India Not Shining: Cachar Paper Mill Workers In Assam Out Of Work, But No One Cares

I am a resident of the Cachar Paper Mill (CPM) Township, Panchgram under Algapur constituency.

Cachar Paper Mill (a unit of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited), is situated by the Barak river in the Hailakandi district of Assam between Silchar and Guwahati connector. The mill is located at a distance of 25 km from Silchar. Despite the lack of infrastructural facilities in a remote location, CPM has a continuous record of steady improvement. During the year 2006-07, the mill recorded the highest annual production of 1,03,155 MT registering over 103% capacity utilisation, which was 100%.

This profit-making industry had to face massive loss after the National Green Tribunal imposed a blanket ban on the mining and transportation of coal from Meghalaya.

There are lots of issues which exist mainly due to poor of industrial growth, poor infrastructure, poor roads, poor communications and political reasons.

The following are the major issues being faced by the mill which is badly affecting the people of Panchgram and some areas of Barak Valley in Assam:-

1. Owing to gregarious flowering that started in 2007-08, there was a shortage in bamboo – an important source of raw material. This resulted in lower production at CPM and thereby lower sale volume. The ban on bamboo extraction from Mizoram from March 2011 to January 2014 also added to the crisis. It started getting better since January 2014.

2. The Mill is now 27 years old. The Modernization and Technological Upgradation Plan (MTUP) was initiated in the year 2007-08 but had to take a back seat due to the raw material crisis. Without modernization, the mill can’t compete in the market.

3. The proposed mega block because of Lumding-Silchar railway gauge conversion from October 01, 2014 to March 26, 2015, also affected the Mill Operations.

Due to this, the people of Cachar paper mill township are facing a lot of problems like low supply of water and electricity.

The salary of the employees of Cachar Paper Mill (CPM) has not been disbursed since July 2016, as a result, the employees are being forced to suffer serious financial hardship. Meanwhile, the ward of the employees who are studying outside of the state for higher education are at the brink of being forced to discontinue their studies due to lack of funds.

In January 2016, a large number of contractual employees and labourers from various trade unions blocked NH37 and railway track in Panchgram area for 12 hours, demanding that production in the mill is started again. The police resorted to lathi charge against agitators to vacate the railway track for the Guwahati-Silchar passenger train. The police also fired several rounds in the air and burst tear gas shells and in retaliation, the agitators pelted stones.

Some agitators got injured in this process. Most of the workers of the Cachar Paper Mill have done an indefinite hunger strike from July 19, 2016, seeking immediate revival of production.

The workers blocked NH-37 again at Panchgram on October 5, 2016, seeking immediate resumption of production at the mill. The national main road connects Imphal with Badarpur in Assam.

Over 1 lakh people are involved directly or indirectly with the mill and the suspension of production has created a severe economic crisis in the Barak Valley area of Assam.

Production in both the units has remained shut and we have been left without any support. A lot of voices have been raised, protests have been carried out, for the revival of the Mill, but no action has been taken by the Central or State Government. On March 27, 2016, right before the state assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a public meeting in Panchgram along with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. During the meeting, it was assured that the Cachar Paper Mill, a unit of Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd., would be revived and the Central and State Government will extend support for the resumption of normal production immediately. So far, we have seen no change.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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