By Devabrata Dutta
GUWAHATI: The employees of two defunct paper mills in Assam's Nagaon and Cachar are unanimous on not vacating their quarters/accommodation without receiving their due salaries of 56 months.
The liquidator of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) Kuldeep Verma has served a notice to the employees of two defunct paper mills to vacate their official quarters within 15 days from September 3, to facilitate the sale of the physical assets of two units, or to face legal action otherwise.
"He mentioned our stay as illegal in the notice which is not true as per the order passed by the NCLAT clearly directed infusion of funds to ensure that the company remains a going on the company. He is overturning that. People living here are still employees of the paper mill and will not vacate the space before getting our due salaries," said Ananda Bordoloi, President of Jagiroad Kagaz Nigam Karmi Union, speaking with InsideNE.
"Yes, the government had hold meetings with us twice since new Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has taken charge. We are going to have a meeting tomorrow at 4 pm in Guwahati as well over the same issue. Though our discussions are going well with the government so far they sometimes decide something else in meetings and say something else outside of it in the media. Their statements will make you feel as if everything is going very well and we employees are protesting for no reason," Bordoloi added referring to Assam Government's recent comment on 100 government job promises to its employees.
Another former employee, who is a victim of a recent eviction notice served by him, has slammed liquidator Kuldeep Verma as a "mannerless" person and held him responsible for the ongoings.
"We have urged many times to replace this man with some IAS. At least the mills would have been functional today," he added.
The paper mill in Cachar ceased functioning in October 2015 while the Nagaon unit has been non-functioning since March 2017. Employees have been deprived of their due salaries since 2017 itself.
"I retired 4 years ago but I am still stuck at these quarters as I have not received my dues. I did not come here with the intention to stay forever. But where will we go? Even if I shift to a rented apartment from where will I pay the rent? Even my son could not finish his MBA abroad due to a financial crisis. I do not want to deprive them of a home now," said Pradip Bordoloi, former General Secretary of Kagaz Niga, Karmi Union, who retired as Supervisor from Nagaon Paper Mill.
"I am afraid that the moment we leave these quarters we will not be taken seriously. I do not want to impose but also cannot deny the possibility that this eviction move is to put pressure on us to leave the place in fear and to force us to agree with whatever other parties will offer. If that's the case they are mistaken," Padip Bordoloi added.
The employees are also seeking jobs for people who are not at the age of retirement yet, to which Assam Minister Pijush Hazarika has given a positive response to fulfil very soon yesterday.
The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) had ordered the liquidator on April 26 to sell all assets of the two closed paper mills of the HPCL as per the decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) and accordingly, an e-auction for the same was issued dated on June 30 by the liquidator with a reserved price of Rs. 1,139 crore but it was cancelled due to the unavailability of bidders till the last date of submission on June 15.
"Our discussion with the government is going well so far but liquidator Kuldeep Verma creates problem in between. Now I do not know whether he does it on purpose or in others influence. Still, we are hopeful about tomorrow's meeting with the government," Pradip Bordoloi express.
According to Manabendra Chakraborty, President of the Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions of both Nagaon and Cachar Mills, the two paper mills have around 3,600 employees, 24,000 contractual workers and over two lakh suppliers and contractors involved in both the mills.
Chakraborty has also informed the media that nobody is going to vacate the quarters until they get their full payment of all dues and compensations.
According to employees of the paper mills, as many as 93 employees have died so far due to lack of proper treatment and money. Three of them died by suicide as well.
"Deaths of these 93 people are murders in real," said Ananda Bordoloi.
Employees of Jagiroad Paper Mill have also accused earlier that the mills were shut down as a result of politics among the high-level officers. As we are told, a mail was sent to the Director of Finance in Kolkata by an employee of the mill "by mistake" with a list of names who were allegedly taking bribes. The matter escalated from there.
Meanwhile, several opposition parties of Assam are seeking the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state ministers into the matter and to revive the paper mills.
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