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Sagging electoral prospects behind Trump’s H-1B action

The real impact of the presidential proclamation, therefore, will be two-fold. First, as long as Trump is President, it will undoubtedly cause many international students, who are looking at the US as a potential destination for higher studies to reconsider their decisions.

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On June 22, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order suspending the entry of a number of non-immigrant work visa holders into the US till the end of the year. The visa categories affected include, most notably, H-1B, which has been used by more than a million Indian information technology professionals since the 1990s and L1 visa used by US companies to bring in workers from their Indian offices.

During his campaign for President four years ago, candidate Trump consistently railed against the H-1B programme. However, after he moved into the White House, Trump left the visa programme untouched in the first 43 months of his presidency, even as he delivered on most of his controversial campaign promises, such as the Muslim ban and dumping of multilateral treaties like NAFTA and Paris Agreement, through executive actions.

There were two compelling reasons Trump didn”t act on the visa programme until now. The US economy had been doing very well until Coronavirus hit the American shores early this year. And, the tech industry, which employs three-fourths of the H-1B visa holders, has been doing even better.

The second reason is the formidable lobbying power of the industry. The four most valuable companies in the world, Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft, and Facebook have historically used the H-1B workforce to augment their profits. They were not going to let it go without a fight.

The influence these organizations wield was evident when Trump spared H-1B in his first executive order to curb nonimmigrant work visa holders issued on April 22. According to reports, H-1B was to be part of that proclamation but the White House was talked out of it by the industry.

So, what has changed between late April and today?

A number of things, but primarily it is Trump”s dimming re-election prospects. A steady stream of polls in the past few weeks has shown that the incumbent is trailing badly in the race against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The President”s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic — his initial refusal to see it as a threat and then his inability to provide the leadership to contain it — has shaken people”s confidence in Trump”s presidency.

Prior to the onset of the Coronavirus, Trump was banking on making the election a referendum on his stewardship of the economy. But the pandemic, which has claimed more than 125,000 American lives, has also eliminated up to 40 million jobs.

Although some of the jobs have come back thanks to the multitrillion dollar stimulus package, the re-opening plans promoted by Trump have not produced substantial results. Now, with parts of the country closing down again, and the deadly virus spreading in southern and western states, there”s no sign of the economy turning the corner before the November election.

Consequently, Trump needs to be seen as doing something to save the economy and American jobs. H-1B, which has been a bogeyman for the protectionists and economic nationalists, is an easy target during this downturn, even though study after study has documented that the visa programme actually helps create jobs. The administration claims that the executive order is going to save more than half a million American jobs without giving details.

It should be noted that the order mainly impacts petitioners who are outside of the US who have not gotten their visas stamped on their passports yet. As a result, it will only have little impact in the short term on those seeking work in the US.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service issues roughly 85,000 new H-1B visas annually of which 20,000 are for those with US master”s degrees. Most petitioners in this category are already in the US and they will not have any problem in starting their jobs in October, typically the time new visa holders enter the work force.

According to immigration attorneys, a significant percentage of the remaining 65,000 visas are claimed by dependents of H-1B and L-1 visa holders, as well as foreign students who have graduated from US schools, but did not get the visa under the master”s degree quota. These groups will also not come under the purview of the executive order, as they are already in the country.

The real impact of the presidential proclamation, therefore, will be two-fold. First, as long as Trump is President, it will undoubtedly cause many international students, who are looking at the US as a potential destination for higher studies to reconsider their decisions. During the Trump era, the US has already been losing potential students to nations such as Canada, Britain and Australia.

Second, despite the massive job losses in the broader economy, there are still vacancies in the tech industry that will have to be filled to move its economy forward. The US tech sector has said for years that the country doesn”t produce enough skilled workers and the industry will suffer without the intake of manpower through H-1B and L1 visa programmes. If it becomes more difficult for these companies to hire foreign workers, they would probably outsource more and more of these jobs to foreign destinations, including India.

It is an irony that, while Trump is trying to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, his nonimmigrant worker visa policy could force more high-paying service jobs offshore. What makes it doubly ironic is that this action which Trump has taken to try to save his job as President will not do so.

Given the current state of affairs, it is likely that on election day November 4, the American people will fire Donald Trump. After that, the decision on what to do with information technology visas in 2021 and going forward will be in someone else”s hands. And, Trump will have to find a new place of employment for himself.

The good news is Biden has already stated that his administration will lift the H-1B ban.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed are personal)

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Rithambara hails Bhumi Pujan, recalls Ram temple movement

When asked about L K Advani and M M Joshi who have now taken a back seat, Rithambara said, “They lit the spark to carry the movement forward.”

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Ayodhya, Aug 4 : A day before the Bhumi Pujan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday, firebrand Hindu leader Sadhvi Rithambara expressed happiness over the event. During the Ram temple movement, her riveting speeches had a deep impact on thousands of Ram devotees. They also gave a boost to the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

In a telephonic interview with IANS Rithambara said that she could not exress her happiness over the once in a lifetime event like the Bhumi Pujan in mere words. Rithambara is elated about the resurgence of self-respect for Indian culture that has come to the fore after nearly 500 years of struggle and shared that she is brimming with pride and boundless joy.

Asked how she got involved with the Ram temple movement, she said, “The attempt by foreign invaders to destroy our culture made me angry and I joined the movement. However, my role in this movement remained small just like a squirrel. Though I was involved in the movement with utmost devotion, Ram Lalla took me towards Ayodhya and I took a resolute stand by the banks of the sacred Saryu river. I spent my youth for Ram Janmabhoomi and the Hindu culture only with the blessings of Lord Ram. I was groomed under the able leadership of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader the late Ashok Singhal.”

Responding to a question, the Sadhvi said, “When the Ram temple movement was at its peak, there were various obstacles in the way. I spent most of my time in jungles, caves and among beggars. People were scared of sheltering us in their homes. We suffered a lot when we were struggling underground. But all the pain is forgotten on the achievement of our objective to build the Ram temple.”

Rithambara said during the Ram temple movement her speeches were recorded secretly. At that time there was such enthusiasm among the people that the Ram Mandir movement became a mass movement, it was not because of any institution or organisation and now the outcome will be witnessed on August 5.

When asked about L K Advani and M M Joshi who have now taken a back seat, Rithambara said, “They lit the spark to carry the movement forward.”

On the question of women being excluded from the Temple Trust, she said it is immaterial. “The Lord wanted us to get it done. There is no gender distinction here. The temple of God is being built, that’s what matters.”

On the question of the ‘mahurat’, she said Lord Ram’s work is always auspicious. Ramji himself has chosen his ‘mahurat’. The whole world is pleased with the construction of Lord Ram’s temple. Festivities are taking place in every house.

On the alleged caste discrimination, the Sadhvi dismissed it as a figment of the imagination, saying that a seer has no caste. A limited number of people have been invited for the Bhumi Pujan due to the corona pandemic, so it should not be taken otherwise, she added.

In response to another question, she said she did not know who all were invited. Those who are not able to be at the Bhumi Pujan, can go there any time as per their convenience.

On a Pakistani minister’s acerbic reaction to the Bhumi Pujan, she said that Pakistan should respect the sentiments of crores of Indians. This will promote harmony.

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People behind the Ayodhya movement: Known and unknown

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Ayodhya, Aug 4 : The movement for a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya over the years has seen many key players from time to time carrying forward the campaign. The known faces are the one that have received their share of fame and publicity but there are some who remain in the realms of oblivion.

One of the initiators of the temple movement was Mahant Raghubar Das who filed a petition in the Faizabad Court for permission to build a Ram temple adjacent to the Babri mosque.

Several saints in Ayodhya still give credit to Mahant Raghubar Das for initiating the legal battle that is culminating in the construction of the Ram temple. However, there are many who prefer that he remains unhonoured and unsung.

Then there was Gopal Singh Visharad who filed the first case on the temple dispute in Independent India in 1950.

Visharad was a resident of Balrampur district and the head of the Hindu Mahasabha in the district. He had been stopped by the police from going to the Ram Janmabhoomi and he submitted a petition seeking unhindered access to Hindus to the Janambhoomi.

K.K. Nair, a 1930 batch IAS officer, was district magistrate of Faizabad when the idol of Ram Lalla was placed in the disputed complex on the night of December 23, 1949.

Nair refused to get the idol removed even though he was asked to do so by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant. Nair had told his political bosses that they would have to remove him before the idol could be removed.

A resident of Alleppey in Kerala, Nair opted for voluntary retirement in 1952 and was elected to the fourth Lok Sabha in 1967 from Bahraich on a Jan Sangh ticket. His wife, Shankuntala Nair was also elected twice from Kaiserganj Lok Sabha seat.

In 1949, Mahant Digvijay Nath, the chief priest of the Goraksh temple in Gorakhpur led the temple movement after the idol was placed in the disputed complex. The Mahant brought all saints and seers on one platform and drafted the blueprint for the movement which later spread across the country.

After his demise in 1969, his successor Mahant Avaidyanath played an important role in the temple movement. Mahant Avaidyanath’s successor is present Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has also played a proactive role in the temple movement.

Then there are commoners, forgotten face of the Ayodhya movement. One such is ‘kar sevak’ Suresh Baghel, a resident of Vrindavan in Mathura. He made the first attempt to bring down the Babri mosque and faced police action, courted arrest and made several rounds of courts.

Baghel, who now works in a private company on a salary of Rs 6,000 per month, refuses to even talk on the temple issue. “Now no one remembers me and I remember nothing. Please leave me alone,” he said when attempts were made to contact him.

In the 1990s when the temple movement gained momentum, leading to the demolition of the Babri mosque, the then VHP leader Ashok Singhal became the chief architect of Hindutva.

His slogan “Ek dhakka aur do, babri masjid tod do”, created a frenzy and mobilised Hindus like never before. Singhal passed away in 2015 and did not live to see the Ram temple being constructed.

Parveen Togadia, then a senior VHP leader, was also known for his proactive role in the temple movement. He lost his clout after the demise of Ashok Singhal.

L.K. Advani and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, then top BJP leaders, also played key role in the temple movement, giving it the much-needed political push with their party.

The BJP’s rise in India politics is directly linked to the temple movement and the role played by these two leaders.

Vinay Katiyar, a firebrand Hindu leader, was also the founder of the Bajrang Dal that gave a cutting edge to the temple movement. Katiyar went on to become a three-term MP from Ayodhya but later slid into political oblivion.

Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh was another important player in the temple movement. He was UP chief minister when the Babri mosque was demolished and his government was dismissed the same day. Kalyan Singh was convicted for contempt of court because he had promised to protect the mosque.

Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Rithambhara led the women brigade in the temple movement. Both were known for their fiery speeches. Cassettes of Rithambhara’s fiery speeches were sold at a premium in the market and were enough to ignite communal violence.

Talking to IANS, a senior saint of Ayodhya who did not wish to be named, said, ‘All these people have contributed to the temple movement which has reached a stage where the temple construction is beginning. I feel we should have made it a point to invite all those who are still alive and should have felicitated them.”

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Ayodhya’s Lord Ram is Orchha’s Ram Raja

Orchha’s Ram Raja temple will also be decorated in a grand manner on the occasion of the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ in Ayodhya.

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Niwari/Bhopal, Aug 3 : As Ayodhya is ushering in a new era with the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ for the Ram temple, about 500 km away in Madhya Pradesh’s Orchha, home to the Ram Raja temple, enthusiasm is quite discernible. The Ram Raja temple will be specially decorated on August 5, the day of the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ in Ayodhya.

It is believed that Lord Ram was enthroned here not as a God but as a King.

Orchha, also known as the ‘Ayodhya of Bundelkhand’, is a city with a 600-year-old relationship with Ayodhya. Lord Ram is given a salute by the policemen during the ‘aarti’ performed four times a day. It is said that the devotees do not see the idol of Ram with their eyes but only seek his blessings by touching his feet. ‘Paan’ (betel leaves) along with a perfumed wick is offered to the devotees as ‘prasad’.

Ancient documents reveal that King Madhukar Shah of the Orchha dynasty was a Krishna devotee and his wife Ganesh Kunwar was a Ram devotee. Arguments followed between the two regarding their devotion. When Madhukar Shah asked his queen to go to Vrindavan, she spoke about going to Ayodhya. The king sarcastically replied, “If your Ram really exists then bring him to Orchha from Ayodhya.”

It is said that Ganesh Kunwar went to Ayodhya from Orchha and meditated for 21 days, but when Ram did not appear she was disappointed and jumped into the Sarayu river where Ram was seen in her lap.

Ganesh Kunwar then urged Lord Ram to visit Orchha. Lord Ram placed three conditions before her — I will be enthroned as a king in Orchha, where once I sit down, I will not get up from there and will only go to Orchha on foot on an auspicious day. The queen accepted all three conditions laid down by Lord Ram.

Local expert Pandit Jagdish Tiwari says according to the legend, the construction of the grand temple was going on when Ganesh Kunwar reached Orchha from Ayodhya with Lord Ram. The queen placed Ram in the kitchen from where he did not get up, as laid down in the three conditions.

The kitchen premises were then converted into a temple. This is the place where Lord Ram is the king that is why no leader, minister or official comes into the four-walled area of Orchha in a vehicle. Only Lord Ram is given a salute here.

Tiwari says during the day Lord Ram stays here but goes to Ayodhya to sleep. That is why it is said that “Lord Ram has two special residences — in the day he resides in Orchha and in the night in Ayodhya.”

Orchha’s Ram Raja temple will also be decorated in a grand manner on the occasion of the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ in Ayodhya.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, “Ram Raja ki Jai! Shri Ram Raja resides in Orchha, he is the king of the state. On August 4 and 5, Ram Raja temple will be specially decorated and special puja will be performed by the priests. To ensure the corona infection does not spread all residents in Orchha have been urged to stay at home and worship Ram Raja by lighting a small lamp on the pious occasion.”

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