Established in 1936, SPM is one of the oldest mills in the country

A year after shutdown hope dwindles among Telanganas Sirpur paper mill workersAll images by arrangement
news Monday, September 07, 2015 - 13:44

It is a cruel twist of fate that there is no sign of the paper mill in Kaghaznagar re-opening. The town’s name – Kothapet – was changed to Kaghaznagar after the Sirpur Paper Mill was set up. Today, the 3,000 families that depended on it are losing hope and the will to fight for the mill that was closed a year ago, and which struck a blow not just to the people's lives, but the whole town’s economy.

There hung an atmosphere of gloom as a crowd of hundreds of men and women sat in a makeshift tent at the Indira Park in Hyderabad on Sunday, demanding for the mill to be re-opened. But vocal protests and processions on the streets have slowly given way to despair.

According to former employees of the mill, the economy of the entire town of Kaghaznagar in Adilabad district of Telangana has collapsed.

Many workers from the mill have turned to daily wage jobs, working for Rs 200 to Rs 300 a day. Children have been pulled out of the school as parents can't even afford two meals a day and this in turn has hit auto rickshaw drivers in a domino effect, they claim. Many have migrated to cities looking for jobs.

(Scenes from the protest)

This is the latest blow, to an economy that has been taking a beating 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.

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 in 1942.

In the 1950s, it was purchased by the C.K. Birla group and later transferred to the Poddars. In the last few years, however, accumulated losses resulted in its closure in September 2014.

Dire straits

Praveen Pandey, a 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 but to no avail.

"I also tried to get in touch with a few media channels and they assured me that they would cover this. Unfortunately, the media is only interested in covering the Sheena Murder case and not a story that lives depend upon," he says.

At least 12 people have also died since the shutting down of the mill, with a worker even setting himself on fire, but the workers still have no one to listen to their woes.

"They don't even have money for two square meals a day," Praveen adds.

In another turn of events, services of the contract workers were terminated while the permanent ones are mandated to visit the mill despite the shutdown. “We just have to punch in at the office and return home," a worker told The Hans India.

What is the government saying?

Koneru Konappa, the MLA from Sirpur says that the government is doing its best to revive the mill.

"A few months ago, the IDBI bank, from which the mill had pending loans, passed a resolution that it would sell the property after the management declared that it could not run the mill anymore," he says.

It gave the company 60 days from the notice, which expired on August 26 and the management, in a meeting with the bank after the notice expiry, said that it is still helpless.

"Now we are left with only one possibility. To get another company to take over the mill.  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 but there are certain drawbacks," the legislator adds.

Konappa claims that the companies are hesitant for two reasons. Firstly, the market for paper does not look as bright as it used to, as everything is turning digital.

"Secondly, since the mill is an old one, their machines are also comparatively outdated. We are currently offering a subsidy and are ready to negotiate and help out any company that is willing to take over the mill," he adds.

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