AJP urges PM Modi to stop auction of Nagaon, Cachar paper mills

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Jagiroad (Assam), Jun 9 (PTI) The opposition Assam Jatiya Parishad on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop the proposed auction of two paper mills of state-owned Hindustan Paper Corp (HPC) at Nagaon and Cachar.

Addressing a press conference at the gate of the Nagaon Paper Mill here, Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) president Lurinjyoti Gogoi said the party would launch an online petition-cum-signature campaign against the move to sell the two plants.

'The prime minister in his election rallies in Assam had promised to revive the two plants. So, we request his immediate intervention to stop the sale of these two paper mills,' Gogoi said.

The two factories are considered as the pride of the state, a source of employment for thousands of people, and have a sentimental value for the people of Assam, he said.

Gogoi pointed out that PM Modi during a poll rally on March 27, 2016, had raised the issue of revival of the said two paper mill and the promises to revive the paper mills was reflected in the election manifestos of the BJP during polls in 2016, 2019 and 2021.

But the state government under former chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal failed to bring about a solution with the help of the central government, the AJP president said.

Due to absolute mismanagement and corruption, the mills started suffering losses after making profits for decades and the continued apathy of the government led to the shutting down of the mills, beginning in 2015, Gogoi alleged.

HPCs Cachar unit in Panchgram stopped operations on October 20, 2015, while the Nagaon mill in Jagiroad did so on March 31, 2017.

No salary was paid to the staff of Cachar and Nagaon units since January and March of 2017 respectively.

'With the shutting down of the two mills, not only did the two units become nonfunctional, but it also affected the lives of more than 1,200 employees directly and over four lakh people indirectly. So far, four staff died by suicide and 88 died of starvation or without treatment,' he alleged.

The AJP chief said that the auction notice has shattered the hope of the employees as they were expecting the BJP governments at the Centre and state to honour its electoral commitments.

'It is frustrating to find that a very nominal base price has been fixed even though there are more than 6,600 bighas of prime land, besides huge infrastructure in both the locations,' he added.

Gogoi appealed to the newly formed Assam government under the leadership of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to acquire the two paper mills from the Government of India to operationalise them.

Other opposition parties like the Congress and Raijor Dal have also in recent days opposed the decision to auction the two plants and wrote to Modi and Sarma to stop the process.

In June 2018, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) directed the initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 against the HPC, which had earlier submitted a Rs 1,995- crore revival proposal to the government.

During the hearing, NCLT ordered the liquidation of the two mills, although the BJP-led state government had been promising a revival of the two plants since former chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal assumed power in 2016.

However, after several rounds of meetings between all stakeholders and several hearings, the NCLT on April 26 this year ordered the liquidator to sell HPC, as per the decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

Accordingly, HPC Liquidator Kuldeep Verma on June 1 issued advertisements in newspapers of different languages seeking bids for e-auction of the company.

During the auction, all HPC's assets, including the two mills, residential flats in Guwahati, Kolkata, and Mumbai, office assets in Kolkata and New Delhi, and a huge stock of inventory such as coal, unslaked lime, bamboo and limestone, will go under the hammer.

The reserve price for the bids has been fixed at Rs 1,139 crore and the last date of submission of bids is June 15. The auction is slated for June 30. PTI TR MM MM

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