Sonepur: With the only industry in Subarnapur district – Sonepur Spinning Mill remaining closed since January this year, the labourers and workers of the mill are spending their days in penury.
Keeping their fingers crossed, they are hoping that the mill would reopen soon and alleviate their problems. The mill was established in the year 1982 during the tenure of Janaki Ballabh Patnaik as the Chief Minister of Odisha.
Being the only industry in the erstwhile undivided Bolangir district, people were hopeful that it would make a difference in providing employment to the youths of the region and help eradicate poverty.
Set up at a cost of Rs 5,00,00,000, the industry, as per expectation of the people, had provided employment to over 1,000 people from the locality. In the initial years, everything was going well.
But later on, the plant started incurring losses owing to alleged mismanagement and the lackadaisical attitude of the staff.
Initially, the mill was managed by the Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha Limited alongside two other spinning mills at Baripada and Aska.
In 1990, the mill was handed over to ABS Spinning Orissa Limited with the hope of better management and higher production. Surprising everyone, the mill was handed over to traders in 1992.
Cotton traders would supply cotton and in turn procure threads. From 1992 to 2001, the mill was run by signing agreements with KK Spinner, OSM, HR International and ODMPL.
These arrangements proved profitable for the companies but not for the mill. Its condition started deteriorating and its earning was not in commensurate with its production.
The situation came to such a pass that the workers did not receive their salaries on time. Nor could electricity bills be paid on time.
At one point of time, the electricity connection was cut off after the outstanding bill amount touched Rs 1,20,00,000. Many employees were forced to take VRS.
Eventually, the mill was closed down in 2001. Following the closure of the mill, employees as well as the local people resorted to agitations and strikes demanding the reopening of the mill.
Consequently, Vijay Agarwal, owner of Firoza Spinning Mill of Kolkata, was entrusted with the responsibility to run the mill in 2007 and production resumed in 2010.
The mill’s name was also changed to Balaji Ganapati Spinning Mill. The number of employees was downsized and there were only 150 regular workers and 100 trainees.
It has been alleged that the present owner has shifted several costly machineries from the mill to elsewhere.
And since outstanding electricity bills are not being paid regularly, the plant’s power connection has been snapped again, forcing the closure of the plant at regular intervals.
At present, the mill is running with only 60 workers the mill is running.
Talking to this correspondent, Jogendra Prasad Panda and Dhabaleswar Kumbhar of the mill’s workers’ union said that the plant authorities have deducted EPF amounts from their salaries but not deposited it in their accounts.
“We have informed this to the mill authorities and district administration in writing,” they added.
Meanwhile, it has been alleged that the present owner is not interested in running the mill but is actually eyeing on the 100 acres of land adjacent to the plant. A petition has been filed in the court in this regard.