Indian traders become labourers in China as legal dispute drags on

Mumbai man among 2 facing case in Beijing after their employer dupes Chinese traders

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 up and held hostage for days by a group of Chinese traders in January after the owner of the company fled with millions of RMB he owed the Chinese. They were freed by local police following Indian government intervention but could not escape a civil suit. They have been stranded in Beijing since, waiting for permission to return home.

The two spent the festive season among strangers. "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 on phone.

The struggle is not just for food, it's for a place to sleep too.

The two hunt for shaded storefronts as evening sets in. Sometimes, they get lucky and are offered shelter by other daily wage labourers.

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 in our case," he said.

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