills — Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district — have been non-functional since October 2015 and March 2017, respectively. File picture

The Assam government’s initiative of providing one-time financial aid to the children of employees of the two paper mills in Assam for their education has evoked sharp reactions from the mills’ unions and various organisations.

The mills — Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district — have been non-functional since October 2015 and March 2017 respectively.

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Their employees have not got their salaries for the past 36 and 34 months.

The state government had in January this year announced a one-time financial assistance for the education of children of employees of the two mills. As part of this, cheques were handed over to a large number of the employees’ children by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, accompanied by education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in Guwahati on Wednesday.

The move, however, did not apparently go down well with the mills’ unions and various organisations, which have been demanding a permanent solution to the issue.

Manabendra Chakraborty, the president of the Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU), told The Telegraph on Thursday that the government’s step to provide one-time financial help is not a permanent solution.

“The move, moreover, is discriminatory and divisive. The financial aid is applicable for children of those employees who are currently in service. What about the retired employees’ children? What about the children of those employees who passed away in service? This will surely cause a divide between the employees whose children received the financial aid with those whose children did not,” he said.

Chakraborty said providing one-time financial grant cannot be a long-term solution as children, who got the aid, will have to continue suffering with their parents not getting salaries.

“What’s the point of giving money for education when the children will have to remain hungry (because of poverty)?” he asked. “We do not want this piece-by-piece solution. We want a permanent, complete solution,” he added.

Supriyo Bhattacharjee, a convener of the Kagaj Kal Banchao Joutha Mancha, a conglomerate of various trade unions and mass organisations, said the government has taken the initiative just to “save its face”.

“They (the government) had given many assurances on the mills’ revival and remittance, but failed to fulfil the commitment. The move to provide financial grant to the employees’ children was nothing but to save them from more embarrassment.”

Dipak Chandra Nath, the general secretary of the Cachar Paper Mill Officers and Supervisors’ Association, said the state government’s initiative was appreciable, but it is not a proper solution. “Had the government been more prompt and active, the mills would perhaps become operational and the dues paid. It would not have had to come up with the idea of giving temporary relief with its one-time financial assistance scheme.”

He also appealed to the government to treat the issue on a priority basis and take it up with the Centre so that the industries and lakhs of people, directly and indirectly associated with them, are saved.

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