The Centre will continue to take up the issue of hike in visa fees for Indian software professionals working in the US at the highest level with that government, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Sunday. “As far as (issue of) H-1B and L1 visa fee hike is concerned, we have taken it up with the highest level (the US government). Even Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has spoken to US President, I have also taken it up and we will continue doing so,” the Communications and IT Minister told reporters here.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the annual Heads of Circles Conference organised by the Department of Posts. “I can only say one thing, Indian companies pay tonnes of money in tax to US companies. Our companies are giving good IT value addition to Fortune 500 companies of US. It is a very reciprocal commitment which we are giving,” he said.
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Prasad said domestic IT companies are present in 200 cities across 80 countries and that India today occupies 56 per cent of the world outsourcing hub. “It is because of the talent, human resource of Indian IT products and companies including from Hyderabad,” he said.
The minister announced that the Department of Posts will provide 1.30 lakh network-connected hand-held devices to postmen working in rural areas to carry out postal transactions by next year. “By next year (March 2017) we will be giving hand-held devices to all the postmen in rural areas of the country which they will use to carry out transactions of banking, insurance and mail services.
“On a pilot-basis, 4,000 hand-held devices have been given to postmen in six states to see their functioning,” he said. On state-run BSNL, Prasad said, “When (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government left office in 2004, BSNL was in profit of Rs 10,000 crore, however, when Manmohan Singh government left office in 2014, BSNL was in a loss of Rs 8,000 crore”.
He claimed that in last 20 months of NDA rule, the BSNL has come to operative profit of Rs 672 crore for first time in seven years. Responding to a query, Prasad said all manufacturers of mobile phones in the country will have to provide a ‘panic button’ (aimed at improving the safety of women) from January 2017 and from January 2018 every mobile phone must have a GPS location.
“These two unique initiatives of India by the Ministry of Communication are designed to ensure women safety through technology which is generating a lot of excitement world over,” he said. On core banking solutions (CBS) at post offices, the minister said, “In May 2014 there were just 230 CBS-enabled branches and now in May 2016 there are 21,664 that is the speed we work with.”
Addressed the annual Heads of Circles conference on the theme of ‘Financial Sustainability’, the Union minister said, “The Department of Posts has also registered an overall growth of more than 80 per cent (2015-2016) compared to 45 per cent last year (2014-2015) in the eCommerce parcel segment. Handling of cash on delivery (CoD) collections and disbursement have shot up from Rs 500 crore last year to around Rs 1,300 crore this year.”
The minister said the department has also played a key role in financial inclusion by having 85.28 lakh accounts with deposit of more than Rs 4,500 crore under ‘Sukanya Samriddhi’ and ensuring 4 lakh policies in Atal Pension Yojana, Prime Minister Jivan Jyoti Bihma Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Surksha Beema Yojana.
He also emphasised the need of training and motivating postmen as well as ‘Gramin Dak Sevaks’ stating that all the existing vacancies need to be filled up on priority. “Whatever vacancies are there…. they must be expedited and filled up in a transparent manner,” Prasad said, adding that in next 2-3 years, the postal department will have so much work that there may be human resource deficit and we may
have to appoint more.