Two of the seven Indians working for infrastructure major IL&FS in Ethiopia, kept under house arrest by local employees protesting against non-payment of wages by the company, were released on health grounds.
“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,” the source close to the development said. Both the employees were then taken to a local hospital near the project site with the help of the police, and from there to the capital city Addis Ababa, where they are recuperating. Five other staffers are still being held captive.
The hostage crisis came to light after the Indians took to Twitter to inform the world about the situation. The IL&FS employees are being held hostage as the new management of the infrastructure giant is not allowing remittance of money.
“We are seven Indian employees from IL&FS who are under house arrest in camp by local staff in Ethiopia for the last seven days due to non-payment of local salaries,” said Sukhvinder Singh Khoker, one of the Indians under house arrest in Ethiopia. He said the Indians had also gone without salary for several months.
The Indian national sent similar messages on social media to several leading political figures including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. The seven employees work for ITNL-Elsamex Jv Bure (a joint venture between IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd and Elsamex S.A.). Earlier reports had suggested that the External Affairs Ministry had sought a detailed report on the case from the Indian Embassy. The Ministry is yet to give details of the case but reports suggest that the situation went out of control after the company terminated local projects in the wake of financial hardships.
ITNL is the largest build-operate-transfer (BOT) road asset owner in India with approximately 13,100 lane km to its credit. IL&FS Group and its various subsidiaries, including ITNL, are facing a liquidity crisis and have defaulted on debt payments.
As of October 8, 2018, the total debt of the group stood at Rs 94,215.6 crore.
After the IL&FS crisis had a cascading effect on the market, the government on October 1 superseded its board and appointed a seven-member board headed by Uday Kotak as the chairman. The new board is working on a resolution plan for the debt-ridden company.