Citizens' Issues
Denial of L-1B visa applications highest for Indians: Study
Even as President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he would reform the L-1B visa regime that allows global companies to temporarily shift their workers to the US, a study released last week finds that Indians faced the maximum rejections under this category.
 
"The denial rate for L-1B petitions to transfer employees of Indian origin is a remarkable 56 percent for 2012 through 2014, compared to an average denial rate of 13 percent to transfer employees from all other countries during the period," says the study by a US think tank.
 
"Only 4 percent of Canadian nationals were denied L-1B petitions, compared to 56 percent of Indian nationals, between 2012 and 2014," says the study by the National Foundation for American Society, non-profit public policy research organization on trade and immigration issues.
 
Indian nationals, the study says, had filed the most number of petitions under the L-1B regime at 25,296 petitions, followed by Canadians with 10,692 petitions. The denial rate was 16 percent for for Britishers for 2,577 petitions, and 22 percent for Chinese for 1,570 petitions.
 
"The data reveal the problem with denials centers primarily on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services denying petitions for employees being transferred into the United States from India. The numbers are stark," says the study.
 
"Examining the top eight countries of origin for L-1B petitions reveals no other country had even half the denial rate of employees from India," it said, even as data also revealed that Indians secured approvals for 11,192 petitions. 
 
Nevertheless, President Obama declared Tuesday that "America is proudly open for business", while assuring that the L-1B visa category will be reformed to allow global corporations to temporarily move workers to the US in a faster, simpler way.
 
"This could benefit hundreds of thousands of non-immigrant workers and their employers. That, in turn, will benefit our entire economy and spur additional investment," he said during an address to the the second SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington.
 
"So the bottom line is this: America is proudly open for business, and we want to make it as simple and as attractive for you to set up shop here as is possible," said Obama. "That is what this summit is all about."
 
Reacting to the announcement, Nasscom president R. Chandrasekhar said the guidance on the reform of the l-1B regime was still not available, the statement of intent from Obama made it clear that he felt the move will strengthen investments into the US.
 
"We expect the guidance to be positive and a step in the right direction. But unless we see the actual guidance, which we expect around the end of this week, it will be diccicult to respond to any of the specifics," Chandrasekhar said in a TV interview.

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30,000 elderly haven't got pension in East Delhi
Facing a financial crunch, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) has not paid monthly pension of Rs.1,000 to over 30,000 elderly people under the Old Age Pension Scheme since March 2013, the Delhi High Court has been informed.
 
The East Delhi civic body told a division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva that due to the financial crunch it has also not paid the salaries of its officials and staff.
 
"The total number of pensioners under Old Age Pension Scheme is 30,816 and of them, 30,610 have received the pension up to March 31, 2013," EDMC said in its affidavit in the court.
 
The agency's response came after the bench asked it to file a status report while hearing a PIL filed by an NGO, Social Jurist, accusing it of stopping the pension of nearly 45,000 people, including the disabled, widows and the elderly under the scheme.
 
The court asked the civic body to file an affidavit stating the number of people entitled to receive pension under the scheme and the number actually receiving the pension.
 
In its response, the civic body claimed it had not stopped the pensions.
 
"EDMC has never stopped from its end, once the pension is allowed under the scheme to eligible persons," it said, adding: "However, pension is not paid to those who have expired or who have shifted their address without informing about the new address and/or have started receiving the pension from Delhi government (Delhi government pays Rs.1,500 per month, Rs.500 more than the corporation)."
 
Asking the court to dismiss the plea, EDMC said: "The Old Age Pension, under the scheme, was last paid on March 31,2013; therefore, the contention of the petitioner society that the pension was not paid since long is based on imagination."
 
"The EDMC is facing financial crunch due to which the salary of its officials/staff is not paid and this problem was raised even before union home minister by the mayor and commissioner of EDMC. The minister has assured to help," it added.
 
The civic body said the PIL is not maintainable as the "distribution of Old Age Pension is (a liability) upon the corporation which is subject to the availability of funds, apart from the obligatory functioning of the EDMC."
 
The PIL, filed through advocate Ashok Agarwal and Khagesh Jha, termed the denial of pension as a violation of fundamental rights.
 
Agarwal termed the EDMC action "arbitrary and illegal".

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More petha units shut down in Agra
With the sealing of seven more units, the number of centres manufacturing Agra's famous petha sweet that have been shut down for using coal has risen to 30.
 
The Wednesday night operation was a joint effort of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, the Agra Municipal Corporation and the district administration. It followed reports that the units making petha, a sweet candy made of gourd, were still using coal although they had given affidavits that they won't do so.
 
An FIR lodged by pollution control board official Anand Kumar triggered the latest crackdown.
 
The still functional petha units in Agra's Noori Darwaza area have downed their shutters protesting against the government action.
 
"At this rate, Agra's petha manufacturers will go out of business," fumed Ankur, a shopowner at Noori Darwaza, the chief petha bazaar in this Taj Mahal city, to IANS.
 
"We will be finished," added Govind Prasad, another shopkeeper.
 
On Tuesday, Divisional Commissioner Pradeep Bhatnagar ordered firm action against the polluting units.
 
The Supreme Court had in 1996 banned the use of coal to produce petha as a fallout of a public interest litigation filed by lawyer and green activist M.C. Mehta. More than 500 petha units, employing over 50,000 workers, manufacture tonnes of petha each day in this city.
 
Rarely do visitors to Agra fail to pick up a packet or two of this sweet.
 
Nutritionists say that although high in sugar, the sweet candy is nourishing and cheap and low on fat.
 
The legend is that thousands of workers and craftsmen were given petha, an instant source of energy, while chipping in hot the Agra summers to raise the 17th century Taj Mahal, India's biggest tourist draw.
 
Interestingly, the raw material for petha is not locally available.
 
The gourd is brought from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and elsewhere. Only the expertise and skill for manufacturing the sweet are available locally, said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
 
In recent years, petha makers have experimented with new flavours, sizes and colours, besides attractive packing.
 
Earlier, there were just two or three varieties. Now there is sandwich petha, kesar petha, khas petha, orange petha, pineapple petha, coconut petha and other varieties.
 
Diabetics can get sugar-free petha too.
 
At the heart of the present controversy is the administration's renewed effort to shift polluting units out of Agra.
 
The Agra Development Authority has developed a "Petha Nagri" and allotted plots to the units, but officials say the manufacturers are not keen on shifting.
 
A medical professional said: "These units have been polluting the area, adding to solid waste and releasing all kinds of toxic gases that combine with early morning fog to make life hell for the people."
 
An official said that the units in 2002 filed affidavits claiming they were not using coal and had switched to liquefied petroleum gas.
 
"But investigation revealed that the use of coal was rampant," he said.

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