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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

US can’t ignore India: Nasscom on proposed H-1B visa curb

IT industry leaders say any H-1B visa curbs will affect US economy as it lacks skilled manpower particularly in the field of science, technology, engineering and maths

india Updated: Feb 25, 2017 01:18 IST
Sanjeev K Ahuja
Sanjeev K Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
In this  file photo, Infosys Technologies employees move through the headquarters during a break in Bangalore. Senior IT industry leaders claim any curb on H-1B visa by the Donald  Trump administration will severely impact the US economy.
In this file photo, Infosys Technologies employees move through the headquarters during a break in Bangalore. Senior IT industry leaders claim any curb on H-1B visa by the Donald Trump administration will severely impact the US economy. (AP /For representational purpose only)

India’s apex IT industry lobby Nasscom has said the US just can’t afford to ignore India as it lacked the required skills.

The Nasscom made the observation amid diplomatic channels opening up in both the countries to discuss the issue of proposed curb on H-1B visa by the US and outsourcing work outside America by India.

The US grapples with the manpower challenges and faces serious STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) skill gap issues, said Shivendra Singh, vice president and head of global trade development, Nasscom.

Indian IT companies help the US in filling this gap, he said.

“There is a challenge on the supply side in the US. There is STEM-skill gap which has been acknowledged by all credible US sources. As per US department of labour, there will be 2.4 million unskilled STEM jobs by 2018 - more than 50% in the computer and IT related area,” Singh said.

India is the biggest beneficiaries of H-1B visas in the world with about 58% (majority from US) of the total global outsourcing business coming to it.

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the US, which allows American employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.

But India will not be affected alone if there is any H-1B visa restriction, industry leaders said, even the US will face the manpower-related problem.

Senior IT industry leaders in India dared US President Donald J Trump to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s Swadeshi Movement launched in early 1900s during pre-independence era in India, and ask Americans to burn free-credit cards and get ready to pay $150 for the same.

Indians had then burnt the imported clothes and boycotted imported sugar as part of the Swadeshi movement.

“Trump should follow Gandhi who had called upon its people to boycott the garments made in English factories and gutted them. Trump too should tell people to boycott free credit cards and pay $150 and destroy free cards. He should ask the Americans to set their free cards ablaze,” said Nasscom vice chairman Raman Roy, who is also the CMD of the Quatrro Global Services.

Roy who is one of the pioneers of the BPO industry in India, advocated for the “butter and guns”, theory of Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson (1948)’.

He said that the countries, who are good at manufacturing guns should make guns and others produce butter, if they are good at it. It’s a basic economics.

Roy said the US lacks the required skill-set such as engineers. He said general productivity can be improved by specialisation as the very basics of the economy.

The countries like India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka have the requisite knowledge and people not the America. About 85% of the engineering students who enroll in their universities are migrants, he said.

As regards to the Indian contribution to the American economy, the Indian companies in the US paid $20billion as taxes in four years at the rate of $5billion annual tax, supporting 41,100 jobs and also did a lot of development work such as STEM skill development, the Nasscom said.

Veteran BPO expert and founding team member of the BPIAI (Business Processing Industry Association of India), Deepak Kapoor said, “I agree that the US cannot afford to go ahead with the anti-outsourcing bill but that is not the real question. The real question is what if President Donald Trump goes ahead on this to fulfill a political objective, like he has done with many other issues though intellectuals had thought otherwise.”

Kapoor said, “The mood in the Indian BPO Industry is more of a caution. Since no one can suitably guess what the US President will do, there prevails an uncanny uncertainty. Yet, I see so many people giving out premature judgment that nothing will happen. We are trying to answer a political question economically.”

Nasscom said that Indian companies not only act as protector and creator of jobs in the US, they help the American economy grow stronger.

“Indian companies are hiring locally in the US and bridging the supply gap by bringing the people on short term visa, including H-1B. These visas play critical role not only for Indians but Americans and other global companies,” Shivendra Singh said.

First Published: Feb 24, 2017 20:36 IST