Guwahati, Oct 4: An association of contractors of a closed paper mill of the Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) in Assam Monday appealed to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to release pending dues of its members.
Addressing a press meet here, the Nagaon Paper Mill (NPM) Contractors Association president Narayan Prasad Sharma said before the paper mill becoming defunct in 2017, contractors, handling, and maintenance vendors of the association, especially bamboo growers and suppliers belonging to indigenous rural tribes, had supported the management for running the unit.
Observing that they did their assigned work sincerely, Sharma said due to the closure of the mill "we have become helpless and jobless. The amount we had spent on our various contract and supply work in Nagaon Paper Mill remains pending for the last five years".
Pointing out the receivable amounts by the contractor and suppliers have already been acknowledged and admitted by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), he said the Association is optimistic and has faith in the chief minister to look into the matter and take the initiative to solve the problems faced by them during their involvement with the debt-ridden mill under the Ministry of Heavy Industries. The Association's general secretary Lal Rajbhar said the Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district and the Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram in Hailakandi district – both HPCL units – are non-functional since March 2017 and October 2015 respectively.
The employers and workers have not been paid their salaries for a long period and their financial condition is worsening, Rajbhar said. At present, the matter of HPCL and its two mills – the Nagaon Paper Mill and the Cachar Paper Mill - in Assam is in the court of the National Company Law Tribunal which has given judgement for liquidation of assets of both the mills and release of payment among stockholder as per the norms of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (IBC) Code, 2016, he said.
The Association urged the chief minister to solve their financial hardship as he had announced a relief package of Rs 570 crore for those who lost their jobs due to the closure of the mills. The Assam government last week said it will acquire the assets of the two defunct mills and provide the relief package.
"The Rs 570 crore package will take care of 28 months' salary (of employees) and other dues but the government has assured it will not prejudice the claims of workers pending in courts," the Chief Minister had said. After the mills stopped operations, the employees protested on several occasions and moved courts seeking to revive the mills and clear their pending dues.
As many as 95 employees have died due to poor health since the mills shut down. At least three employees have died by suicide, a union leader had said on September 23.