Millennium Post

Premji to PM: Tell Obama to stop US immigration tricks

IT services major Wipro has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek the Obama administration’s intervention to remove provisions in a proposed US immigration bill that are discriminatory towards Indian IT firms. ‘The provisions of the Senate Bill that are discriminatory and target Indian companies are — outplacement bans and restrictions, attestation on recruitment of US workers, and higher wages to H1B employees vs American employees,’ Wipro Chairman Azim Premji said in a letter addressed to the PM.

‘We want your support to seek White House intervention to eliminate the discriminatory provisions in both the Senate and House Bills and to treat Indian IT service providers at par. This is in the interest of Indo-US trade relations and in keeping with your vision to increase bilateral trade by five times from the current level of $100 billion,’ Premji said.

The US Senate in June passed a landmark immigration bill retaining killer provisions on H-1B visas that would hit Indian IT firms. ‘Discriminating against Indian companies in favour of American IT services companies including leading companies aggressively selling into India, this is not in the interest of free trade,’ Premji pointed out.

The Bill, if it becomes law in the present form, will deal a blow to Indian IT services firms using the guest worker visa (H1B programme) to win contracts in the US as it legislates higher fees and salaries, thereby robbing Indian companies of their competitive low-cost edge.

Seeking to assuage America’s concerns, Premji said, ‘Contrary to misconception, Indian IT firms in the USA in the past five years have created American jobs of at least 35,000 and today support 2,80,000 jobs in the US. Three out of these four jobs are held by Americans. Contrary to this, a leading American Services company in the last six years has reduced 36,000 American workers.’

If discriminatory elements against the Indian IT industry survive in the final form of the Senate Immigration Bill, we believe it will be detrimental to India-US trade and encourage the Indian government to be more conservative in opening up trade between US and India, he added. The bill, if passed, would also pave the way for fast-track permanent residency (Green Card) for foreign students who graduate in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. This may be positive for those seeking their way into American residency through the education route, but it will bleed elite Indian talent.

With these curbs, US companies will lose access to a talent pool provided by the Indian companies in a market where there is an acknowledged shortage of Engineering and Science Graduates in the US, Premji said. Pointing out the recent changes in the Indian government’s policies with respect to foreign direct investment (FDI), preferential market access (PMA)  and transfer pricing, Premji exhorted the ‘US government to reciprocate and not create impediments for Indian companies’.
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