Ignoring India's concerns and veiled warning that it would drag the US to the World Trade Organisation, President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that would provide free health care to the first responders of the twin-tower terrorist attack in New York in September 2001.
Obama took some time off from his vacation in Hawaii to sign the bill that provides for a fund of $ 4.2 billion for the free health care to 9/11 responders, a portion of which is being raised by extending an increase in some categories of H-1B visa fee that would mainly affect Indian IT companies. India has objected to such an increase.
It also imposes a two per cent levy on goods and services the US imports from certain developing countries, including India. An extension in increase in H-1B visa fee is estimated to cost Indian companies $ 200 million.
Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma had termed it as a retrograde step for greater trade engagement with the US.
"I was honoured to sign the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to ensure that rescue and recovery workers, residents, students, and others suffering from health consequences related to the World Trade Center disaster have access to the medical monitoring and treatment they need," Obama said in his signing statement.
"We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers, and first responders who risked their lives to save others. I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks," he said.
The bill is named after James Zadroga, an NYPD detective who died of 9/11-related illnesses. "It was a bittersweet battle and this is a bittersweet victory," said Joseph Zadroga, father of James Zadroga.