AF ASHIQURE RAHMAN
GOLAKGANJ, Jan 5 – The fate of the 86-year-old famous Dhubri Match Factory is now hanging in the balance. Due to the alleged mismanagement of the match factory authorities, the factory, which was once recognised as a prized unit of the chain of five WIMCO match factories in the country, has remained shut down since 1997.
When the other WIMCO match factories in Mumbai, Chennai, Bareilly and Kolkata were facing losses, it was the Dhubri unit which was doing brisk business. But, now due to the alleged mis-management of the WIMCO authorities and the 1997 Supreme Court verdict banning felling of trees, the Dhubri Match Factory is seeing the red. The imprudence and mismanagement of the WIMCO authorities becomes obvious when one takes into account the fact that the Dhubri Match Factory has all the required infrastructure to switch over to the cardboard match box and waxed match sticks to overcome the adverse situation arising out of the Supreme Court verdict on felling of trees. But, the WIMCO authorities for some mysterious reasons, have preferred not to have cardboard match boxes and waxed match sticks.
As a result the match factory has remained closed since 1997 and its workers are now living in abject poverty with an apprehension of a final closure of the factory haunting them like a spectre. The WIMCO Match Factory, set up in 1925 by a renowned Swedish company made Dhubri too a famous place in the industrial map of this industrially backward State. The Swedish entrepreneurs had all the justifications for setting up the Match Factory of Dhubri as Dhubri had the required raw materials for the then woodbased match factory enterprise. The Swedish entrepreneurs acquired 132 bighas of land to set up the match factory and brought the initial batches of workmen from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Incourse of time, the venture flourished into the biggest match factory in the country. It was then known as Assam Match Company’s (AMCO) Dhubri Match Factory.
In 1979, the Zathia Group of Industries took over the match factory. A large number of local labourers were recruited by the new owners and the match factory was renamed as the Dhubri unit of the Western India Match Company (WIMCO). Three thousand workers were engaged in the match factory. But, in 1988, the management reduced the number of workmen on the plea of introducing new machineries and this resulted in a tussle between the management and the workers of the factory.
The number of workers were further reduced in 1993 and when the Supreme Court ordered a ban on felling of trees in 1997, the management of the factory let off its steam.
Meanwhile, workers of the match factory are now facing a situation of near starvation. They are now eagerly awaiting for a positive step from the State Government to prevail upon the WIMCO management for reopening the factory. “Otherwise our families are heading towards a disastrous situation”, commented several workers contacted by this correspondent.