Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Left with no option, NPPCL workers to approach court

Lanutangit Walling

Nagaland Pulp & Paper Company Limited (NPPCL) Workers Union (WU) under the Tuli paper mill (Nagaland Pulp & Paper Corporation Limited) has decided to take recourse to legal action to secure outstanding salary and pension after numerous attempts since August 2017 proved unsuccessful.

NPPCL was established on September 14, 1971, as a joint venture between the Government of Nagaland, Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd. (HPCL), and the Government of India (GoI). The mill was to be among the few with the best of technology and had the potential of producing 60,000 MT per annum. The Mill was a peace package after the signing of the first cease fire on September 6,1964. It had a share equity of 7:1 between the government of India and the state government respectively.

However, since July 1982 when it eventually started production, the mill could hardly produce 1/6th of the installed capacity and stopped production in 1992 due to lack of adequate power and plagued by problems caused by second hand machineries.
The mill, spread over 700 acres of land was to foster industrial development and livelihood in Nagaland but has today, left workers, suppliers, and local residents in distress following its closure.

The UPA government gave the nod for the revival package under the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) and for which a capital outlay of Rs 552.44 crores was approved in 2006. The revival plan consists of rebuilding/refurbishment of paper machine, pulping mill, new power plant etc.

BIFR was dissolved in November 2016 by the Modi government which referred proceedings to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

Out of Rs.60 crore received, in 2007, the management spent Rs.36.76 crore but mostly on payment of arrears and leaving hardly 1% for repair and restoration of machineries. To add to the problems, the Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC), instead of going ahead with the amount allotted by the government of India to physically revive the mill, began to seek an additional amount of Rs.1241.80 crore for expansion of the plant capacity.

The logic was that the capacity of the mill needed to be raised from 60,000 MT per annum as contained in the earlier DPR and revised to 89,000 MT, as reflected in the new DPR.
During the G20 Business meet held in Kohima in 2023, chief minister Neiphiu Rio had said that the Bangladesh delegation expressed interest to start a paper mill. However, it was unclear whether the proposal was to revive the Tuli paper mill or for establishment of a new paper mill in Nagaland.

Rio also proposed liquidating the existing mill to pave the way for fresh investments, attributing the failure of NPPCL to defective machinery.
In 2019, Lok Sabha MP Tokheho Yepthomi disclosed that HPCL had gone bankrupt and was under the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for liquidation as per NCLT order on May 2, 2019.

BIFR was dissolved by the Modi government in November 2016. Meanwhile, when contacted the present NPPCL Workers Union and JAC president A. Kika Lenda said that in September 2023, the state government approached the union with a MoU to settle the issues faced by the employees and proposed to sanction Rs. 5 crore as one time settlement. He said the union set a condition that workers will accept the offer (Rs. 5 crore) only as immediate relief but not as one time settlement. They also said that the union would continue its fight for justice until their salary were paid.


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