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The Week That Was:

From: Vartaa Editorial Team on Nov 20, 2016

Cash crunch hits hard

All across India, the effects of the government's demonetization move continued to be felt with banks witnessing long lines and the Ministry of Finance coming up with rules to mitigate the effect. The government announced availability of cash at petrol pumps upto a limit of Rs 2000. Cash can also be withdrawn for weddings but upto a limit of Rs 2.5 lacs. However, only a few petrol pumps have cash dispensing machines and ATMs continue to face issues in dispensing new notes. There are also fears that lack of cash in rural areas might severely impact the sowing of the Rabi crop.

Yet another train accident

The infamous accident record of Indian Railways came back to haunt it again as 14 coaches of the Patna-Indore express train derailed near Kanpur killing 96 passengers and injuring more than 150. While PM Modi expressed his anguish at the incident, the central government announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 3.5 lacs to the families of the deceased. The Railways have yet not commented on the cause of the accident.

India-England Test series

The past week saw the commencement of what promises to be an enthralling series of Test matches for cricket fans. India and England, two strong and well balanced teams, drew the first of their five matches in Rajkot after the visitors displayed surprising pluck and almost gave the home team a scare on the fifth day. In the second test at Vizag, India emerged with a comfortable win on the fifth day. Given both teams rarely play five match series, the contest will allow plenty of opportunities for a team to fight back but will equally test the depth of their squads as well. This series also marks the first time India is using the DRS system to review umpire calls in its complete form.

Opinions you must read:

  • Can Donald Trump, the disruptor-in-chief be level headed as a President?
  • Nov 19th marks the centenary birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. How is she viewed more than three decades after she passed away?
  • While the government wants India to be a cashless economy, what is the impact of demonetization on the poor who are often truly cash less?

Chart of the Week

The biggest issue currently looming large in the minds of Indians working in the U.S. and executives of Indian IT services companies is the impact of the Trump presidency on the H1B visa program. The H1B visa program was conceived in order to give American companies the ability to hire highly-skilled foreign workers in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Each year, a total of 85,000 such visas are given out with 20,000 reserved for applicants with graduate degrees. Critics of the program claim that instead of giving innovative companies the chance to hire skilled talent, the program encourages the transfer of low-paid tech workers from India to the U.S. thereby depressing wages for American workers. Some critics also claim that the process is riddled with fraud. Earlier this year, Infosys settle a lawsuit with the U.S. government for $35 million. The Indian IT giant was accused of abusing the B1 visa program (Business visa) to circumvent the onerous H1B visa lottery process. Infosys did not admit to any wrongdoing.

As the American economy has recovered after the 2008-09 recession, demand for H1B visas has been strong. Lasy tear, a total of 236,000 applications were received for 85,000 visas. Roughly 2 in 3 applicants did not get a visa. Companies and lawmakers have accused Indian IT services/ outsourcing companies of flooding the system with applications to improve the odds of getting enough employees these coveted visas. In this week's chart, we decided to examine which companies bagged most of the H1B visas.

At first blush, it does appear that IT services and outsourcing companies both based in India and outside, have been the biggest recipients of H1B visas. Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Apple are at number 15 and 20 respectively. The largest IT services companies gobbled up more than a third of the H1B visas. President-elect Trump's attorney general pick has criticized the program calling for its suspension while high-profile leaders in Silicon Valley such as Mark Zuckerberg have called for the expansion of the program. Prominent Indian-Americans supported Trump and donated large sums to his campaign. They will have their fingers crossed hoping Trump does not scrap the program.