Revival of Telangana's 80-year-old Sirpur Paper Mill looks bleak
news Monday, June 22, 2015 - 05:30
Nine months after the Sirpur Paper Mill (SPM) in Kaghaznagar in the Adilabad district of Telangana shut down, 3,000 odd families that depended on the mill seem to be losing hope. According to people who were employed at the mill, economy of the entire town is on the verge of collapse as many people have started migrating to other cities in search of work. Many workers from the mill have also turned to daily wage jobs, working for Rs 200 to Rs 300 a day. History Established by the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan in 1936, SPM is one of the oldest mills in the country and started production of paper in 1942. In the 1950s, it was purchased by the C.K. Birla group and later transferred to the Poddars. However, it turned into a loss-making unit over the last few years which resulted in its closure. Production from the mill was halted in September 2014 after the management decided that the sharp hike in the price of raw materials from and the shortage of power was not profitable to them. Adilabad, where SPM is based, has already lost a lot of employment with the closure of the Sirsilk textile mill, a unit of the Cement Corporation of India (CCI) and a number of small and medium factories. The scenario at present Punit Gohil, who has been spreading the word through Facebook and an online petition has just come back from a two week trip to Kaghaznagar, which is his hometown. "The situation is only getting worse. People are heavily in debt and cases of deaths due to hunger have started cropping up. All the street lights in the staff quarters have been disconnected and the road is pitch black," he says. Punit works in Malaysia, but was born and brought up in Sirpur, Kaghaznagar and started his career with the mill. The area was actually called Kothapet and was renamed 'Kaghaznagar' after the mill. "Many children are being taken back from school as the family's resources are depleting. This in turn is affecting the transport business of auto's who take the children to and from school," says Punit. A series of protests have followed with many trade and labour unions joining the cause but to no avail. (The mill lies abandoned. Image - Kaghaznagar Municipality) Praveen Pandey, another native of Kaghaznagar who works in Hyderabad has been writing to various ministers and leaders of different political parties, to try and garner support in re-opening the mill. "I have spoken to many leaders in Telangana and also some national level leaders who assured to help in the re-opening of the mill but still nothing is put into effect," says Praveen, who is losing hope as each day passes. Praveen's latest e-mail was addressed to Telangana IT and Panchayat Raj Minister K T Rama Rao, (a copy of which is with TNM) wherein the minister replied saying that five cabinet ministers have met on the issue with some prospective investors to revive SPM. "At least ten people have died since the mill shut with five of them committing suicide. One worker even set himself on fire but the issue still failed to gain attention of the national media," Praveen adds. What can be done? Koneru Konappa, the Sirpur MLA says that the government is doing its best but the mill cannot be revived without cooperation from the paper mills management. "A few companies including J K Paper mills and ITC had paid a visit and showed interest in taking over the mill and restarting it. However, we can't do anything unless the SPM management declares that they will not be able to run the mill anymore," he tells The News Minute. Konappa adds that the government has also offered an interest free loan to the higher authorities of SPM if they wish to revive it but has not got a proper response so far. "We are trying our best to restart the mill. Even chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is keen on seeing it re open but the SPM management must first declare that they cannot revive it, following which we can set up an auction," the MLA adds. Even if the management decides to sell the mill, the bureaucracy involved in the auctioning the mill and then getting it up and running again itself will take some time, Konappa admits.