HPC mill workers abstain from voting over pay in Barak Valley

Aggrieved employees send clear message to political leaders

GUWAHATI: Over 7,000 people comprising permanent and contractual employees of the Cachar Paper Mill under Hindustan Paper Corporation and their family members voluntarily abstained from casting their vote in the second phase panchayat polls across three Barak Valley districts on Sunday in protest against non-payment of salaries for nearly two years.

The Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC) Mills Revival Action Committee, a conglomerate of workers’ unions of Cachar and Nagaon paper mills, has lent support to the poll boycott by the employees in the three districts.

“At least 1000 workers and their families have voluntarily boycotted the polls at Panchgram where the Cachar Paper Mill is located. There would be about aggrieved 7000 employees including their family members in the three districts who will not cast their vote today,” Dipak Chandra Nath, convener of the HPC Mills Revival Action Committee told The Shillong Times from Panchgram on Sunday.

Hundreds of HPC employees joined by family members, staged dharnas near polling booths in the three districts, holding placards and wearing badges with messages such as “No Salary No Vote”, “Save HPC Save Children”, “Save HPC Save Employment,” among other messages.

Operations in Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram have been suspended since October 20, 2015 while production at Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad came to a halt on March 13, 2017.

Three lakh people engaged directly and indirectly by the corporation have reportedly lost their jobs, 39 died in harness, of which two committed suicide.

Members of the mill revival action committee had formed a human chain at Panchgram-Dhaleswar point to protest Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s election campaign in Barak Valley on Wednesday. As a matter of fact, members of the committee have over the past couple of months been staging protests against the “apathy of the government to revive the two mills, which also included a dawn-to-dusk Barak bandh last month.

The committee is irked at the fact that a revival package of Rs 1900 crore for the two mills is pending with the Prime Minister’s Office, even as the Centre has granted funds for industries in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Declared as a Mini Ratna company during the term of the erstwhile UPA government, HPCL has been making profits since 2009.

The committee representatives maintain that the protest would continue till the demand for revival of the mills is not met.

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