Several organisations, including the workers’ unions of Cachar and Nagaon paper mills, blocked National Highway (NH) 37 at Jagiroad in Morigaon district (of Assam) on Wednesday, demanding payment of the workers’ pending salaries and resuscitation of both the industrial enterprises in Assam.
A report published in the The Telegraph stated that the police reached the spot around 12.45 pm and detained nearly 1,000 protesters. They were released around 3pm. The report further stated that the Cachar Paper Mill, the only major industrial undertaking in south Assam’s Barak Valley, is located at Panchgram in Hailakandi district, around 24 km from Silchar, while Nagaon Paper Mill is at Jagiroad in Morigaon district, around 332 km from Silchar.
The mill workers, along with their family members, in massive numbers converged in front of Nagaon Paper Mill around 10.30am and blocked the highway, paralysing vehicular movement for hours. The protesters, carrying placards, raised slogans in unison against the Government’s alleged apathy towards the mills, which have been lying defunct for years.
Manabendra Chakraborty, president of the Cachar Paper Project Workers’ Union, questioned, “Many workers have died because of stress and trauma in the past 19 months. Is the Government waiting for more such deaths?” “The Government has a special rapport with the corporate classes and it is helping private parties gain huge profits by keeping the mills closed,” Chakraborty said.
Anand Bordoloi, general secretary of the Kagaj Nigam Karmi Union, said the workers have already suffered a lot over the past many months. The Government must take initiatives to clear the workers’ dues at the earliest, he added. A senior official of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL) said Rs 90 crore had been allocated recently under a supplementary budget by both the Houses of Parliament (as per recommendation of President Ram Nath Kovind) for payment of the workers’ salaries. The amount is yet to reach the HPCL, he added.