An employee of the defunct Nagaon Paper Mill of the Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) in Assam died on Saturday, taking the total fatalities since the closure of the PSU's two units in the state to 91, including four suicides, a union leader claimed.
The employee, Arup Buragohain, was suffering from heart-related ailments and died following a massive cardiac arrest at Jagiroad in Morigaon district, President of Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of both Nagaon and Cachar Mills Manabendra Chakraborty told PTI. Buragohain was 59 and is survived by his wife and two daughters.
This is the third death of an employee of the closed units since June 14 and the sixth in the last one and a half months since the second BJP government, led by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, assumed office, according to Chakraborty.
Eighty-five others had died either due to starvation or lack of medical treatment during the tenure of his predecessor Sarbananda Sonowal, he claimed.
"Most of the employees who died did not get proper treatment as they had not received salaries or dues for the last 54 months. This is not any normal death. Our people are dying due to the apathy of the authorities," the JACRU president said.
Chakraborty appealed to both the state and central governments to fulfil their commitments and release all dues of the workers and save the lives of the remaining employees.
He also appealed to all citizens of the state and the nation to "kindly raise their voice against the injustice faced by the employees of both the mills".
Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district, units of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited, have been non- functional since October 2015 and March 2017 respectively.
The BJP government had promised to revive the paper mills since Sonowal assumed power in 2016 and while campaigning for the just-concluded assembly polls, the party had said that steps will be taken to revive the mills.
The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), after several rounds of meetings between all stakeholders and a number of hearings, had ordered the liquidator on April 26 to sell all assets of the two closed paper mills as per the decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).
Accordingly, the HPC Liquidator Kuldeep Verma on June one issued advertisements seeking bids for the e-auction of the company at a reserve price of Rs 1,139 but there were no bidders till the last date on June 15.
Subsequently on June 22, a new auction notice for the sale of the two mills was issued by the liquidator at a reserve price of Rs 969 crore, Rs 170 lower than the previous price, and the last date of bidding is July six. The e-auction will be held on July 22. Chakraborty claimed that this may be a conspiracy to sell the assets of the two paper mills at a throwaway price to protect the vested interests of a quarter.
Opposition parties the Congress, AIUDF and the Assam Jatiya Parishad - have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the state chief minister to intervene and ensure that the paper mills are not auctioned but steps are taken to revive them.