US move to hike visa fee 'discriminatory': Nasscom

New Delhi: The National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) today said the US Border Security Bill, which has been passed by the Senate, has logical flaws and is discriminatory in nature, reports PTI.

"From India's perspective, I think it has been done ahead of November Congressional elections. It is based on flawed logic and is discriminatory in nature. But it did clarify that it is not targeting any particular nation...

"It (this Bill) shows the fact that Indian IT industry is posing significant competition to the US companies," Nasscom president Som Mittal said in a media conference call.

The Bill seeks to increase application fee for H-1B and L visas by at least $2,000 for the next five years. The move is aimed at raising funds for the $600 million spending plan to boost security at the porous US-Mexico border.

The US president, Barack Obama, will sign the bill into law today.

The fee hike would help in mopping up about $550 million of the total amount. Further, the increase would be applicable only for companies with more than 50 employees and for whom the majority of their workforce are visa-holding foreign workers.

"We are in talks with the US authorities to make separate visa categories for the services sector," Mr Mittal added.

Indian software firms, including IT biggies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and others, avail H-1B and L-1 visas to fly their employees to the US for working at their clients' locations as on-site engineers.

The $50-billion Indian IT export industry earns over 50% of its revenue from the US market.

When asked about the immediate impact of the Bill on Indian IT companies, Mr Mittal said that these entities would have to change their business models.

"The US is our largest IT market and will remain our largest market. The US trade bodies are very supportive. In terms of revenues, there would be no huge impact," Mr Mittal noted.

IT companies from countries such as China and the Philippines would also be impacted by the Bill.

As per Nasscom's estimates, Indian companies (mostly IT) apply for 50,000 visas every year, including H-1B and L1 visas, besides renewal of old visas.


Friday Closing Report: Bulls live to fight another day

The market opened flat this morning on mixed global cues. It soon gained strength after its Asian peers began trading firm. The momentum was further supported by a good opening by the European markets. However, the benchmarks trimmed some of their gains in the noon session as profit-booking was evident at higher levels.

At the end of the day, the Sensex closed higher by 93 points (0.5%) at 18,167. However the index shed 93 points from its session-high of 18,260. The Nifty closed at 5,452, up 35 points (0.6%). The benchmark gave up 24 points from its intraday high of 5,476.

Of the 30 stocks on the Sensex, 20 closed with gains while 10 declined. On the Nifty, 36 advanced, 13 declined and one stock closed unchanged. The broader indices outperformed the benchmarks; the BSE Mid-cap index added 0.98% while the BSE Small-cap index gained 0.67%.

The top Sensex gainers included State Bank of India (SBI) (up 2.3%), DLF (up 2.1%), ITC (up 2%), Maruti Suzuki (up 1.8%) and Jaiprakash Associates (up 1.4%). The top Sensex losers were Sterlite Industries (down 4.2%), Reliance Communications (RCom) (down 3%), Reliance Infra (R-Infra) (down 1%), Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) (down 0.8%) and Tata Motors (down 0.6%).

Among the sectoral indices on the BSE, realty was up 2.3%, consumer durables (CD) was up 1.8%, bankex was up 1.4%, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) was up 1.1% and oil & gas was up 0.7%. The metal index was the lone loser, shedding 0.1%.

Markets in Asia, with the exception of Hang Seng, ended with decent gains on the last trading day of the week. The rally was supported by strong earnings reports and the 2.2% rise in Germany's gross domestic product (GDP) in the June quarter (on a q-o-q basis). Shanghai Composite was up 1.2%, Jakarta Composite was up 1%, KLSE Composite was up 0.8%, Nikkei 225 was up 0.4%, Straits Times was up 0.4%, Seoul Composite was up 1.4% and Taiwan Weighted was up 0.8%. On the other hand, Hang Seng lost 0.1% in trade today.

The Parliament on Thursday passed a Bill allowing the government to reduce its stake in State Bank of India (SBI) to the bare minimum of 51%. The stipulation so far has been that the government can dilute its stake up to 55%. If the government chooses to dilute its stake, from 59.41% to 51%, it can raise around Rs15,000 crore, going by the prevailing share price of the State-owned lender.

Wall Street closed lower for the third day in a row on Thursday on a rise in jobless claims. The number of US workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose to nearly a six-month high, stoking ongoing fears about the weak labour market. Cisco Systems forecast sales below consensus, prompting several analysts to downgrade the stock. Besides, last month, 325,229 US properties got a notice of default, auction or bank repossession, RealtyTrac said in a report. The Dow fell 58 points (0.5%) to 10,319. The S&P 500 fell 5 points (0.5%) to 1,083. The Nasdaq fell 18 points (0.8%) to 2,190.

Germany's gross domestic product (GDP), adjusted for seasonal effects, rose 2.2% in the June quarter from the first quarter, when it had gained an upwardly revised 0.5% in Q1, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. That's the fastest growth since records for a reunified Germany began in 1991.

Foreign institutional investors were net buyers of Rs218 crore in the equities segment on Thursday. Domestic institutional investors were net sellers of Rs656 crore on the same day.

Udaipur-based Bank of Rajasthan (BoR) today became part of the country's largest private sector lender ICICI Bank (up 1.2%) following the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) approval to merger proposal of the two lenders.

All 463 branches of BoR have started functioning as ICICI Bank's as per the directive of the RBI. With this, ICICI Bank will have a branch network of about 2,500 branches, by far the largest among private sector banks.

Global ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) today raised Tata Motors' (down 0.6%) credit ratings to positive citing improved performance by auto maker's premium brands Jaguar Land Rover.

The upgrade to 'B+' from 'B' comes few days after Tata Motors clocked a consolidated net profit of Rs1,988.73 crore for the quarter ended 30th June on the back of strong sales in the domestic market and good show by Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR).

Subex Ltd (up 0.6%), a provider of operations and business support systems for communications service providers, along with key partner IBM India Pvt Ltd, has won a multi-million dollar contract from Idea Cellular Ltd.

Subex and IBM will implement Subex's ROC for interconnect billing for the telecom major. The solution will be implemented through IBM, who is Idea's strategic IT outsourcing partner.


Why blacklist the BlackBerry?

Banning this service will not solve the problem. The government and security agencies need to be more proactive and use innovations to track threats

In a civilised society, gagging of any sort should be used as a last resort. However, while citizens mostly behave in a civilised manner, the rulers chosen by democratic methods seem to believe more in undemocratic ways like banning and gagging.

Take the recent example of the Indian government's fatwa, which asks mobile handset-maker Research In Motion (RIM) to share its user data or face a ban from 31st August.

Government officials are citing security reasons and may have been thinking that unless they intervene in the data sent and received from RIM's popular BlackBerry devices, everything is under threat. Nothing wrong in this thinking, except that those elements posing a security risk to the country do not seem to be using these devices.

There are two reasons for this argument. One, the communication on these devices leaves a trace and second, for using the BlackBerry device, one needs to go for a strict verification and registration process with both the mobile operator and RIM. Obviously you wouldn’t expect a terrorist to fill out a form and thus leave a trail for using a BlackBerry.

However, the question is not just about BlackBerry or RIM. According to media reports, the Union government is planning to put Skype and Gmail services also under the scanner. The Department of Telecom (DoT) will ask these companies to either ensure that data going through their networks be made available to security agencies in a readable format or face a ban on offering services in India.

It is interesting to note that not just RIM but even Gmail and other free mail service providers encrypt their data between their servers and users' computers. Often, servers of such service providers are located outside India and accessing or forcing the companies to share the data becomes a gigantic, if not impossible task.

Many IT and security experts, however, are finding the whole episode of the proposed ban on RIM's services a tad hilarious. Not all terrorists may be tech-savvy, but by using simple human ingenuity, they have beaten security agencies across the world time and again. Just look at how America's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, has been beating the most tech-savvy nation on earth year after year, despite the country having access to all the sophisticated and latest technology. Rumours have it that the terrorist king uses satellite phones to communicate and keep his flock together!

Terrorists have been using free email accounts like Gmail but instead of sending and receiving any mail, they just save their messages as 'drafts'. This makes the job of snooping difficult, because unless the data is sent or received from a server, it cannot be intercepted.

Here, the security agencies could ask Gmail to provide IP addresses of such email IDs, which do not send/receive mails but access the draft folder from different locations. But again, there are numerous free email service providers. How can one keep track of all of them?

It is more important not to get carried away by sophisticated technology; it is smart thinking which is more important, as a security expert pointed out.
Remember, during the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, the terrorists used satellite phones and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based phones for communication with their handlers from our friendly neighbour. While it was possible to intercept these signals, our security agencies were not ready or not expecting terrorists to use such high-tech devices.

We have a government which has been allegedly taping phone devices of rivals; on the other hand, miscreants using simple, innovative methods constantly beat them. Therefore the need of the hour is not a blanket ban, but to keep our eyes open and have an ear to the ground rather than threatening legitimate services or businesses.



Rambabu Shastri

5 years ago

The Government of India does not have any security standards in it's own departments. You see leaks all over the place, be it records available or leaked to the press or the misuse of personal information by the Congress to go after 'uncomfortable' individuals or organizations. So, all this thing about monitoring blackberry, etc will only lead to a handful of people misusing the information to their personal, corrupt advantage. Even a standard like ISO 27001 cannot help plug a system with leaks. May Gulshan Rai find the right way to deal with all these issues!


6 years ago

Thank you all for your comments. I wish to clarify that I had used BlackBerry ban just as an example. I knew the technical details of its operations. The point here is, these devices leave a trail, which nobody, including terrorists and privacy advocates, likes. So, instead of wasting our time, chasing legitimate business, the authorities should focus more on using innovations of a simple mind to track security threats. Hope it clears some misconception.


6 years ago

The author never thought of writing a similar article when our security agencies asked Chinese companies to address our securuity concerns with regard to their equipment before bidding for DOT contracts.
By the way Balckberry does give its data to CIA/FBI and RCMP for intellignece collection. The servers are located in Canada and USA and so they help their national interest. It is giving the data to Saudi arabia and UAE but it is NOT giving the data only to India and Indonesia because it knows it can bribe its way here.RIM is not worried about terrorism but its ability to monitor Indian ruling elite and CEOs who use this equipment so that it can use it. Infact it is similar to swiss bank accounts whose data Indian government could not get while it gave it to USA.
Infact RIM has agreed to locate the servers in Saudi arabia.let Indians who talk about how easy it is for terrorists to bypass security to help the Government with concrete security related advice.



In Reply to captainjohann 6 years ago

Thanks for your comment. May I request to check/explore before posting such comments. Dr Samir Kelekar has already written about the Chinese telecom equipment (read here Do you want the author to repeat the same?


6 years ago





6 years ago

"Terrorists have been using free email accounts like Gmail but instead of sending and receiving any mail, they just save their messages as 'drafts'. This makes the job of snooping difficult, because unless the data is sent or received from a server, it cannot be intercepted."

This is wrong. Even to read a draft, the user has to open his account and access the "draft e-mail". The current e-mail data is received from the server to the user's machine for reading and hence a server communication happens. Even if the e-mail is just updated to Draft it is still sent back to the e-mail server and hence a communication happens in the reverse direction.

Ashish Grover

6 years ago

The move to ban blackberry is apt considering the security threat that it poses. I dont think faking documentation is too difficult for the terrorists .... and secondly RIM and our service providers dont take any pains in verifying the credentials of the users.... with new handsets introduced for as low as 13K... even a student has an access to a blackberry services now...

Rahul Tyagi

6 years ago

Yea, but talking about the terrorist, they are much smarter than us the main difficulty we are facing that terrorists need no authentication for doing anything, but being a security professional we have to fill a lot documentation. We have to think like a criminal if we want to protect our self from these sort of cyber threats.

Rahul Tyagi

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