Case drags on, Indian traders ‘forced’ to earn wages in China

Shyamsunder Agrawal of Mumbai and Hyderabad native Deepak Raheja spent a lonely Diwali away from families in China. Once successful traders in India, they now work as daily wage labourers in the neighbouring country as a case against them drags on in a Beijing court. Having sold all valuables, they have nothing to fall back on.

Agrawal and Raheja, who were working for import-export firm Euro Global Trading, were beaten and held for days by a group of Chinese traders in January after the owner of the firm fled with millions of RMB (renminbi, which is a legal tender in mainland China) he owed the Chinese.

They were freed by local police following the Indian government's intervention but could not escape a civil suit. They have been stranded in Beijing since, waiting for permission to return home.

"We have moved to a small town near Beijing. We begin our day looking for wage jobs. Mostly, it is manual labour or parcel delivery. The money we earn gets us only one decent meal at times. Often, we don't make enough and are at the mercy of strangers for food," said Agrawal.

Raheja, who lost his father in August, was granted permission to visit Hyderabad for last rites. "I returned to China last month, after which we decided it was time to fend for ourselves. We have been told by Indian consulate officials that they are awaiting instructions from New Delhi to take further action," he said.

"It is a strange feeling to be working like labourers we used to employ about a year ago. We are running out of hope," Agrawal said.

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