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Mill workers mull protests before PM

Workers’ unions of Cachar and Nagaon paper mills to protest closure and pending salaries
Committee members address the news conference in Silchar on Wednesday.
Committee members address the news conference in Silchar on Wednesday.
Picture by Swapnaneel Bhattacharjee

Swapnaneel Bhattacharjee   |   Silchar   |   Published 02.01.19, 06:42 PM

The HPC Paper Mills Revival Action Committee, a conglomerate of workers’ unions of Cachar and Nagaon paper mills in Assam, will stage a protest when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Barak Valley on Friday, demanding revival of the units and payment of pending salaries.

Modi, who will visit Barak Valley for the second time after becoming the Prime Minister, will address a gathering at Ramnagar, around 4km from here.

Baharul Islam Barbhuiya, a convener of the committee, told reporters here on Wednesday that they want to make it absolutely clear to the Centre through the protest that they will not remain silent till the mills are made functional and the pending salaries are released.

Cachar Paper Mill, the only major industrial undertaking in Barak Valley, is located at Panchgram in Hailakandi district, around 24km from here, while the Nagaon Paper Mill is situated at Jagiroad in Morigaon district, around 332km from here.

Barbhuiya said though lakhs of people, including workers and their families, have been suffering because of non-payment of salaries for the past 24 months, the government continues to remain oblivious and shows no urgency to initiate steps to resolve the matter.

Convener Azizur Rahman Mazumder said Modi, during campaigning in Barak Valley in 2016, had given assurances on the revival of Cachar Paper Mill, but nothing has happened so far. “We are left with no option but to hit the streets for our rights and existence. Protests will be intensified if the government does not take steps to revive the mills and remit the salaries soon.”

He said 49 workers have died since the mills became defunct and attributed poverty, trauma and lack of treatment for the deaths. “The government is solely responsible,” he said.

Another convener, Sanjeev Roy, echoed Mazumder. “The government does not care whether the workers are suffering, their families are starving or their children are not able to go to school.”

The committee members, however, did not mention the protest site. It said the decision on the location would be taken later and urged local organisations and civil society groups to join the movement and raise a strong and united voice for the interest of the people.

A senior official of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited told The Telegraph over phone on Wednesday evening that there was no information about the status of the mills’ revival and payment of pending salaries.

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