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In touch with US, Australia govts on visa issues: India

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New Delhi, Apr 19 : Amid concerns over the US’ changed H1B visa programme, India said today it was in touch with the Trump administration and making “full assessment” of its impact on Indian professionals.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Gopal Baglay said India was also in touch with the Australian government regarding the changes in that country’s work visa programme.

“The government is in touch with the governments of the United States and Australia on these matters and is also making full assessment of impact of these recent changes, in consultation with all stakeholders,” he said.

Baglay also downplayed criticism of the government’s foreign policy vis-a-vis job creation, saying the government has facilitated expansion of workforce through its flagship programmes such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ as also by delivering large technological partnerships and enhanced Foreign Direct Investment.

“Insofar as H1-B visas are concerned, the cap has remained at 65,000 since December 2004 when the H1-B Visa Reform Act of 2004 was enacted by the US Congress,” he said.

Referring to Australia replacing its popular 457 work visa programme with another programme, he said senior Australian officials have conveyed to India that “the impact of the changes will be negligible on Indian workers, most of whom fall in high skill category.”

The MEA spokesperson recalled that the government had agreed with the government of France last year to allow Indian students at Masters level and above to extend their stay in that country for two years.

In a blow to Indian IT industry and professionals, US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop its “abuse” and ensure that the visas are given to the “most- skilled or highest paid” petitioners.

Acting on his ‘Buy American, Hire American’ pledge, Trump signed the order that calls for an overhaul of the programme at the Kenosha, Wisconsin, headquarters of tool-maker Snap-on Inc yesterday.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had yesterday said his government will abolish a popular work visa used by over 95,000 foreign workers, majority of them Indians, to tackle the growing unemployment and replace it with a new programme requiring higher English-language proficiency and job skills.

Turnbull said Australia will adopt a new ‘Australians first’ approach to skilled migration.

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Himachal avalanche: 5 soldiers still missing, rescue underway

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Avalanche, Representative Image, PC Zee News

Shimla, Feb 21: Despite inclement weather, rescuers on Thursday resumed a search operation near the Tibet border with Himachal Pradesh where a snow avalanche claimed life of a soldier and five went missing.

As the rescue operations entered the second day, the authorities suspected that the soldiers might be trapped in the snow pile spread over a 200 square metre area.

“This morning the search operation began despite intermittent snowfall,” a government official told news agency IANS.

The calamity triggered yesterday when the glacier near Namgia Dogri, burying six jawans of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles while 16 of them were on a routine patrol.

Five Indo-Tibetan Border Force (ITBP) soldiers were also wounded in the mishappening.

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Fresh snowfall, landslides shut Jammu-Srinagar highway

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ANI File Photo

Jammu, Feb 21: Fresh snowfall in the Bannihal sector and multiple landslides in the Ramsoo-Ramban sector blocked the Jammu-Srinagar highway, prompting halt of all traffic on Thursday on the strategic route.

“Over a foot of fresh snow has accumulated on the highway in Bannihal sector. There have been multiple landslides triggered by heavy rain at places in the Ramsoo-Ramban sector, as well,” a traffic department official said.

It is raining heavily along the 300-km stretch at various places both in the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu division.

“No vehicular traffic will be allowed on the highway today. Snow and landslide clearance operation will be started immediately after the weather improves,” the Traffic Department said.

The official said stranded vehicles along the highway were all parked at safe places.

The highway is regarded as the jugular vein of the landlocked valley as all essential supplies are routed to Kashmir through this road. Each time the highway gets blocked, shortages of essential supplies hit the valley.

From February 6 to 12 the highway had remained shut causing acute crisis in the valley.

IANS

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Pulwama fallout: Security of 18 separatists, 155 politicians in J&K withdrawn

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Jammu kashmir Mirwaiz Umer Farooq
The security cover of four senior separatist leaders -- Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Shabir Shah, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone were already withdrawn on Monday. (Photo Credit- Reuters)

Jammu, Feb 21: The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday withdrew security of 18 separatists and 155 political persons in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack on February 14 in which over 40 CRPF troopers were killed.

An order issued by the Home Department late on Wednesday said security cover of separatists and some mainstream politicians was also being withdrawn/downgraded apart from those that were initially withdrawn on February 18.

As per the new order, the new list includes names from the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

Some of them are Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, former IAS officer Shah Faesal and PDP leader Waheed Para.

“Over 1,000 personal security guards and 100 vehicles provided to the secured persons are being withdrawn,” officials said here.

The security cover of four senior separatist leaders — Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Shabir Shah, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone were already withdrawn on Monday.

The decision to cut down heavily on separatist leaders’ cover was taken in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack when an explosive-packed SUV rammed into a bus of a Central Reserve Police Force convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway killing 40 paramilitary troopers on the spot in the worst-ever terror attack in the state since militancy struck there in 1989.

IANS

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