The Mill employees and local MLA Koneru Konappa clearing the bushes in the mill yard on Wednesday
The Mill employees and local MLA Koneru Konappa clearing the bushes in the mill yard on Wednesday

Sirpur Kaghaznagar: The otherwise sleepy Sirpur Paper Mill (SPM) that fell sick more than three years ago is abuzz with hectic activity for the last couple of days with the employees and the local MLA himself clearing the overgrown bushes on the factory yard, expecting a buyer or two visiting the mill for a technical evaluation.

A blink of hope was apparent in their eyes with the recent developments suggesting that there was a possibility of someone taking over the mill. The mill, which was shut down in 2014 following successive losses due to high raw material costs coupled with poor demand, owes Rs 422.21 crore to banks. The IDBI Bank took possession of the mill on behalf of lenders to recover their collective dues in October 2016 put the assets up for sale. Following which, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) bench appointed an interim resolution professional (IRP) in October 2017.

Against this backdrop, the NCLT had received initial expressions of interest from nine companies including the likes of ITC Paper Divisions, JK Paper Ltd, Kolkata-based Kohinoor Group and West Coast Paper Mills Ltd.

Started by Nizam rulers, the SPM, one of the oldest paper mills in the country and regarded as the largest producer of pulp and paperboard, went into oblivion after the management struggled to pay salaries and repay debts, thus hitting the livelihood of at least 10,000 people, directly or indirectly dependent on the mill. The Nizam's mill was purchased by the CK Birla Group in the 1950s and later it was transferred to the Poddar Group of companies.

However, it was tipped that the ITC Paperboards and Specialty Papers Division (PSPD) could take over the SPM last year, the buyout didn't take place. Speaking to The Hans India, Sirpur MLA Koneru Konappa said: “With quite a few companies expressing their intent to acquire the mill, the situation appears congenial for the revival of the mill. Industries Minister KT Rama Rao had already promised to extend the benefits under its policy - Telangana State Industrial Project Approval and Self-Certification System (TS-iPASS), to SPM to ensure its revival.''

The government is also working towards for the payment of salaries that amounts to around Rs 68 crore to the employees, who were not paid for the last 38 months, he added.  The CITU-affiliated SPM Mazdoor Union General Secretary, who is also on the rolls of the mill, K Rajanna expressed hope that this time around there will be no obstruction for the revival of the mill.

''We are expecting the arrival of some companies that expressed their initial intent to acquire the mill for technical evaluation. So, the employees are trying to give a new look to the mill by clearing the trash and overgrown bushes,'' he said.