H-1B visa ban for bailed out US firms is irrational: Montek

H-1B visa ban for bailed out US firms is irrational: Montek
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First Published: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 05 48 PM IST
Updated: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 05 48 PM IST
New Delhi: The Government has termed as “economically irrational” the provisions that debar US companies from hiring people holding H-1B visas if they take help under $787 billion economic bailout package, which President Barack Obama has signed into law.
“I think it is an indication of protectionism and interestingly it is an extremely bad decision,” Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told reporters on Tuesday night even as several MPs demanded that the government take up the matter with Washington.
“The decision says that if you have a company that needs assistance it must not hire H-1B visa workers, which really means if you have a company that is weak and you want to assist it you are going to deny it the opportunity to hire cheaper labour. To my mind it is economically irrational,” Ahluwalia said.
“This is the beginning of what could be an irreversible slide into protectionism which happened in 1930,” he added.
Meanwhile, several parliamentarians led by MP and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry V. Hanumantha Rao wrote to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee requesting that the government intervene to protect the interest of Indian non-immigrant workers in the US who go there on H-1B visas.
“We request you to kindly take up the matter with the US government and protect the interests of H-1B workers,“Rao told Mukherjee in a letter which was also signed by several other Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs.
The MPs have also said that if H-1B workers lose their jobs they should at least be given at least 5-6 months to leave the country instead of the 30 days deadline laid down in the new Act so that they have sufficient time to sell their homes and pack up.
The representation by the MPs follows a letter from B R Prasad of Overseas Congress, New York, on behalf of H-1B Indian immigrants to Lok Sabha MP and CWC member Aruna Kumar Vundavalli requesting that India should seek relaxation in the provisions of the Act and at least get the deadline increased.
Prasad’s letter said that in the last 10 years, the number of H-1B non-immigrant workers that came to the US is close to one million. Of them 65% are from India. In addition close to 100,000 Indian students are coming to US every year to pursue their education and career. They all depend on the H-1B programme.
“On average it takes 5 to 10 years for these H-1B workers to become permanent residents of US (Green Card Holders). During this process, these individuals settle down, buy homes and establish themselves in the US,“ Prasad’s letter said.
If these workers have to leave the country in 30 days they would not get enough time to sell their houses at a decent price, especially when there is already a downturn in the market, it said.
They will then lose their equity and end up owing money to the mortgage lenders and would on the whole suffer huge losses. Hence, they should be given at least six months to leave the country.
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First Published: Wed, Feb 18 2009. 05 48 PM IST