Donald Trump’s H1B Visa plan: India should not lobby to keep sending our ‘indentured labourers’ abroad

A good part of the IT industry's profitability in the US hinges on the significantly lower wages paid to the H1B holders that it imports from India and other countries

Written by Ujjal Dosanjh | Updated: February 10, 2017 4:05 pm
Donald trump, trump, trump indians, trump h1b visa, trump non immigrant visa, trump education visa, Donald Trump on Immigration, US immigraton, US jobs, H1B, H1B visa, Trump H1B visa, world news About a dozen activists of Hindu Sena, a local right wing group, garland and offer sweets to a photograph of US President-elect Donald Trump as they celebrate ahead of his inauguration at Jantar Mantar. (Source: AP Photo/File)

Throughout human history poverty and conflict have been our perpetual twin curses. Poverty has always taken its toll in one part of the world or another. Peace and war have always gone hand in hand. They have been constant companions, almost never to be separated. It has been as if one won’t recognise and appreciate wealth without poverty and peace without war. Being an ancient civilisation India has witnessed and lived through it all. Sometimes it is the allure of faraway lands, but most often it is poverty and scarcity, absolute or relative, that makes Indians, just like other human beings, search for greener pastures.

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It happened to me too. I left India at 18, in 1964. I was selfish. I didn’t occur to me then. But like hundreds of millions who have always loved and lived in India, I too could have stayed, and in hindsight I should have, to fight the myriad life and death battles for the economy, politics and the soul of India. I didn’t. That makes me a fugitive of India’s battles that still rage in its bosom. But I never for a moment thought it was the government’s job to help me leave. Had I not been able to leave, I wouldn’t have expected India or any Indian to shed tears for me. In my humble life in the country, with my village education, I wasn’t exactly the God’s gift to any place; my departure was good riddance, one less mouth for India to have to feed.

One thing we can all agree upon is the solemn obligation of each country to provide opportunities for its people and particularly its best and brightest on whom it has spent more of its scarce tax revenues. But it can never be India’s duty to facilitate the exodus of the highly trained Indians to foreign shores. First and foremost India’s obligation is to reduce and eventually end the economic deprivation and social injustice in India. The best and the brightest can and must become part of the sorely needed economic, political and cultural renaissance in the country.

Recently there has been a lot of hullabaloo–a steady stream of Indian IT firms expressing concerns about what might be in store for the H1B visas in the excessively protectionist Trump Administration. The IT firms and H1B aspirants are urging the government to lobby the US on their behalf. The government says it is on top of the issue and it has been in touch with the highest possible US officials in this regard.

A good part of the IT industry’s profitability in the US hinges on the significantly lower wages paid to the H1B holders that it imports from India and other countries; it relies on this ready pool of cheap labour of India’s best and brightest ferried into the USA on board the H1Bs–until they get their green cards and move on; then the IT companies apply for more H1B holders from India to refill the annually vacated positions–as people move from ‘slave’ labour to the open labour market.

The government of India’s tax revenues from the Indian IT firms are partly driven by and derived from the aforementioned aspiring minds ‘slaving’ in the US as cheap labour. Those ‘slaving’ on relatively low wages are the best and the brightest of India, educated and trained in institutes and universities funded by a relatively poor India–with much sought after Indian tax Rupees. And strangely enough, after being trained with relatively scarce Indian resources, they want the government to help them leave; and the government is distraught that they may not be able to leave or in as large a number as before; only in India, eh.

Several years ago some Indian politicians used to see it as a thing of pride to be able to train software professionals and ‘export’ them. Even now the government of India is prepared to go to bat for the H1B aspirants wanting to leave India. It is prepared to lobby the US government to encourage it to take India’s best and brightest. I say shame on the government. I have witnessed governments working hard to increase a country’s export of goods, services, art and culture. Never in the history of modern world have I seen governments, except of some banana-republics, urging other countries to take their best trained human assets who have the potential to be the engines of economic growth and prosperity in the country.

I vehemently disagree with Trump on many things including his xenophobic ban on Muslims from certain countries. But I wouldn’t argue with him on H1Bs, encourage or discourage him about changing or restricting them. Each country has the right to allow as many workers into the country as it may choose. Good, bad or ugly, that is a decision any sovereign country has the right to make.

The IITians and others in search of greener pastures are free to pursue H1B or other visas to the countries of their choice. But the Indian IT companies in the US in pursuit of cheap Indian labour–at least for the six years it takes H1Bs to get the green card–need to finally wake up and step into the 21st Century. The Indian H1B software professionals are akin to the indentured labourers of yore– the modern world’s most highly qualified indentured labourers making the IT firms employing them modern slave owners.

In the early 20th Century in Canada and the USA our ancestors and other immigrants such as the Chinese used to be paid one third to one half less than the white Canadians and Americans doing the same or similar work. Our ancestors fought hard to change that. H1B pay differential is the modern equivalent of those less than equal wages of the long ago past.

Over the last couple of centuries, many Indians had gone to places such as Fiji and the West Indies as indentured labourers. That never solved India’s economic problems. Exporting ‘cheap’ software professionals on low wages won’t solve them either. India shouldn’t be lobbying the US or any other government on behalf the modern slave owners or would be indentured labourers. What the government of India needs is a plan to build and rebuild a greater India. For that plan to succeed it must create opportunities for its people, its best and brightest, at home to develop and grow the Indian industry, commerce, technology and arts. Let Trump ‘make America great again’ without the cheap and indentured labour of India’s best and brightest–the highly skilled and trained Indians.

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First Published on: February 5, 2017 9:24 am
  1. S
    sam
    Feb 5, 2017 at 6:26 am
    Nice article. So true service companies use h1b as cheap ( and always compliant - Yes Saar.... ) laborer. Now service company will come back --- " BUT there are no skills available in USA ... thats why.......). Trust me this is the BIGGEST lie service companies are telling over 2 decades. THERE ARE ENOUGH SKILLS IN US gt;gt;gt; BRIGHTEST GRADUATES EVER COMING OUT OF US COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. SERVICE company will noy hire them again for same reason - WHERE IS MY MARGIN... MY PROFIT....
    Reply
    1. A
      Aditya Mishra
      Feb 5, 2017 at 7:39 am
      Awesome article... Really hit the point there.
      Reply
      1. A
        arun
        Feb 6, 2017 at 2:57 pm
        I completely agree
        Reply
        1. Y
          Yashank Sakhardande
          Feb 10, 2017 at 12:57 am
          Wow! Nice Blog... #fromG
          Reply
          1. Y
            Yashank Sakhardande
            Feb 10, 2017 at 12:56 am
            Wow! Nice blog #fromG
            Reply
            1. A
              Asit Nag
              Feb 9, 2017 at 9:41 am
              The US move is not aimed at banning Indian IT experts from entering USA on H1B visa. It is aimed at forcing employers to pay the correct wage the process, it will eliminate the present exploitation of the IT boys and girls from India who are posted to the U S to discharge the contractual obligation of the giant Indian IT companies.Therefore, we should support the move made by President Trump.
              Reply
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                Balgit
                Feb 5, 2017 at 4:11 am
                First, If Indians start buying only those products which provide employment to Indians and dont take their profits out of India, then it is tough days ahead for Amazon, Pepsi, Coco-cola, VISA, Mastercard, GE, US military suppliers, Nuclear suppliers, KFC, Dominoes, Pizzahut, Star network ....lt;br/gt;Second, The jobs in US have reduced due to buying cheap products from China - The US trade deficit with China is 26.5 billion, as compared to 1.5 billion with India. This problem is further compounded by 1. China maniting the value of its currency 2. Govt maniting the cost of raw materials and 3. Govt controlling the ry of workers and rentals and 4. China putting road blocks for selling American products in China. So, US is getting cheap goods from China as a by-product of human rights violation and fraud.lt;br/gt;Third, Instead of insulting Indians on H1B visas, all the US need to do is 1. Add experience(maybe gt; 4 years) as a criterion in US visa approval , thereby eliminating low skilled employees 2. Accept outsourcing as inevitable for MNCs and global companies - like Microsoft, Google, facebook 3. Stop Green card 4. Stop work visas to foreign students and 5. cap validity of H1B visas at 5 years.
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                  bharat raj
                  Feb 12, 2017 at 12:43 am
                  It is weird oxymoron that we say "it is becuase of USA we have terrorism in world and NOT becuase of Islam" and yet we all want to go and live in USA.
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                    bharat raj
                    Feb 12, 2017 at 12:48 am
                    The last paragraph is the one every one Indian or foreingner want to go to USA must think and work. The lady who spoke in above video clip is very people modern world needs to careful from and afraid of... not if these kind of people belong to any society or should they be...?
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                      bobby
                      Mar 5, 2017 at 2:28 pm
                      India does not have the number of opportunities US has. Talent is wasted while trying to get the right job. When India comes to the point where they can compete with US, then I am sure people will come back.lt;br/gt;India is in the right path to get there ..
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                        Anand ch
                        Feb 5, 2017 at 7:55 am
                        Trump is better than indian corrupt politicans .
                        Reply
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                          motu
                          Feb 5, 2017 at 7:51 am
                          Lets make india great again by kicking out all those indians who dont want to live in india but want land and property .
                          Reply
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                            DEEPAK PALAN
                            Feb 5, 2017 at 7:37 am
                            Get the facts first . It is demonstrated in all western and southern India and all the metros,
                            Reply
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                              Bhuwan Bhasker
                              Feb 5, 2017 at 11:54 am
                              This was a good read albiet deprived of facts.lt;br/gt;To put context for the article here are a few corrections:lt;br/gt;1. Indians on H1B are not the brightest of the lot. It's mostly om selection among one of the millions of midiocre IT employee who get visa. lt;br/gt;2. Ones who are the brightest are already earning $ 130,000 or above in product companies like Microsoft. Trump would allow that. So our best mind would continue to leave India for US.lt;br/gt;3. Current ry that IT companies pay is nowhere less that average ry if IT employees in Us which is $60,000.lt;br/gt;In fact if you read nytimes article it mentions that new proposed limit is above twice the average ry there.lt;br/gt;4. Most of the people on H1B come back after exposure to better tech and ideas. This enriches India's own IT solution and give them edge.lt;br/gt;6. There's no mention of unprecedented forex that India earns from H1B visa holders.
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                                Dr Kanayalal
                                Feb 8, 2017 at 10:44 pm
                                Dear Dosanjh, your blogs are always great and impressive and I fully agree with your analysis
                                Reply
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                                  ganesh
                                  Feb 5, 2017 at 9:15 am
                                  Govs can't create anything. India is doing a right thing by exporting it's leftover human sources. Low or high depends upon demand and supply .. after all everyone has a right to work or not..
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                                    Dr.Naidu
                                    Feb 5, 2017 at 5:44 pm
                                    The H-1 visa is being used by the USA to bring more often semi-educated Indians and make the best use of them with low wages. While for the Green Card holders and U.S. citizens originating from any country there is no discrimination in any form. The wages benefits are the same as Americans originating in Europe. This is why the USA progresses.
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                                      Menon
                                      Feb 5, 2017 at 6:23 pm
                                      If Trump gives H-1 visa to Indians with good higher level degrees that is a good idea. Also the minimum ry of 130,000 is fair for year then. Yes in America if you have proper degrees and proper papers all get the same ry. No discrimination.
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                                        Damodar
                                        Feb 5, 2017 at 5:00 am
                                        Considering the abuse of the immigration policy, the U.S. is within its rights to restrict H1-B visa applications. Instead of lobbying for H1-B visas, Indian IT professionals should engage in solving India's problems and/or attract projects to India from U.S. and elsewhere.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Alternatively, if bright and hard-working students feel that their talent is not appreciated in India, they should migrate abroad for higher education and eventual settlement. If India does not have capacity to absorb the high-skill workforce, it is better to let them seek better future elsewhere.
                                        Reply
                                        1. H
                                          HR
                                          Feb 5, 2017 at 5:03 am
                                          Desperation of lower back scratching. Communals and racists always wanted to scratch lower back of each other, always. Communal Bhartiya Danga Party And Gujrat Danga Overseer PM Modi desperately want to exchange lower back scratching with glorious racist trump and his racist supporters to get rid of khujli. Glorious racist trump, his racist supporters and communal BDP, modi calling, tweeting, trolling each other in desperation. While glorious racist trump's supporters calling Indians rap!st, street$h!tter, Job thief and P00 in the L00, yes Ofcourse but with a small caveat though, with a gun on people's head, after taking all their money and disposing of his own money. That's how he roll, so gangsta. PM Modi then wants to jump to a podium and do name calling and mudslinging. Yes Ofcourse but with a small caveat though, he want to do this with his signature bizzare hand gestures. Biggest name calla and biggest mud slinga. He then wants to seize all black money, yes Ofcourse with a small caveat though, he wants to do this by short cut of demonetisation. Biggest hoax pulla. PM Modi then wants to pour cow mutra down people's throat and apply cow gober on people's face for best shade results. He then wants people to buy patanjali product only using digital transaction, yes Ofcourse with a small caveat though, with a gun on people's head.
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                                            Palchoudhury
                                            Feb 5, 2017 at 7:33 am
                                            The truth: In the USA there is no discrimination. All U.S. citizens and Green Card holders get the same pay, benefits for their respective jobs. The people brought on temporary visas are used for low level technical jobs and are surely much under paid, and exploited.
                                            Reply
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