Children of unpaid Assam paper mill employees given BPL-like assistance to study
Several children had to give up seats in institutes across India because they were unable to pay admission and course fees.india Updated: Jul 17, 2017 14:05 IST
Children of officers and workers of an Assam paper mill have been temporarily bailed out by a BPL-like assistance to continue studies.
Nagaon Paper Mill (NPM) in central Assam’s Jagiroad, about 75km east of Guwahati, stopped production in March. Its sister plant, Cachar Paper Mill (CPM) in southern Assam’s Panchgram, went out of production in 2015.
The mills, each with an installed capacity of 1 lakh metric tonnes per annum, are wholly owned by the Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC), a central public sector undertaking that has two subsidiaries with state government stakes — the long-dead Tuli paper mill in Nagaland and the thriving Hindustan Newsprint Limited in Kerala.
The salary of 750 CPM employees stopped from October last year. Two months later, it was the turn of 750 NPM employees.
“Because of liabilities, people who were drawing Rs 50,000-100,000 were suddenly penniless. Two of our colleagues who didn’t save enough for such a situation committed suicide in May,” said Atanu Mahanta, vice-president of NPM Officers and Supervisors Association.
“Ten others are psychologically scarred after receiving police notice for loan default. We desperately need Rs 900 crore of a proposed revival package of Rs 1,500 crore for HPC to restart the mills before things get worse,” Mahanta added.
Assam’s BJP-led coalition government proposed a revival package to the Union ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises, state industries minister Chandra Mohan Patowary had said in the last assembly session.
Mahanta is among a dozen fathers whose children had to give up seats in institutes across India because of inability to pay admission and course fees.
But those pursuing medical, engineering and other degree courses in Assam had the option to be marked, the paper mill employees said, as BPL or below poverty line.
The local MLA, BJP’s Pijush Hazarika, said, “It is not exactly BPL. Our government introduced Suhit scheme for the underprivileged last year, under which an MLA is given Rs 50 lakh to spend for the needy in health and education. After approval from the chief minister and finance minister, I provided Rs 7.5 lakh for 70 wards of Nagaon Paper Mill employees to pursue higher studies. It was the least I could do for an iconic mill that sustained Jagiroad for so many years.”
Hazarika believes the paper mills will be profitable from day one if revived. “The demand is high, and it won’t take the mill much time to script a turnaround with a good team at the helm.”
A combination of poor management, irregular supply of fuel due to National Green Tribunal’s ban on coal mining, low availability of raw materials and shutdown of a vital chemical unit by pollution control board is seen to have dealt a blow to Assam’s central sector PSU paper mills.
NPM, which started commercial production from October 1985, is India’s oldest public sector paper mill. CPM began commercial production three years later.