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HPCL workers form human chain to protest CM’s Barak visit

Mill staff threatens to boycott Dec 9 panchayat poll over unpaid salaries

GUWAHATI: Members of the Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC) Mills Revival Action Committee, a conglomerate of workers’ unions of Cachar and Nagaon paper mills, formed a human chain to protest Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s election campaign in Barak Valley on Wednesday, with a strong message of “No Salary, No Vote”.

The second phase of panchayat polls will be held in Barak valley on December 9, for which rallies by the chief minister were scheduled across three districts on Wednesday.

Over 1000 members of the committee formed the human chain from 9am to 11.45am at Dhaleswar point (which connects three districts, Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi) as a mark of protest against the Assam government’s apathy towards reviving the Cachar and Nagaon paper mills.

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.

“The human chain was to obstruct the CM’s convoy which was to pass by Dhaleswar point. But we learnt that he had taken a helicopter to address election rallies in three districts. Nevertheless, the message from our protest was loud and clear,” Manobendra Chakraborty, the chief convenor of the newly-formed committee, told The Shillong Times on Wednesday.

The protesters shouted slogans of “Go Back CM” and “No Salary No Vote” during the almost three-hour dharna.

“Workers of the mill at Panchgram have threatened not to cast their vote on December 9 as they have not been paid their salaries for 23 months. The committee has not called a vote boycott though but we are behind the workers,” Chakraborty said.

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 committee have been staging protests over the past couple of months 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 Rs 5,000crore for textile industries, most of which are in Gujarat, Rs 469crore to a paper mill in Madhya Pradesh in October while several thousand crores have been approved for development in 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 they would continue to protest till the demand for revival of the mills is not met.

 

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