ADDIS ABABA: The Indian Ministry of External Affairs is investigating reports of detention of seven Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) as seven Indian employees of the beleaguered company were reportedly detained by unpaid local staff in Ethiopia. However, two of them have released on health grounds as per a source. The released Indian men had sent an e-mail from captivity to the Indian Embassy on their medical condition, adding that the embassy helped in securing their release. Harish Bandi was suffering from gastric issues and swelling in one of his fingers, while Bhaskar Reddy was down with severe fever.
The five other employees of ITNL are being held captive are; Four staffers- Sukhvinder Singh, Bishnu Nagaraju, Chaitanya Hari and Khurram Imam, are under house arrest at one of the locations of Nekemte-Bure road project, while another Indian expat, Neeraj Raghuwanshi is been held hostage at a different location at the same project site.
The source said, “A mail was written to the Indian Embassy in Ethiopia, which acted promptly and with the help of local police the two employees were released.” Both of them were taken to a local hospital near the project site with the help of police authorities and from there to the capital city, where they are now recuperating. Meanwhile, the hostage five Indian employees are currently surviving on boiled rice, sweet potatoes, and vegetables grown in their camp area. The seven men have been held since November 25 at three sites in Ethiopia's Oromia and Amhara states by unpaid local staff.
IL&FS had defaulted on paying both taxes and local employee pensions for nine months. The locals have supposedly not been given salaries for October and November by a subsidiary of IL&FS Transportation Networks (ITNL). It is assumed that a possible termination of some road projects being built by Indian and Spanish joint ventures may have triggered local employees to take the step. The hostage persons had earlier attempted to escape, but it was thwarted by locals who believe they would not get their dues if the employees leave.
The source added that the Indian employees working in Ethiopia have not received salaries from July 2018 either. The troubled IL&FS released a statement over the weekend, saying the two released employees of ITNL could be rescued through collective and sustained engagement with various authorities. The company has been under persistent stress after reports of defaulting on USD 12.6 billion in debt which rocked the Indian stock market, causing a huge funds outflow from NBFC sector.