Another PSU paper mill employee dies in Assam, tally touches 90

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Guwahati, Jun 24 (PTI) An employee of the closed Nagaon Paper Mill of the Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) died in Assam's Morigaon district Thursday taking the total fatalities since the mills closure to 90, including four deaths by suicide.

The employee, Satish Chandra Patowary, 58, who was suffering from cardiac ailments died of heart attack at Jagiroad, president of Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU) of both Nagaon and Cachar Mills Manabendra Chakraborty told PTI.

The employee had not received treatment for the last 54 months, Chakraborty alleged.

Patowarys son had died following a prolonged illness in 2019, and both father and son passed away as they could not afford treatment, the union leader claimed.

This is the fifth death of an employee in the last one and a half months, after the BJP returned to power in the northeastern state.

The two paper mills -- Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram in Hailakandi district and Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district -- both units of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited -- have been shut since October 2015 and March 2017 respectively.

Their employees who number over 1,200 have not been paid their salaries since then. Union officials estimate that over 4 lakh people are directly or indirectly impacted by the closure of the mills which at one time were touted as Asias largest.

The BJP government had promised to revive the paper mills after it assumed power in the state in 2016. A similar promise was made in the election campaign for the recently concluded assembly polls.

However, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), after several rounds of meetings with all stakeholders ordered the liquidator on April 26 to sell the entire HPC in accordance with a decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

On June 1, advertisements seeking bids for the e-auction of the company, were issued.

The reserve price for the bids was kept at Rs 1,139 crore and the last date of submission of bids was June 15, However, there were no bidders till 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.

The last date of submission of bids is July 6 and the e-auction will be held on July 22.

Chakraborty alleged that this may be a conspiracy to sell the assets of the two paper mills at a throwaway price which is being done to protect the vested interests of a certain section.

He urged Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to save the two mills and clear all legitimate dues of the employees who have suffered immensely.

Opposition parties - Congress, AIUDF, Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) - have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief minister to intervene and ensure that the paper mills are not auctioned and instead steps taken to revive them. PTI DG .

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