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Congress demands relief package for employees of two defunct HPCL paper mills


Guwahati, Sept 6: The Congress on Monday demanded that the Assam government should announce a relief package for employees of the two defunct paper mills of the Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL).

Addressing a press conference here, Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi, who has been appointed as the chairman of the party's Redressal Committee for HPCL employees, said, the liquidator through a notice on September 3 has directed 900 employees to vacate their quarters within 15 days which is "utterly inhuman, ridiculous, preposterous and devoid of any compassionate reasoning''.

The state government should show solidarity with the employees and come out with a relief package, including revival of the closed mills and payment of all dues to the employees, the MP said. Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Bhupen Kumar Borah had constituted an Employees' Redressal Committee on September 4 to look into the matters of the Nagaon and Cachar paper mills of the Hindusthan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). The committee members, led by Bordoloi, visited the Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad and took note of the longstanding problems of the employees and failure of the government to honour their repeated commitments to revive the industries. As many as 93 employees of the defunct mills had died in the last 58 months, he said.

''There are allegations in certain quarters that the reason behind liquidating the paper mills could be because the state government wants to give access to bamboo, the raw material for producing paper, to private companies to make ethanol which has high demand and value'', the MP claimed. He also urged the state government to clear its stand regarding the oil wells that exist within the premises of the Cachar Paper Mills in Panchgram.

''The government should not hand over any assets to private parties on a platter and we demand transparency on such deals'', Bordoloi added.

Meanwhile, the Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of both Nagaon and Cachar Mills has written to the liquidator to immediately withdraw the notice as it was in contravention of the order issued by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

''The liquidator has misinterpreted the law which may lead to industrial unrest and social turmoil as the workers are struggling for survival'', JACRU president Manadendra Chakraborty said.

The two paper mills -- Cachar Paper Mill and Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district -- both units of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited -- have been non-functional since October 2015 and March 2017 respectively. The BJP government had promised to revive the paper mills after Sarbananda Sonowal assumed charge as Chief Minister in 2016 and while campaigning for the assembly polls held this year. The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), after several rounds of meetings between all stakeholders and several hearings, had ordered the liquidator on April 26 to sell the entire HPC as per the decision of the NCLAT.

Accordingly, the HPC Liquidator Kuldeep Verma in June one had issued advertisements seeking bids for the e-auction of the company at a reserve price of Rs 1,139 but there were no bidders till the last date on June 15. Subsequently, on June 22, a new auction notice for the sale of the two mills was issued by the liquidator at a reserve price of Rs 969 crore, Rs 170 lower than the previous price.

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