SILCHAR, July 20 - The closure of the Cachar and Nagaon Paper Mill, units of the State-owned Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) since 2015, has increased the woes of the family members of the mill employees.
In the words of Debodeepa Dhar, daughter of Jyotindra Dhar, an employee of Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram and a resident of Sonai Road Silchar, �Our life has been badly hit because of the closure of the mill. My father is having no salary since the mill was put under lock and key and now he has stopped my tuition and art classes because he cannot bear the expenses any more. We are being haunted with the bleak future of the mill.�
According to sources, so far as many as 15 employees have died (11 from the Cachar Paper Mill and four others at the Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad), while one employee allegedly committed suicide for the need of money for medical treatment. The Cachar Paper Mill has 680 employees.
�We are on the threshold of starvation. Our husbands are not getting salaries for the past 10 months despite the mill being a unit of the Government of India. We are deeply worried as we might have to sell our homes to pay the dues of Income Tax, LIC etc.,� said Sarbajaya Biswas and Dolly Dey, wives of the employees of Cachar Paper Mill.
Kamal Chakraborty, a former employee of the Cachar Paper Mill, has blamed the apathy of the HPCL management for such a situation. �Around 75,000 tonnes of bamboo is lying rotten in the mill campus and there has been no production. We were assured by the government of a certain resumption of production, but nothing has materialised so far dragging the lives of so many people into the mercy of the Almighty.�
On the other hand, the family members and children of the mill employees staged a protest demonstration at the pedestal of Khudiram Bose on Wednesday. Besides the family members, State BJP spokesperson Rajdeep Roy, former president of Cachar district BJP Kaushik Rai, frontline leader of INTUC Kishore Bhattacharjee, Deepan Dewanji and leader of CITU Supriyo Bhattacharjee extended support to their demands.
Kaushik Rai read out the assurances sent by the government for the release of the salaries. Also, questions were raised on the performance of former Union Minister for Heavy Industries Santosh Mohan Dev vis-a-vis the pathetic status of the mill.
Later, the family members of the employees sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Union Minister for Heavy industries and Public Enterprises through the Deputy Commissioner, Cachar with copies of the same to Chief Minister in which they demanded immediate release of their salaries, resumption of production in the mill and a CBI probe into the reasons behind the sick status of the mill.
It may be mentioned that in 2015, the government, in reply to a question raised by Silchar MP Susmita Dev, had made it clear that the Centre has no plan to modernise the Cachar Paper Mill.