(Eds: Recasting intro) Guwahati, Jun 22 (PTI) Days after prospective bidders showed no interest in buying two defunct mills of state-owned Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd in Assam, authorities invited fresh bids on Tuesday after bringing down the reserve price to Rs 969 crore.
Previously, the reserve price for bids was fixed at Rs 1,139 crore.
The new move to sell the assets of two paper mills was criticised by a Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU).
The fresh notice, published in several newspapers for auctioning assets of two HPCL paper mills at Nagaon and Cachar, invited applications from bidders from June 22 to July 6.
According to the notice, e-auction will be held on July 22.
'We apprehend that this may be a conspiracy to sell assets of the two paper mills at a throwaway price. It is being done to protect the vested interests of a section of people,' JACRU president Manabendra Chakraborty told PTI.
He also mentioned that Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had recently said his top priority was to ensure that salaries and dues of the employees are cleared at the earliest.
'We urge the chief minister to save the two mills by taking over the units. Otherwise, the reserve prices will be further reduced. We also appealed to him to make arrangements for clearance of all dues of the employees who have been suffering for the last five years,' JACRU general secretary Ananda Bordoloi said.
The union leaders also said that importing papers from China, Indonesia and Bangladesh by destroying the domestic industries was against the national interest.
It is also against the government's policy of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat', they said.
'We urge the chief minister that as per his commitment, he should immediately release the salary and statutory dues of the employees so that there is no more death due to starvation or lack of medical treatment of the ailing employees,' the union leaders said.
Altogether, 89 employees have died so far, and four of them ended their lives, they said.
'This is only the list of employees, who have died following the closure of the paper mills, and if we include demise of their family members, it will be much higher,' the union leaders said.
The employees have 'immense faith' in the chief minister, and unions hope that he will honour his promises and do justice so that no staffers die due to lack of treatment or starvation, the JACRU leaders of Nagaon and Cachar paper mills said.
HPCL's Cachar unit in Panchgram stopped operations on October 20, 2015, while the Nagaon mill in Jagiroad did so on March 31, 2017. No salary was paid to the staff of Cachar and Nagaon units since January and March of 2017, respectively, officials said.
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 HPCL, 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.
During the campaign for the last assembly elections, the saffron party had assured the unions that steps would be taken to begin operations at the two units, they said.
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, HPCL 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 HPCL assets, including the two mills, residential flats, offices and a huge stock of inventory such as coal, bamboo and limestone, will go under the hammer. The last date of submission was June 15.
The opposition parties - Congress, AIUDF, Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) - have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sarma to take steps to stop auctioning of assets of the two paper mills and revive them. PTI DG BDC BDC BDC