The Nagaon mill is one of two units – the second being the one at Cachar – run by the Hindustan Paper Corporation.
The Cachar unit stopped production in 2015 while the Nagaon mill shut down last year, leaving about 1,500 employees with an uncertain future.
At least 37 have committed suicide in the past three years. Revival of the two public sector paper mills was one of the promises made by BJP in the run up to the assembly election in 2016.
“Our children’s studies have been disrupted. We have gone into debt. Banks hound us for being unable to repay our loans. We are in dire straits since we haven’t received our salaries for months. If we are not able to lead a life of dignity, it’s better that we have the right to die,” TOI quoted Kagaj Nigam Karmi Union (KNKU) general secretary, Ananda Bordoloi, as saying.
Nearly 1,200 employees, their family members and others associated with the Nagaon mill blocked NH-37 at Jagiroad in protest against the Centre’s delay in announcing the revival package of Rs 1,800 crore for the two paper mills.
“We have temporarily halted our stir, hoping chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal will take up with the Centre the matter of revival again in the next few days. If nothing happens, we will resume our stir by staging a demonstration in front of CM’s residence and then write to the President,” Bordoloi said.
On August 15, the employees resorted to hunger strike and, on August 17, they led a road blockade in Jagiroad. The state industry department said the revival package is with the Prime Minister’s Office now.
As an interim relief to the employees, the Centre released three months’ salaries on the occasion of Rongali Bihu in April this year.
But employees said the amount was like a “drop in the ocean”. “Whatever we received was exhausted in no time to pay the dues we accumulated in the 18 months without salaries,” Bordoloi said.