Highway blockade over dues

Several organisations, including the workers' unions of Cachar and Nagaon paper mills, blocked National Highway 37 at Jagiroad in Morigaon district on Wednesday, demanding payment of the workers' pending salaries and revival of both the industrial enterprises in Assam.

By Swapnaneel Bhattacharjee in Silchar
  • Published 13.09.18
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Protesters block National Highway at Jagiroad in Morigaon district on Wednesday. Picture by Swapnanel Bhattacharjee

Silchar: Several organisations, including the workers' unions of Cachar and Nagaon paper mills, blocked National Highway 37 at Jagiroad in Morigaon district on Wednesday, demanding payment of the workers' pending salaries and revival of both the industrial enterprises in Assam.

Police reached the spot around 12.45pm and detained nearly 1,000 protesters. They were released around 3pm.

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

The mill workers, along with their family members, in massive numbers converged in front of Nagaon Paper Mill around 10.30am and blocked the highway, paralysing vehicular movement for hours. The protesters, carrying placards, raised slogans in unison against the government's alleged apathy towards the mills, which have been lying defunct for years.

Manabendra Chakraborty, president of the Cachar Paper Project Workers' Union, said the workers had been suffering for the past many months but the government did not initiate steps to resolve the matter.

He alleged that the government is deliberately silent over the issue to extend unethical benefits to private/corporate companies.

"The government has a special rapport with corporate classes and it is helping private parties gain huge profits by keeping the mills closed," Chakraborty said.

Taking a jibe at the Sarbananda Sonowal government, he said though the chief minister had given assurances on clearing the workers' dues, several times in the past those promises were found to be bogus.

"Many workers have died because of stress and trauma in the past 19 months. Is the government waiting for more such deaths?" Chakraborty asked.

He threatened that the workers' union would stage a dharna in front of the chief minister's residence. "The date will be finalised and announced soon," he added.

Anand Bordoloi, general secretary of the Kagaj Nigam Karmi Union, said the workers have already suffered a lot over the past many months. The government must take initiatives to clear the workers' dues at the earliest, he added. Bordoloi also pitched for the mills' revival.

A senior official of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) said Rs 90 crore had been allocated recently under a supplementary budget by both the Houses of Parliament (as per recommendation of President Ram Nath Kovind) for payment of the workers' salaries.

The amount is yet to reach the HPCL, he added.