JAGIROAD, Aug 2 - The employees of the two integrated units of the Central Government undertaking, Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC) Limited: the Nagaon Paper Mill (NPM) and the Cachar Paper Mill (CPM) have been forced to pass days of nightmares due to the uncertain future of the two mills which have been out of production since March 13, 2017 and October, 2015 respectively.
No clear hope for the revival of the two mills now facing the threat of a permanent closure is in sight even as the employees have been passing their lives in sheer desperation due to the non-payment of their monthly salaries since the end of 2016.
The fate of the 1500-odd employees of both the mills continues to hang in the balance for want of any clear and definite steps or decisions from the side of the Centre about their future.
Talking to this correspondent, Hemanta Kakati and Krishna Kanta Sutradhar, the president and the secretary respectively of the HPCL Officers and Supervisors Association (NPM) expressed their serious concern at the present scenario of the mills. �In manufacturing papers, our units were facing big setbacks due to increased transportation cost, increase in the cost of major input raw materials, besides other factors like bamboo-flowering, NGT ban on Meghalaya coal, low capacity utilisation-cum-higher production cost, low market realisation of the finished product leading to erosion in the financial health of the mills culminating in losses since the year 2009-10.� Regarding the current state of desperation of the employees they further added, �for more than eight months, our employees are not getting their salaries, terminal dues of the retired employees are not cleared in time, usual salary deductions like PF, LIC, Pension, Bank loan EMI etc., have also not been deposited with the concerned authorities for the last two years and naturally, therefore, we are getting highly apprehensive of our future� they further added.
Each of the two mills of the HPC Limited, the NPM and the CPM bear an installed capacity of 1 lakh metric tonne per year. They started their commercial production from October, 1985 and April, 1988 respectively. The location of both the mills is ideal in terms of being very near to the sources of the main raw material�bamboo, as it is abundantly available in the jungles of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts and in the forests of the State of Mizoram. The setting up of the mills in Assam had proved to be a major catalyst for industrial development in this region of the country opening up of avenues for employment and in adding substantially to the socio-economic development in the vicinities of the mills .
The Corporation soon after its inception marched along a period of glorious achievements, such as � 100 per cent capacity utilisation, earning net profit, upgradation to schedule �A� CPSE in 2007, attaining of the �Mini Ratna� status in 2009, MoU Excellence Award for FY 2005-06 and FY 2007-08, securing the ISO 9001/ISO 14001/OHSAS 18001 certifications etc.
What came as a major setback to the Company was the large-scale gregarious flowering of bamboo in the NE region in 2007 and 2008. This was followed by another setback which came in the form of the non-execution of a fresh agreement on bamboo supply with the Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council (KAAC). The CPM had its own singular suffering soon after due to the National Green Tribunal�s ban on mining and transportation of coal in Meghalaya from where CPM had been transporting all its fuel material. Frequent communication interruption of MG Railway line too affected transportation of inbound and outbound materials in regards to the CPM. The pitiable condition of the NH-44 through Meghalaya too affected CPM badly. The three decade-old machinery and technology of the two mills have been losing their efficiency, productiveness and funds required for the �major overhauling� has also not been provided. A severe strain upon the working capital for a sustained operation of the mills finally resulted in a screeching halt to the production in both the mills.
The Employees Unions, the Officers and Supervisors Associations of both the mills besides various public organisations have submitted memoranda to the Prime Minister, the Union Heavy Industries Minister, the Chief Minister of Assam and other government functionaries insisting upon financial support and revival of both the units, but till today no outcome has been initiated from any quarter. The State Industries Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary had earlier assured that the Centre would be releasing Rs 800 crore package for the revival of the two mills, which too have not yet been translated into reality.
Meanwhile, the employees of both the mills are earnestly urging the Central and State Governments to take immediate measures for revival of both the mills.