Assam Northeast

Akhil Gogoi writes to PM Modi to reconsider e-auction of the two defunct paper mills

Assam’s jailed legislator Akhil Gogoi had on Tuesday wrote to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the proposal to auction the two state-owned, now-defunct Hindustan Paper Mill Corporation Limited (HPMCL) mills.

The two paper mills — Cachar Paper Mill in southern Assam’s Hailakandi and Nagaon Paper Mill at central Assam’s Morigaon district — that had been defunct since 2015 and 2017 respectively, are going under the hammer as auctioning to liquidate its assets will begin from June 15.

Gogoi implored PM Modi to take insight from the NEPA mills in Madhya Pradesh and Hindustan Newsprint Ltd in Kerala and revive and modernise the two defunct mills.

“The Bharatiya Janata Party was kind enough to recognise the plight of these industries. In April, 2021, promises were made that the BJP-led government in Assam will not only revive the paper mills but augment production, increase bamboo production in Assam and scale-up paper distribution all over India,” the independent legislator from Sibsagar said.

“This was a matter of sheer happiness not only for those beleaguered employees, but also for Assam’s industrial prospects. However, the latest notice for an e-auction would indeed be a severe blow to all those promises,” he further added.

The shutting down of operations by the two mills have left over 1,200 employees beleaguered due to non-payment of their monetary dues.

Gogoi also suggested to augment these mills to the stage of those ”Navratnas” and ”Maharatnas” of India.

Gogoi also made a case for optimal utilisation of the vast expanse of lands that the two mills own and develop them into industrial zones for Assam’s MSME industries.

Emphasising that the two plants were symbols of modern Assam’s economic prosperity after the oil and tea sectors, he said in the letter, “I hope you would look into the matter urgently so that the e-auctioning of the Nagaon and Cachar Mills could be cancelled.”

In June 2018, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) directed initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 against HPC, which had earlier submitted a Rs 1,995-crore revival proposal to the government.

During the hearing, NCLT ordered liquidation of the two mills, although the BJP-led state government had been promising revival of the two plants since former Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal assumed power in 2016.

However, after several rounds of meetings between all stakeholders and a number of hearings, the NCLT on April 26 this year ordered the liquidator to sell HPC, as per the decision of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

Accordingly, HPC Liquidator Kuldeep Verma on June 1 issued advertisements in newspapers of different languages seeking bids for e-auction of the company.

During the auction, all HPC assets, including the two mills, residential flats, office assets and a huge stock of inventory such as coal, unslaked lime, bamboo and limestone, will go under the hammer.

The reserve price for bids has been fixed at Rs 1,139 crore and the last date of submission is June 15. The auction is slated for June 30.

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