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No ‘viable scheme’ to revive paper mills

By The Assam Tribune
The NCLT is expected to hear the case next on March 5

Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, Feb 17: The Liquidator of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited has moved application before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) seeking permission to proceed with the liquidation of assets of the corporation “since there is no alternative viable scheme” for revival of the two paper mills.

The case of the paper mills is in NCLT since more than two and half years, and no breakthrough has been achieved on their revival so far. Union Ministry of Heavy Industries had already informed the tribunal long back through an affidavit that there is no plan for funding the revival of the HPC Paper Mills by Government of India.

The NCLT is expected to hear the case next on March 5, sources said. In September last year, Assam government had sought a month’s time to submit a proposal to revive the HPC Paper Mills. But, apparently, nothing materialised.

Meanwhile, it has emerged during a hearing at Delhi High Court recently that Provident Fund amounting to Rs 107 crore which was deducted from the wages of the workmen of the papers mills by the previous managements were not remitted to the EPFO.

The Delhi High Court has asked the counsel of the Liquidator to conduct an inquiry as to where the amount was utilized by the previous managements.

Directing the EPFO to settle the PF claims of the employees of the corporation, the Delhi High Court has also requested the NCLT to take up the application of the Liquidator (seeking permission to liquidate the assets) so that the legitimate dues of the workmen are defrayed at the earliest given the fact that the workmen were “apparently not paid their salaries for more than three years.”

“The NCLT bench can, perhaps, expedite the sale of non-core assets of the corporations in the first instance to get over the problem of non-availability of funds with the liquidator for distribution amongst the stakeholders as per the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016,” the court observed.

The EPFO has dealt 923 PF claims worth Rs 87.79 crore of the workmen till December 21, 2020.

During the running phase of the HPC Paper Mills since 1985, around 3000 people were directly employed as permanent employees and another 5000 were working as contractual employees under operations & maintenance contractors. Around 2 lakh people were involved in the bamboo supply chain with both forest and home-grown bamboo being supplied to the mills. The stoppage of the bamboo supply chain has hit the local bamboo growers badly as the HPC Paper Mills were the biggest customer of bamboo in the region. Many ancillary industries in Jagiroad and Cachar having business relationships with the Paper Mills have also downed shutters leaving hundreds of employees in the lurch.

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