Assam govt to acquire Hindustan Paper assets

The Assam government will acquire the assets of the two closed mills of Hindustan Paper Corporation based in Assam, and provide a relief package of Rs 570-crore to its employees, according to an agreement reached on 29 September.

01 Oct 2021 | By PrintWeek Team

The Nagaon Paper Mill

Recently PrintWeek reported that the two mills in Assam — the Nagaon Paper Mill and the Cachar Paper Mill, were closed for more than four years. Both mills were owned by the Central government-controlled Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPCL) and were closed due to a shortage of working capital. At the same time, the employees of both the mills have not received their salaries and other dues since February 2017 and December 2016 respectively.

The discussion between the government and the unions of the two paper mills continued for over four hours at the office of chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, following which the agreement was signed.

The Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram in Hailakandi district is non-functional since October 2015, while Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad in Morigaon district is shut since March 2017.

Since the closure of the two mills, 95 employees died, including four allegedly taking their own lives, primarily due to lack of proper treatment as they did not receive salaries or dues for the last 55 months, according to the unions.

As per the agreement, the Assam government will approach the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) through the official liquidator for taking over all the assets of the mills and the employees' organisations will ensure that the houses, premises, buildings and other assets are smoothly handed over without any hindrances and is not disputed in the court of law.

The relief amount of Rs 570 crore will be given to the employees only after they vacate the property. However, on humanitarian grounds, an extension of one month may be given to vacate the quarters. The state government will make efforts to disburse the relief package, include employment, within two months from the date of approval by NCLT, as per the agreement. The state government will provide employment to 100 officers and workers according to their qualifications and equivalent to the pay scale in the state government through a special recruitment drive, which will not take into consideration their upper age limit. They will be provided with the due PF, gratuity and pension, but not the unpaid salary.

The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), after several rounds of meetings between all stakeholders and a number of hearings, had ordered the liquidator on April 26 to sell all assets of the two closed paper mills of the HPCL as per the decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

Accordingly, the HPCL liquidator Kuldeep Verma on 1 June had issued advertisements seeking bids for the eAuction at a reserve price of Rs 1,139-crore but there were no bidders till the last date on 15 June.

Subsequently, on 22 June, a new auction notice for the sale of the two mills was issued by the liquidator at a reserve price of Rs 969-crore, Rs 170-crore lower than the previous price.

(Courtesy Agencies)