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Call to reopen Dhubri Match Factory

By AF Ashiqure Rahman

GOLAKGANJ, Nov 6 � The fate of nearly 1,700 workers at the 88-year-old Dhubri Match Factory is now hanging in a balance. Due to the alleged mismanagement by the match factory authorities, the facility, which was once recognised as a prized unit of the chain of five WIMCO match factories in the country, has remained closed since 1997.

When the other WIMCO match factories in Mumbai, Chennai, Bareilly and Kolkata were facing losses, it was the Dhubri unit which reportedly kept the stakes of the company high. But now due to the alleged mismanagement of the WIMCO authorities and the 1997 Supreme Court verdict against the felling of trees, the Dhubri Match Factory is in the doldrums.

Shamol Sanyal, social worker based in Dhubri town, said that the short-sightedness of the Wimco authorities is proved by the fact that despite the availability of the requisite infrastructure at the Dhubri Match Factory to switch over from making cardboard match boxes to waxed match sticks in view of the Supreme Court ban, this has not been done. As a result, the Dhubri Match Factory has remained closed since 1997 and its workers are now living in abject poverty with the fear of a permanent closure of the factory haunting them.

The match factory was set up in 1925 by a renowned Swedish company. It also put Dhubri on the industrial map of the country. The match factory was established at Dhubri as it had the required raw materials for the then wood-based enterprise. The Swedish company acquired 132 bighas of land to set up the match factory and brought the initial batches of workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In the course of time, the venture flourished and became the biggest match factory in the country. It was then known as the Assam Match Company�s (AMCO�s) Dhubri Match Factory.

In 1979, the Zathia Group of Industries took over the match factory. A large number of local workers were required and the new owners renamed the match factory as the Dhubri unit of the Western India Match Company (WIMCO). The workers� strength at the match factory swelled to 3,000 from the original 1,700 and the factory registered an annual income of Rs 1.5 crore.

But in 1988, the management reduced the number of workmen on the plea of introducing new machinery, leading to a tussle between the management and workers of the factory. The number of workers was further reduced in 1993 and 1997 when the Supreme Court imposed a ban on the felling of trees.

The workers of the match factory are now facing an uncertain situation. They have urged the State Government to prevail upon the WIMCO management to reopen the factory. �Otherwise, our families will be nowhere,� some workers told this correspondent.

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Call to reopen Dhubri Match Factory

GOLAKGANJ, Nov 6 � The fate of nearly 1,700 workers at the 88-year-old Dhubri Match Factory is now hanging in a balance. Due to the alleged mismanagement by the match factory authorities, the facility, which was once recognised as a prized unit of the chain of five WIMCO match factories in the country, has remained closed since 1997.

When the other WIMCO match factories in Mumbai, Chennai, Bareilly and Kolkata were facing losses, it was the Dhubri unit which reportedly kept the stakes of the company high. But now due to the alleged mismanagement of the WIMCO authorities and the 1997 Supreme Court verdict against the felling of trees, the Dhubri Match Factory is in the doldrums.

Shamol Sanyal, social worker based in Dhubri town, said that the short-sightedness of the Wimco authorities is proved by the fact that despite the availability of the requisite infrastructure at the Dhubri Match Factory to switch over from making cardboard match boxes to waxed match sticks in view of the Supreme Court ban, this has not been done. As a result, the Dhubri Match Factory has remained closed since 1997 and its workers are now living in abject poverty with the fear of a permanent closure of the factory haunting them.

The match factory was set up in 1925 by a renowned Swedish company. It also put Dhubri on the industrial map of the country. The match factory was established at Dhubri as it had the required raw materials for the then wood-based enterprise. The Swedish company acquired 132 bighas of land to set up the match factory and brought the initial batches of workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In the course of time, the venture flourished and became the biggest match factory in the country. It was then known as the Assam Match Company�s (AMCO�s) Dhubri Match Factory.

In 1979, the Zathia Group of Industries took over the match factory. A large number of local workers were required and the new owners renamed the match factory as the Dhubri unit of the Western India Match Company (WIMCO). The workers� strength at the match factory swelled to 3,000 from the original 1,700 and the factory registered an annual income of Rs 1.5 crore.

But in 1988, the management reduced the number of workmen on the plea of introducing new machinery, leading to a tussle between the management and workers of the factory. The number of workers was further reduced in 1993 and 1997 when the Supreme Court imposed a ban on the felling of trees.

The workers of the match factory are now facing an uncertain situation. They have urged the State Government to prevail upon the WIMCO management to reopen the factory. �Otherwise, our families will be nowhere,� some workers told this correspondent.

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