New Delhi: A senior engineer working at a paper mill in Assam’s Nagaon, run by the Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC), was found hanging from a ceiling fan at his residence in Nagaon on April 29.
According to The Quint, the engineer, Biswajit Majumdar, was facing acute financial crisis after allegedly not receiving his salary for the last 28 months. He is said to have blamed the “government of India” for his death, according to an alleged suicide note written on the door of the fridge in his home.
“I quit. Government of India is responsible for my death”, was found written on the fridge.
As reported by Newsclick in September 2018, employees of Cachar Paper Mill (CPM) at Panchgram in Assam’s Barak Valley and Nagaon Paper Mill (NPM) near Guwahati had been awaiting their salaries for more than one and a half years.
On Independence Day (August 15) 2018, the workers had to resort to a hunger strike, demanding their salaries, as well as resumption of production and revival of the mills owned by a Public Sector Unit (PSU) Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited (HPCL).
Reportedly, Majumdar, who was from Kolkata, was the Utility and Distribution Manager at the Nagaon mill which had stopped operations in March 2017. He is survived by his wife and two daughters, who are research scholars in Delhi University and Kerala.
As per the Quint report, Majumdar’s colleagues and family cited expenses on his daughters’ education and his own health issues as the possible reasons for this drastic step, especially in the backdrop of non-payment of salary dues.
“We held protests, went on hunger strikes and tried everything but the government is not listening to us,” his colleague told Quint.
Also Read: https://www.newsclick.in/broken-promises-bjp-government-and-tale-two-dying-assam-paper-mills
According to earlier reports published by Newsclick, CPM had been closed for almost three years in 2018 since October 20, 2015. The mill workers’ salary had been pending for 19 months. Production of another HPCL unit, NPM, at Jagiroad near Assam’s capital Dispur had been suspended since March 13, 2017 and employees of NPM had not been paid for over 17 months. This showed the plight of the entire paper industry in India despite the Bharatiya Janata Party’s flagship ‘Act East’ policy to boost the regional economy of North East India and the party’s pledge to create one crore jobs a year before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
This can be attributed to the government’s policy to import paper from abroad instead of helping grow the country’s own industries, and bulk export of bamboo, a major raw material used for making paper.
On March 27, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a poll campaign at Panchgram in Assam, had assured the people that the two HPCL paper mills "would be revived and the central and the state government would extend all sorts of support for the resumption of normal production". In September 2016 also, the BJP-run state government reportedly said in a public statement that the Central government had prepared a Rs 800-crore proposal "for revamping the Nagaon Paper Mill and reviving Cachar Paper Mill."
However, none of these promises or plans materialised and Manabendra Chakraborty, president of the Cachar Paper Project Worker’s Union (CPPWU), an Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)- affiliated union had told Newsclick that in the meantime, 36 HPCL employees had died.
According to another recent article covered by Newsclick in April 2019, the shutdown of the two paper mills which employed more than 1,200 people and was an indirect generator of livelihood for more than 2 lakh people, has pushed numerous individuals and families to appalling stages of destitution.
Also Read: https://www.newsclick.in/paper-mills-assam-hpcl-elections-2019
Since the Nagaon Mill shut down in 2017, three employees have taken their own lives. Since the last 28 months, there has been no salary and have also stopped Provident Fund, pension and gratuity. The Nagaon and Cachar paper mills, which come under the Union ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, had stopped production in 2017 without any formal notice.
“It is most painful that we have to see our colleagues dying on the eve of May Day, the international workers' solidarity day, due to non-payment of their dues payment," Chakraborty was quoted by The Times of India.