IndUS Business Journal

US official: India highest recipient of H-1B visas

Aug 23, 2016 0

New Delhi– Despite a hefty hike in fees of US H-1B and L-1 visas, there has been no drop in number of applications from India and the country continues to be the highest recipient of H-1B visas, the highest US official in Washington dealing with international visa issues said here on Tuesday.

Michele Bond

Michele Bond

“Indian citizens receive almost 70 percent of all the H-1B visas issued worldwide,” Michele Bond, US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, said during a media interaction here.

“Overwhelmingly, Indian applicants are the ones who are successful in qualifying for these visas,” she said.

As for L-1 visas, she said that Indian citizens received around 30 percent of all such visas issued.

The US doubled the visa fees to $4,000 for H-1B and to $4,500 for L-1 at the end of last year.

Indian IT bellwethers have most of their employees working on site holding H-1B visas.

Bond said that in US fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015), more than 110,000 H-1B visas were issued to Indian citizens.

“This is a priority for us because we are part of a bilateral India and US effort to grow their economic and commercial ties,” she said.

Asked if there has been any move to revisit the issue of hike in visa fees, she said: “These specific visas where the fees changed — the H and L visas — we have seen no drop in the number of applications for those visas, no lessening of interest in obtaining those visas. It was a legislative change, so we were implementing that law.”

Bond came to India to attend the annual bilateral consular dialogue that was held here on Monday during which issues like facilitating tourism and business and other travel between the two countries, visa assessing, protection of US citizens in India, transparent international adoption, and preventing international parental child abduction cases were discussed.

While she led the US delegation, P. Kumaran, Joint Secretary (Consular, Passport, Visa) in the Ministry of External Affairs, headed the Indian side. (IANS)

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US security assistance to Pakistan declines

Aug 23, 2016 0

Washington– US security assistance to Pakistan declined by 73 per cent since 2011, Congressional Research Service (CRS) report said.

The report, prepared for the US Congress, covers both military and economic assistance given between 2002 and 2015 as well as those earmarked for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, Dawn online reported on Tuesday.

It also showed a 53 per cent decrease in economic assistance since 2011, when relations between the US and Pakistan began to deteriorate after the discovery of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and a US air strike on a Pakistani border post in Salala that killed 24 soldiers.

The Pentagon had earlier this month decided not to pay $300 million military reimbursement to Pakistan over Islamabad’s reluctance to act against the Haqqani network.

The country had immediately rejected the charge.

Security aid fell from nearly $1.3 billion in 2011 to $343 million last year. Economic aid had declined from nearly $1.2 billion in 2011 to $561 million last year.

US magazine The Atlantic’s news service, The Wire, on Saturday said the “apparent US-Pakistan estrangement could bring Islamabad closer to its all-weather friend China”.

The Wire noted that the suspension of $300 million military aid “was seen as the latest sign of strained relations between the once major allies, which is a matter of significance for India”.

The cancelled $300 million payments were in the form of Coalition Support Fund (CSF) under which Pakistan has received over $14 billion since 2002.

The CSF accounted for “as much as one-fifth of Pakistan’s total military expenditures” from 2002 to 2014, said the US government news and analysis service for Congress.

Another indication of tension between the US and Pakistan was the cancellation of an aircraft deal. Under its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme, the US planned to sell Pakistan eight F-16 fighter jets at a cost of $270 million.

But the proposed sale faced a strong, bipartisan opposition in the US Congress and was cancelled in May this year.

Pakistan can still buy the aircraft if it agrees to pay the actual cost of $700m. Pakistan did not purchase the aircraft, as it could not afford them.

The CRS report, however, shows that Pakistan has or still is in the process of receiving nearly $1.2 billion worth of weapon systems from the US since 2001.

In April last year, the US State Department approved a $952 million foreign military sales deal to give Pakistan 15 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire II missiles.

On April 5, the US agreed to pay $170 million for nine of these helicopters and additional fuel kits for Pakistan.
(IANS)

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Despite sporting glory, Indian women struggle to rise

Aug 23, 2016 0

By Saumya Tewari

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, shuttler P.V. Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal; Sakshi Malik the first Indian female wrestler to win a medal (bronze), gymnast Dipa Karmarkar became the first Indian woman to feature in a gymnastics final, finishing fourth in the vault, and Lalita Babar became the first Indian woman to enter a 3,000 metre steeplechase final, finishing 10th. Eighteen-year-old Aditi Ashok — the youngest golfer from India — also entered the final round of the women’s individual golf event.

Women saved the day for India at Rio, and their growing presence was reflected in the 54 female Indian athletes — the largest number ever — at an Olympiad.

While those rising numbers indicate the progress made by Indian sportswomen — many from small towns and poor families — in particular, and Indian women in general, a quick look at five key parameters — working women, education, maternal health, age of marriage and abortion rates-reveals that India’s women are routinely denied opportunities at education, work and even being born.

1. Working women: Lowest in BRICS, 25 million women leave workforce over a decade

Women’s workforce participation in India is the lowest among BRICS nations. A host of other countries, such as Bahrain (39 per cent), Malaysia (45 per cent) and Somalia (37 per cent), do much better, as IndiaSpend reported in March 2015, using World Bank data from 2014.

Dipa KarmakarNo more than 26 per cent of India’s women in India participated in the workforce, according to a 2013 Labour Bureau report. The rate improved to 27 per cent in 2014, according to a 2015 International Monetary Fund (IMF) study that IndiaSpend reported in July 2016. This is a decline of up to 8 per cent percentage point over 14 years; in 1999, up to 34 per cent of women were a part of India’s workforce.

2. Higher education: More women enrolled, outperform men, but drop out later

While more young women are enrolled in higher education than ever before — and apparently more successful in clearing 10th-standard board exams than young men-they are either marrying early or not finding or not looking for jobs, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of various data.

The enrolment of girls in higher education increased from 39 per cent to 46 per cent from 2007 to 2014, but as data above show, female participation in India’s labour force declined to a low of 27 per cent in 2014 from 34 per cent in 1999.

Almost 12 million women are enrolled in undergraduate courses, but few continue to professional courses; 600,000 women were enrolled for diploma courses, according to 2013 data, the latest available. Even fewer women sign on for PhDs and only 40 per cent of PhD candidates are female.

In 2016, girls were more successful than boys in clearing 10th-standard exams of a national education board, a trend that has held over seven years, we reported.

3. Maternal Health: Best ever, but worse than poorer countries

India’s maternal mortality ratio was 167 in 2010-12, according to the latest government data available, a steady improvement.

India’s maternal mortality ratio — 174, according to World Bank estimates — is worse than countries in the neighbourhood, such as Sri Lanka (30), Bhutan (148) and Cambodia (161).

India does worst among the BRICS countries: Russia (25), China (27), Brazil (44), and South Africa (138); according to the World Bank’s latest estimates, which differ somewhat from Indian sources’ 167 but confirm the trends.

4. Median age of marriage: Rising, but 61 per cent married before 16

The average Indian woman is married at 21.2 years, according to Census 2011, an improvement from 19.3 years in 1990, according to a government report.

The mean female age at marriage in rural areas is 20.7; in urban areas, 22.7, according to the latest census data from 2011.

While education is an efficient contraceptive — Indian women with a college degree have 1.9 children during their lifetime, against 3.8 for illiterate woman — it appears to only marginally slow the inevitability of early marriage.

Nearly 12 million Indian children were married before the age of 10 years, as IndiaSpend reported in June 2016; 7.84 million (65 per cent) married children were female, reinforcing the fact that girls are significantly more disadvantaged. Eight in 10 illiterate children who were married were also girls.

Also, as many as 1,403 females never attended any educational institution for every 1,000 males who have not, IndiaSpend reported in November 2015.

5. India’s missing girls: Child sex ratio lowest in 60 years

India’s child sex ratio is the worst in 60 years, indicating that girls continue to be aborted, killed or otherwise fatally neglected.

If India’s child sex ratio does not improve, there will be 23 million fewer women (aged 29-40) than there should be by 2030, according to a United Nations Population Fund projection.

Sex selection was introduced in India to control population growth, based on the premise that since girls are hardier, all else being equal, more survive childbirth than boys. In 1975, a paper in the journal Indian Paediatrics argued that this excess of girls was “unnecessary fecundity and that elimination of girls would lead to population control”, wrote Sabu M. George — a member of a committee to monitor a 1994 law that banned sex selection — in his February 2016 Indian Express column.

But despite the law, rising education levels — and more female role models, such as India’s latest Olympian medallists — the child sex ratio continues to fall.

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Indian airlines: avoid Pakistani air space

Aug 23, 2016 0

By Arvind Padmanabhan

New Delhi– In a bid to save fuel, cut emission and have better route utilisation, Indian carriers have suggested a new plan to the government that co-opts the air space controlled by the armed forces. It also calls for bypassing Pakistan while flying overseas to save navigation fees.

Called the Flexible Use of Airspace Initiative, under the larger aviation services management, it calls for: New, permanent routes for shorter navigation; grant of weekly permissions to operate shorter routes; and case-by-case approval by the defence Air Traffic Control to a pilot in air.

“If this is institutionalised, it will be a win-win-win for all: Less fuel use and lower emission — which is good for the environment — significant cut in fuel bills and shorter flying time for passengers,” a top airline official said. “Avoiding Pakistani air space is part of the strategy.”

The National Civil Aviation Policy that was unveiled in June also promises that the Ministry of Civil Aviation will strive to optimise the flexible use of airspace initiative in consultation with the Ministry of Defence.

Sources said the Airports Authority of India has constituted a separate Directorate under the Department of Air Navigation Service Providers to look into the optimisation of the entire Indian airspace in coordination with the Aviation Ministry.

“Approximately 60 per cent of Indian airspace is under civilian operations. The rest is restricted and with the defence to operate. Due to this, most of the navigational routes for civil aircraft are not straight,” said one official of an airline that has also sought the flexi plan.

“Take for example the Ahmedabad-Hyderabad sector. Currently, the route approved calls for around 590 nautical miles, since we have to fly over designated airport spaces. But under the flexi plan that we have proposed, it will get shorter to 480 nautical miles,” the official said.

“Similarly, the Delhi-Goa sector requires us to fly over Mumbai, then along the coastline of the Arabian Sea to reach the destination. But what we have suggested is: We should be able to fly as the crow flies — in a straight route — over Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.”

Explaining the same process on international routes, another airline official said flying from Ahmedabad to Dubai calls for Route Navigation Facility Charges of Rs 62,700 per leg, fuel of 7,800 kg and maximum pay load of 17,400 kg, or 166 kg per passenger.

But under the flexi plan, the navigation charges will get reduced to Rs 34,000 (as the Pakistan leg will be skipped), the fuel requirement will be 6,900 kg, while the pay load can be increased to 18,300 kg, or 174 kg per person. This translates into savings of Rs 100,000 per leg.

“Our air force and navy have to approve this. But this is quite common in the US and Europe.”

As regards the third component — called tactical air space management — industry officials said this will neither be a permanent feature, nor can airlines use it in their route planning. Yet, on a case-by-case basis, it can yield some good savings.

Explaining the feature, an official said, the flight path between Delhi and Dehradun at present is slightly circuitous. “But if at a given point, the air space over Hindon — which belongs to the Air Force — is free, then for that particular flight the pilot can be given a fly-by nod.”

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Apple buys health startup founded by Indian-origin duo

Aug 23, 2016 0

New York–Taking its interest in the digital health sector to the next level, tech giant Apple has quietly acquired personal health data startup Gliimpse founded by two Indian-origin entrepreneurs.

According to media reports, the acquisition reportedly happened earlier but was not publicly announced yet.

An Apple spokesperson has now responded, saying: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not

Anil Sethi  (Photo: Linkedin)

Anil Sethi (Photo: Linkedin)

discuss our purpose or plans.”

Founded in 2013 by Anil Sethi and Karthik Hariharan, Gliimpse provides a secure platform where consumers can manage and share their medical records and info.

According to Sethi’s LinkedIn page, Gliimpse — like many startups — was born of a personal need.

In recent months, Apple has acquired HealthKit, CareKit and ResearchKit startups that allow patients, doctors and researchers to access important health and wellness data via a range of mobile devices.

Apple has also released its HealthKit app which helps users monitor personal health and fitness data on iPhone 6.

Karthik Hariharan

Karthik Hariharan

The Cupertino-based company has recently been making a push into artificial intelligence through Siri personal assistant and related technologies.

It acquired the machine learning platform Turi for $200 million earlier this month.

Apple also bought machine learning and AI startups like VocalIQ and Perceptio and facial recognition startup Emotient, among others. (IANS)

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People on the Move: Nikhil Srinivasan on PartnersRE Board, Ashok Chawla at YES Bank

Aug 22, 2016 0

Nikhil Srinivasan Appointed as Non-Executive Director to PartnerRe’s Board

PEMBROKE, Bermuda– Nikhil Srinivasan has been appointed to the Board of Directors of PartnerRe Ltd. Also appointed to the board was Bilge Ogut.
Srinivasan is Group Chief Investment Officer and a member of the Group Management Committee of Generali and Chairman of Generali Real Estate. Prior to joining Generali, he was at Allianz for ten years based in Singapore and Munich where he was Group Chief Investment Officer and a member of Allianz’s International Executive Committee responsible for the firm’s investment strategy.

Commenting on the appointments, PartnerRe Board Chairman, John Elkann said, “On behalf of the Board, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Bilge and Nikhil. They further strengthen the Board’s breadth of talent and background and as independent directors from outside the reinsurance industry, they will bring a new and valuable perspectives.”

PartnerRe Ltd. is a global reinsurer that helps insurance companies reduce their earnings volatility, strengthen their capital and grow their businesses through reinsurance solutions.

Ashok Chawla

Ashok Chawla

Ashok Chawla named part-time chairman of YES Bank

Mumbai– Former head of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) Ashok Chawla will take over as the non-executive part-time chairman of YES Bank — the country’s fifth-largest private sector bank — in October as the RBI has given approval for the appointment, the bank said on Monday.

Chawla, who is chairman of the National Stock Exchange (NSE), will take charge with effect from October 30 for a period of three years upon the expiry of the term of the current chairperson Radha Singh, the bank said in a statement.

Chawla, currently an independent director in the bank, was appointed on the Board on March 5 this year.

A civil servant, Chawla has been posted as Secretary in ministries such as Finance, Economic Affairs and Civil Aviation.

He has been on the Boards of the RBI, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, State Bank of India and Life Insurance Corporation of India. He was also at different points in time India’s Executive Director on the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Alternate Governor for India at the World Bank and at the Asian Development Bank.

After his retirement from the civil service, he was appointed as the Chairman of the CCI for the period 2011-2016.

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Patients and Healthcare Professionals Divided on Responsibility and Cost in Healthcare

Aug 22, 2016 0

NORWALK, Conn.–Healthcare research released from Xerox shows large disconnects between patients and healthcare professionals providing and insuring their care. This research suggests that across all participants in the U.S. healthcare system, there is still much to be settled regarding the transformation driven by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Who is responsible for consumers’ health?

Nearly 50 percent of consumers say they take complete responsibility for their health, whereas less than 6 percent of healthcare professionals believe this to be true. In addition, less than 5 percent of consumers say they don’t know how to take charge of their own healthcare, but nearly 40 percent of payers and providers say consumers don’t know how to take charge.

Moreover, 90 percent of payers and providers say patients need encouragement and help from their healthcare provider to make living a healthier lifestyle a priority, but only 55 percent of patients say they need such encouragement.

The study, conducted by Y&R’s BAV Consulting on behalf of Xerox1, surveyed 761 U.S. adults who purchase health insurance and are healthcare decision makers for their households and 204 healthcare payers and providers.

Rohan Kulkarni

Rohan Kulkarni

“Consumers and healthcare professionals have very different views on patient empowerment and control,” said Rohan Kulkarni, vice president of Strategy and Portfolio, Xerox Healthcare Business Group. “Payers and providers are much less likely to believe patients are taking responsibility for their health than what patients perceive to be true. The results suggest that improved communication could allow healthcare professionals to better showcase to their patients how they’re a partner in their health.”

One solution that can help is Xerox’s Virtual Health Solutions that allows providers to communicate and connect with their patients anytime and anywhere by overcoming interoperability challenges and powering front and back office services.

Are patients shopping around?

The research also found discrepancies between patients and professionals regarding a patient’s willingness to shop for healthcare.

Only 34 percent of consumers are more likely to shop around for a provider than they were one year ago, but more than 71 percent of payers and providers think patients are shopping.
When asked what consumers consider the top priority when selecting a provider, consumers said quality of care is number one. But payers and providers believe whether or not they take the patient’s insurance plan is the top consideration.
Ninety-five percent of payers and providers believe patients are not seeking or delaying treatment due to cost concerns, but only 42 percent of consumers say this is true.

“A lot of payers and providers think patients are shopping around for the best healthcare, but it simply is not the case,” continued Kulkarni. “The industry is clearly still adjusting to the shift toward consumer-centricity, and payers and providers may be best served to focus on patient retention by enhancing their communication channels.”

What is the solution?

Over 63 percent of consumers wish their pharmacist, healthcare provider and insurance company were more connected on their personal health. While interactions with each stakeholder are often transaction-based, Xerox’s Health Outcome Solutions offering can help the effort to coordinate care. The solution, currently available for providers and accountable care organizations with a payer solution coming in the future, offers a customized combination of analytics, clinical, technology and administrative services that help improve the health of patient populations.

Xerox also offers Care Integration Services that help healthcare payers identify members who need support and engage them with timely and personal clinical interventions. This enhanced member outreach service increases payers’ ability to assist their members in maintaining wellness and managing chronic medical conditions.

 

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Modi reviews infrastructure progress, Indian railways move 2.25 crore passengers daily

Aug 22, 2016 0

New Delhi–Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday reviewed the progress of key infrastructure sectors, an official statement said.

The statement said in course of the presentation made by NITI Aayog, it was noted that there has been a phenomenal progress in several key sectors, including renewable energy and the railways.

“In the new and renewable energy sector, the cumulative installed capacity has crossed 44 GigaWatts. Targets have been met for various components, and various projects under Centre and State policies,” the statement said.

The Prime Minister was briefed on plans and strategies to further ramp up solar energy production, including through rooftop generation.

In the aviation sector, the Prime Minister reviewed progress made in key policy areas such as safety and connectivity.

“It was noted that eight Indian airports are ranked among the top five globally in their respective categories. The Prime Minister was also briefed on steps being taken to further boost regional connectivity, and further improve customer satisfaction indices at airports,” the statement said.

The Indian Railways, meanwhile, has achieved a target of daily passenger movement of 2.25 crore. About 240 unmanned crossings have been eliminated in the first quarter of the current fiscal year. In the power sector, 3.5 crore LED bulbs have been distributed in the same period.

In the ports sector, there has been considerable progress in average vessel turnaround time, while in rural housing sector 6.94 lakh rural houses have been completed in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, as compared to a target of 6 lakh houses.

“Reviewing the progress in the petroleum and natural gas sector, the Prime Minister sought to know the steps being taken to ramp up ethanol blending of petrol. He was informed that over 15 crore households were covered under Direct Benefit Transfer for LPG in FY16,” the statement added.

Top officials from various infrastructure ministries, NITI Aayog and the Prime Minister’s Office attended the meeting.

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CBI arrests Ramel Industries directors in chit fund scam

Aug 22, 2016 0

New Delhi– The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday arrested the directors of West Bengal-based Ramel Industries Ltd in its ongoing probe into the multi-crore chit fund scam.

Ramendra Mohan Sarkar and Sukanta Deb, directors of Ramel Industries, were arrested on charges of criminal breach of trust and cheating.

The agency had filed a case against the company, its directors and other unidentified persons on November 28, 2014.

“It was alleged that the directors of Ramel Industries had collected money from the investors under its investment scheme by fraudulently promising very high returns and also without the permission from the regulatory bodies, and later misappropriated it,” a CBI official said.

The official said the accused had allegedly closed its operations and wound up its business, thereby cheating the investors.

The Supreme Court on May 9, 2014, ordered a CBI inquiry into the chit fund scams in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam in which various firms, including Saradha, allegedly duped investors collectively of around Rs 10,000 crore.

Ramel Industries had been on the CBI radar after the Saradha bubble burst.

In May 2014, Sebi had barred promoters of Ramel Industries, which is a non Saradha ponzi firm, from raising money from the public.

It also barred them from accessing capital markets till it refunded around Rs 98 crore. According to sources, the group allegedly did not pay heed and continued raising money from the public.

The company reportedly has raised around Rs 100 crore. (IANS)

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Infosys fires techies for non-performance, indiscipline

Aug 22, 2016 0

Bengaluru–Some Infosys employees were recently sacked for non-performance and indiscipline, the software major said on Monday.

“There are no layoffs at Infosys. There have been a few separations that are in response to performance and disciplinary issues, which take place on an ongoing basis and is no different from previous years,” the city-based company said in a statement here.

Refuting reports in a section of media that it had sacked 500 employees, the outsourcing firm said the number was far below than reported.

“We pride on being one of the best employers, with a high degree of commitment to professional norms and performance, while providing our employees a good work-life balance. We also offer flexibility to our employees so that they can achieve this easily,” the IT major asserted.

Admitting that those found consistently deviating from expectations were asked to find alternate employment, the company said it had a progressive policy for those who do not meet expected standards of performance or commitments.

“This (policy) applies to employees across levels and is not connected with any business situation that is not in the control of the employee,” the statement added.

Last week, the IT major clarified that it would not lay off nearly 3,000 techies after the Royal Bank of Scotland cancelled its contract for setting up a new bank (Williams & Glyn) but redeploy them in other projects.

“We would like to clarify that there are no job losses and that all employees affected by the ramp down that will take place over the next several months will be redeployed on other projects,” the company said in a statement on August 17.

The Edinburgh-based RBS announced recently that it would no longer pursue its plan to separate and list a new UK (British) standalone bank (W&G) and instead pursue other options for the divestment of its business. (IANS)

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