News Wrap


USA's move to limit visas for skilled workers has sharply  increased costs for India’s $146 billion information technology services industry, in its most crucial market.  After new US legislation  was proposed  that would  tighten US rules on skilled immigration, Indian IT companies, which are heavy users of skilled H-IB visas to the US, have cut hiring from domestic university campuses. This has struck at the heart of  US-India trade relations. The effective wage floor, currently $60,000, has been raised to $130,000, unless the IT companies can prove they were unable to find a US  worker to do the same job. The rise in the wage floor is "to protect American workers". Two-thirds of the H-IB visas issued by the US in the 2015 fiscal year were granted to Indians. The increase in the wage floor to more than double the  previous minimum salary would make it too costly for Indian contractors to recruit Indian workers for jobs in the US. India's IT sector is heavily reliant on traditional, labour-intensive sources of revenue. The companies send their best employees to work directly with clients in the US, the IT industry in India, in 2015 generated  60% ($64.8 billion) of its revenue in the US, where it employed 155,000 people in 2015. The IT industry has cut its own growth outlook for 2016-17 from 10 to 12% to 8 to 10%. Facebook, Microsoft, other companies and everybody applying for H-IB visas have been hit.

Fake News
Dozens of false stories are shared rapidly in Whats App Indian users, after the Nov 2016 demonetisation, as Indians grappled with a set of banking rules, that changed almost on a daily basis. The spread of fake  news has become a matter of global concern. Facebook is testing a  fake-news filtering services, ahead of European elections  in 2017. With ease of use, India's Whats App is the biggest market with 160 million monthly active users, compared with 155 million for its owner, Facebook. In India fake news tends to spread through private WhatsApp Networks, rather than public social media pages, making it harder to track. Such rumours have been blamed for fuelling  riots,  communal violence, economic uncertainties and misinformation. Only a phone number is required to use the Whats App service and messages can be sent instantly to upto 256 people at a time. Whats App communication means news, both true and false, can spread fast. Indian police authorities are particularly concerned about rumours that led to communal violence, an act punishable by upto three years in prison. Messages get forwarded straight away, but no one knows where the story has come from. However as any fake news can be   without recourse to the law  by government officials, free-speech compaigners are worried.

Stone Throwers
Resulting in the escape of over twenty militants in Kashmir in 2017, around 90% of anti-militancy operations were hindered by Stone-throwing crowds in Kashmir Valley. Since 2016, Residents have started converging at encounter sites in Kashmir Valley,and have been throwing stones at security forces. Security forces launched nearly 22 operations in Kashmir Valley, in 2017. The anti-militancy operations were affected by stone-throwing residents in Kashmir, and Bandipora in North-Kashmir, where militants were hiding in residential areas. Ten militants managed to escape the cordon in Hajin, Anantanag and Kulgam districts. In districts of Kupwara and Baramulla, the militants mainly hide in the forest areas, and there was less public hindrance in these
border districts. Between Jan 2017 to April 2017, of the forty militants killed,sixteen were locals, ten foreigners and others yet to be indentified ten security personnel including an army major lost their lives. The number of active militants in Kashmir is around 300, of which 230 are listed militants, Let have 105 militants, while Hizbol Mujahideen is active with 95 militants.  A law and order component of the  police and the central reserve police force, goes with the army attack team.

Agean Islands
Greece and Turkey have rival clims of owner shipof 130 islands, in the oil and mineral rich Aegean sea, for years. There is increasing tension between the two NATO members, as Greece’s armed forces were put on highetened alert, after Turkey challenged its ownership of the islands. Recently, a supreme court decision in Greece not to extradite Turkish military personnel accused by Ankara of collaborating in an attempt to overthrow Turkey's president Erdogan in july 2016, has raised tensions. Greece reported mass incursions by Turkish aircraft over the central and southern Aegean in Feb 2017. The two nations came to the brink of war in 1996, when rival commandos moved to claim a tiny islet known as Imia to the Greeks .Then the US intervened and pushed back both sides.

Vol. 49, No.44, May 7 - 13, 2017