Rising Grievances Among Indian Information Technology Coolies

India's IT sector business is essentially driven by low-cost call centers, first-line tech support, simple repetitive code writing, and execution of pre-defined test suites. A typical Indian IT worker is increasingly being called a "cyber coolie" or sometimes a "code coolie", the former term having been coined by an astute Indian columnist Praful Bidwai back in 2003.

India has become the world’s top provider of business-process-outsourcing (BPO) call centers, with revenues nearing $50 billion a year by selling cheap back-office services. The call center revenue constitutes the bulk of India's IT exports.

Harish Trivedi of Delhi University has characterized India's call centers as "brutally exploitative" and its employees as "cyber coolies of our global age, working not on sugar plantations but on flickering screens, and lashed into submission through vigilant and punitive monitoring, each slip in accent or lapse in pretence meaning a cut in wages."

An Indian blogger Siddarth Singh says that "one cannot dispute the fact that our IT industry is at best a glorified labor provider, and our feted “IT Giants” have failed to provide even a single proprietary product which could create waves in the global IT industry (perhaps except Finacle, a banking and finance solution by Infosys, and which is used by a number of MNC banks around the globe).

Siddarth asks the question, "So, what does Indian industry actually excel at?" Then he offers the following answer: "Well, we are the leaders in the so called IT Enabled Services, or ITES. These are basically services such as BPOs, call centers, KPOs etc, which extensively use IT to provide backend and customer services to primarily overseas customers. That our ITES industry is hugely dependent on foreign clients is also not a secret anymore, with hardly any Indian company enlisting the services of such companies".

A recent letter from a Bangalore based Indian IT worker addressed to the editors "The Hindu" newspaper read as follows:

This is how people in the West have started referring to people in developing nations. In the old days, of course, we Indians were referred to as "coolies" because we provided cheap labour. Nowadays, we are being called "cyber coolies".

Why? Because most software companies find it cheaper to get their job done in countries like India and other developing nations. There are many people in the U. S. and Britain who raise a hue and cry when jobs get exported to countries like India — especially jobs related to call centres and the software industry.

The fact that they refer to us as coolies shows that they haven't lost their imperialist outlook....


People and the media are often misled by "R&D" in the name of some of the western companies' locations in Bangalore.

In reality, Bangalore appears to be the code coolie capital of the world...it's not about tech, it's about cheap labor performing low-level tasks at rock-bottom wages. It's just cost arbitrage in the service sector.

I have no doubt there are some smart techies in India doing leading edge high-technology work, but these are exceptions. The overwhelming majority of the so-called IT work in India is call centers or low-level routine software tech support, maintenance, testing, etc. which is widely described as code coolie work. It's mostly about cost arbitrage, not advanced tech.



The call center business in India is unregulated by government, exposing workers to working in small spaces for long hours, close monitoring, and harsh working conditions. This is of considerable concern to some of the call center workers in light of the Bhopal tragedy and its aftermath which are symptomatic of how little Indian democracy cares for its people...be they industrial workers or cyber coolies in bondage who are exploited, held back and their lives totally controlled by foreigners under the "high-tech" and "IT" labels.

Even the identities of call center workers are changed in the same way as were those of the African slaves in the West. They are forced to take on western names and put on fake accents to please their customers in the West for a few bucks. The sad part is that, after over 60 years of independence from the British, some of the Indians still crave western approval and boast about the polls showing high approval ratings of India in the US. It shows that Indians' mental slavery after "globalization" is much more powerful than the physical slavery they endured for over a thousand years.

There are reports that some of the cyber coolies of India are beginning to revolt, according to the Times of London. They are creating “e-unions” and are planning to target British and American clients in a campaign to improve their working conditions.

Some of them are now protesting over low pay and aggressive management that will not negotiate with traditional trade unions, according to the Times story.

Instead of appealing to the deaf ears of Indian government or unresponsive managements of Indian-owned BPO firms, their strategy is to approach their British and American clients for support. Those who refuse may face a sabotage campaign by the same workers who have helped cut their costs.

Here is a pre-view of the upcoming NBC serial "Outsourced" about call centers in India selling to Americans:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's IT Industry

Reality Check on Indian IT

ICT: Hope or Hype?

Truth About India's IT Revolution

Education in Pakistan

Musharraf' s Legacy

Quality of Higher Education in India, Pakistan

Pakistan's IT Industry Takes Off

Pakistan Launches UAV Production Line

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Pakistan's Software Successes

Pakistan's Industrial Sector

Pakistan's Financial Services Sector

Auto Sector in India and Pakistan

Pakistan Textile Industry Woes

Pakistan Software Houses Association

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Times of India report on lagging research in India:

DHARWAD: India may not compete with other countries in the field of science and technology (S&T) if our scientists fail to make serious efforts to improve the track record in the field of scientific research and development (R&D), said VTU vice-chancellor H Maheshappa.

Inaugurating a six-day workshop on `Graph algorithms' jointly organized by the department of Computer Science, Karnatak University, and VTU here recently, he said India's track record in the field of scientific R&D has remained insignificant when compared with countries like China. This trend has to be changed if we really wish to emerge as successful competitors and carve a niche for India in the field of S&T, he said.

Pointing out the progress achieved by China in this regard, he said China is far ahead of India in the field of scientific R&D. "While the researchers from China file hundreds of patent applications everyday, India stands not even nearer to China in this respect. He said India has potential, including talented pool of teachers and researchers, state-of-the-art research institutes and financial investment by the government for the promotion of scientific R&D.

Expressing concern over the lack of teachers with research background in technical educational institutes, he said though the state has nearly 200 engineering colleges, the number of teachers with research degrees is minimal. "This scenario has to be changed. VTU has plans to tie up with universities like Karnatak University to assist engineering college teachers on understanding of basic science and research methodology," he added.
Riaz Haq said…
Indian IT services company Infosys has come under scrutiny for bringing in low wage Indians on business visas to work on projects to get around limits on numbers of H1-B visa allowed each year, according to NY Times:

Last week, Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, the senior Democrat on the immigration subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill that would increase the wages employers would have to pay H-1B workers, in an effort to ensure they do not undercut Americans. The measure is specifically aimed at Indian outsourcing companies. Last year, Congress added an extra $2,000 to the fee for H-1B visas, in another move aimed at the Indian companies.

Yet the criminal investigation is perhaps the most worrisome development for Infosys, which enjoys a reputation as one of India’s best-run and most respected companies. The events began with Mr. Palmer, 43, a project manager from Alabama who was hired by the company in 2008. In a sworn affidavit he submitted to the federal court, Mr. Palmer said his differences with Infosys management began after he was summoned to a meeting in Bangalore in March 2010. Top executives, he said, discussed ways to “creatively” get around H-1B visa limitations “to fulfill the high demand for its customers at lower cost.”

In general, B-1 visas are granted to business visitors coming to the United States for short stays to attend meetings, conferences or training sessions, or to install specialized equipment. Visitors may not be employed for contract work like H-1B workers, nor can they be paid salaries in this country. There is no annual limit on business visitor visas, whereas H-1B visas are restricted to 85,000 a year.

Mr. Palmer said his supervisors asked him to write letters inviting workers to come from India for sales and training meetings, letters he believed were false. “I refused to write the letters,” he said.

After word got out of his refusal, Mr. Palmer said, he was chastised by his managers and began to receive threats by e-mail and telephone. In October, Infosys has confirmed, Mr. Palmer filed a whistle-blower report about B-1 visa holders from India assigned to projects he or others managed. His report said the B-1 visa holders were doing the same tasks as workers on H-1B visas, including writing and testing software code. Mr. Palmer said he personally knew of at least 60 Indian workers doing contract work on B-1 visas.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/us/22infosys.html?scp=1&sq=infosys&st=cse
Riaz Haq said…
The jobs stolen by Indian and other foreign IT firms to hire code coolies in their country have cost the US middle class many many trillions of dollars and decimated their std of living in America.

Even Andy Grove, former Intel CEO, believes outsourcing has been a disaster for America:

Such evidence stares at us from the performance of several Asian countries in the past few decades. These countries seem to understand that job creation must be the No. 1 objective of state economic policy. The government plays a strategic role in setting the priorities and arraying the forces and organization necessary to achieve this goal. The rapid development of the Asian economies provides numerous illustrations. In a thorough study of the industrial development of East Asia, Robert Wade of the London School of Economics found that these economies turned in precedent-shattering economic performances over the '70s and '80s in large part because of the effective involvement of the government in targeting the growth of manufacturing industries.

And:


However, our pursuit of our individual businesses, which often involves transferring manufacturing and a great deal of engineering out of the country, has hindered our ability to bring innovations to scale at home. Without scaling, we don't just lose jobs -- we lose our hold on new technologies. Losing the ability to scale will ultimately damage our capacity to innovate.


http://www.drudge.com/archive/136003/intel-exec-outsourcing-national-suicide
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Guardian Op Ed on disappearing middle class jobs in America and Europe:

...."Knowledge work", supposedly the west's salvation, is now being exported like manual work. A global mass market in unskilled labour is being quickly succeeded by a market in middle-class work, particularly for industries, such as electronics, in which so much hope of employment opportunities and high wages was invested. As supply increases, employers inevitably go to the cheapest source. A chip designer in India costs 10 times less than a US one. The neoliberals forgot to read (or re-read) Marx. "As capital accumulates the situation of the worker, be his payment high or low, must grow worse."

We are familiar with the outsourcing of routine white-collar "back office" jobs such as data inputting. But now the middle office is going too. Analysing X-rays, drawing up legal contracts, processing tax returns, researching bank clients, and even designing industrial systems are examples of skilled jobs going offshore. Even teaching is not immune: last year a north London primary school hired mathematicians in India to provide one-to-one tutoring over the internet. Microsoft, Siemens, General Motors and Philips are among big firms that now do at least some of their research in China. The pace will quicken. The export of "knowledge work" requires only the transmission of electronic information, not factories and machinery. Alan Blinder, a former vice-chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has estimated that a quarter of all American service sector jobs could go overseas.

Western neoliberal "flat earthers" (after Thomas Friedman's book) believed jobs would migrate overseas in an orderly fashion. Some skilled work might eventually leave but, they argued, it would make space for new industries, requiring yet higher skills and paying better wages. Only highly educated westerners would be capable of the necessary originality and adaptability. Developing countries would obligingly wait for us to innovate in new areas before trying to compete.

But why shouldn't developing countries leapfrog the west? Asia now produces more scientists and engineers than the EU and the US put together. By 2012, on current trends, the Chinese will patent more inventions than any other nation. As a new book – The Global Auction (by sociologists Phillip Brown, Hugh Lauder and David Ashton) – argues, the next generation of innovative companies may not be American or British and, even if they are, they may not employ American or British workers.

It suggests neoliberals made a second, perhaps more important error. They assumed "knowledge work" would always entail the personal autonomy, creativity and job satisfaction to which the middle classes were accustomed. They did not understand that, as the industrial revolution allowed manual work to be routinised, so in the electronic revolution the same fate would overtake many professional jobs. Many "knowledge skills" will go the way of craft skills. They are being chopped up, codified and digitised. Every high street once had bank managers who used their discretion and local knowledge to decide which customers should receive loans. Now software does the job. Human judgment is reduced to a minimum, which explains why loan applicants are often denied because of some tiny, long-forgotten overdue payment.

Brown, Lauder and Ashton call this "digital Taylorism"....
Riaz Haq said…
Is India losing its cost edge? A British co thinks so, according to the BBC:

A telecommunications company is moving one of its call centres from India to Lancashire in a move that is expected to bring 100 jobs to the area.

New Call Telecom transferred its business to Mumbai three years ago, but increased costs has prompted it to move to Burnley.

The move will initially create 25 jobs which over the year will increase to 100, the company said.

Salaries are expected to be around the £14,000 mark.

Chief Executive Nigel Eastwood said: "Employees (in the UK) are loyal, unemployment rates are quite high.

"In contrast, in India jobs are plentiful and we suffer a lot from attrition.

"A similar call centre down the road may offer a more lucrative salary and pull staff away and we need to keep going out there for retraining."
'Pleasant' accent

He added that over the last year he had seen a growing trend in India for prices to increase in real estate, salaries and accommodation.

The price of the Burnley premises, which already have the necessary technology, contributed to the firm's decision to move.

Mr Eastwood said another draw for the company is that the east Lancashire accent is "quite pleasant and easy to understand".

He said: "The average call handling time in the UK should be reduced because people get their point across on the first pass, that makes us more efficient."

The new call centre is planned to be fully operational by mid-August.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-14025904
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a summary of Call Center bill intriduced in the US Congress, as published by Huffington Post:

Saying they hope to stem the tide of jobs heading overseas, legislators introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday in the House that would punish American corporations for offshoring their telephone call centers, making such companies ineligible for grants or guaranteed loans from the federal government.

Introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), the protectionist legislation would also put some aggressive mandates on call-center operations. Not only would customer service representatives working overseas for U.S. corporations have to disclose their locations upon request, they would also have to offer callers the option of being transferred to call centers back in America.

"Outsourcing is one of the scourges of our economy and one of the reasons we are struggling to knock down the unemployment rate and reduce the number of Americans who are out of work," Bishop said in a conference call with reporters. "We can't prohibit it, but we can certainly discourage it."

Although some call-center jobs have trickled back into the U.S. in recent years, the long-term trend has shown thousands of American-based customer service positions being outsourced to India and the Philippines, where workers come considerably cheaper. The Philippines' call-center industry recently surpassed India's as the largest in the world, according to a report in USA Today.

The call-center bill has strong backing from the Communications Workers of America, a union representing 700,000 workers, more than 150,000 of whom are customer service reps. Ron Collins, CWA's chief of staff, said that Americans have been losing decent-paying call-center jobs so that large corporations can save on labor costs. He praised AT&T for its decision to bring 5,000 customer service jobs back to the U.S. as part of its merger with T-Mobile.

"When I talk about this, I talk about it from experience," said Collins, a former Verizon call-center worker. "This bill is a very important step forward -- for jobs, for workers and for customers."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/07/overseas-call-centers-outsourcing-bill_n_1135147.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008
Riaz Haq said…
Results of PISA international test released by OECD in Dec, 2011, show that Indian students came in at the bottom of the list along with students from Kyrgyzstan:

Students in Tamil Nadu-India attained an average score on the PISA reading literacy scale that is significantly higher than those for Himachal Pradesh-India and Kyrgyzstan, but lower than all other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 17% of students are estimated to have a proficiency in reading literacy that is at or above the baseline needed to participate effectively and productively in life. This means that 83% of students in Tamil Nadu-India are estimated to be below this baseline level. This compares to 81% of student performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on average.
Students in the Tamil Nadu-India attained a mean score on the PISA mathematical literacy scale as the same observed in Himachal Pradesh-India, Panama and Peru. This was significantly higher than the mean observed in Kyrgyzstan but lower than those of other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 15% of students are proficient in mathematics at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the kind of skills that enable them to use mathematics in ways that are considered fundamental for their future development. This compares to 75% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was no statistically significant difference in the performance of boys and girls in mathematical literacy.
Students in Tamil Nadu-India were estimated to have a mean score on the scientific literacy scale, which is below the means of all OECD countries, but significantly above the mean observed in the other Indian state, Himachal Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu-India, 16% of students are proficient in science at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology. This compares to 82% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was a statistically significant gender difference in scientific literacy, favouring girls.


http://www.acer.edu.au/media/acer-releases-results-of-pisa-2009-participant-economies/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Russian analyst Anatol Karlin on India's prospects and its comparison with China:

It is not a secret to longtime readers of this blog that I rate India’s prospects far more pessimistically than I do China’s. My main reason is I do not share the delusion that democracy is a panacea and that whatever advantage in this sphere India has is more than outweighed by China’s lead in any number of other areas ranging from infrastructure and fiscal sustainability to child malnutrition and corruption. However, one of the biggest and certainly most critical gaps is in educational attainment, which is the most important component of human capital – the key factor underlying all productivity increases and longterm economic growth. China’s literacy rate is 96%, whereas Indian literacy is still far from universal at just 74%.
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The big problem, until recently, was that there was no internationalized student testing data for either China or India. (There was data for cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it was not very useful because they are hardly representative of China). An alternative approach was to compare national IQ’s, in which China usually scored 100-105 and India scored in the low 80′s. But this method has methodological flaws because the IQ tests aren’t consistent across countries. (This, incidentally, also makes this approach a punching bag for PC enforcers who can’t bear to entertain the possibility of differing IQ’s across national and ethnic groups).
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Many Indians like to see themselves as equal competitors to China, and are encouraged in their endeavour by gushing Western editorials and Tom Friedman drones who praise their few islands of programming prowess – in reality, much of which is actually pretty low-level stuff – and widespread knowledge of the English language (which makes India a good destination for call centers but not much else), while ignoring the various aspects of Indian life – the caste system, malnutrition, stupendously bad schools – that are holding them back. The low quality of Indians human capital reveals the “demographic dividend” that India is supposed to enjoy in the coming decades as the wild fantasies of what Sailer rightly calls ”Davos Man craziness at its craziest.” A large cohort of young people is worse than useless when most of them are functionally illiterate and innumerate; instead of fostering well-compensated jobs that drive productivity forwards, they will form reservoirs of poverty and potential instability.

Instead of buying into their own rhetoric of a “India shining”, Indians would be better served by focusing on the nitty gritty of bringing childhood malnutrition DOWN to Sub-Saharan African levels, achieving the life expectancy of late Maoist China, and moving up at least to the level of a Mexico or Moldova in numeracy and science skills. Because as long as India’s human capital remains at the bottom of the global league tables so will the prosperity of its citizens....


http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2012/02/04/china-superior-to-india/
Riaz Haq said…
Are robots competing with manufacturing workers at home and abroad? Here's CBS 60 Minutes on it:

-------

Andrew McAfee: Our economy is bigger than it was before the start of the Great Recession. Corporate profits are back. Business investment in hardware and software is back higher than it's ever been. What's not back is the jobs.

Steve Kroft: And you think technology and increased automation is a factor in that?

Erik Brynjolfsson: Absolutely.

The percentage of Americans with jobs is at a 20-year low. Just a few years ago if you traveled by air you would have interacted with a human ticket agent. Today, those jobs are being replaced by robotic kiosks. Bank tellers have given way to ATMs, sales clerks are surrendering to e-commerce and switchboard operators and secretaries to voice recognition technology.

Erik Brynjolfsson: There are lots of examples of routine, middle-skilled jobs that involve relatively structured tasks and those are the jobs that are being eliminated the fastest. Those kinds of jobs are easier for our friends in the artificial intelligence community to design robots to handle them. They could be software robots, they could be physical robots.

Steve Kroft: What is there out there that people would be surprised to learn about? In the robotics area, let's say.

Andrew McAfee: There are heavily automated warehouses where there are either very few or no people around. That absolutely took me by surprise.

It's on display at this huge distribution center in Devens, Mass., where roughly 100 employees work alongside 69 robots that do all the heavy lifting and navigate a warehouse maze the size of two football fields -- moving 10,000 pieces of merchandise a day from storage shelf to shipping point faster and more efficiently than human workers ever could.
..
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Erik Brynjolfsson: IBM's deep QA system that plays "Jeopardy," we had a contest here that played against our best MIT students, the best Harvard students we could put it up against. And not surprisingly, Watson won. And it's being used in real practical applications now on Wall Street and in call centers. Siri -- millions of people are using that every day.

Andrew McAfee: The fact that computers can now understand and respond to human speech, the fact that they can actually generate prose of decent quality, they can drive cars, they can win at Jeopardy. We're seeing technology demonstrate skills that it's never, ever done before.
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Rodney Brooks: If you're using robots to compete with a simple task that a low-paid worker does in a foreign country you can bring it back here and do that task here.

Steve Kroft: Baxter costs 22 grand?

Rodney Brooks: Yep.

Steve Kroft: How long does he last?

Rodney Brooks: It lasts three years.

Steve Kroft: Three years?

Rodney Brooks: So you can think that as 6,500 hours.

Steve Kroft: I think it works out to about $3.40 an hour?

Rodney Brooks: About that yeah.

Steve Kroft: $3.40, that's probably the wages of the Chinese worker, right?

Rodney Brooks: It's just about right there now....



http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57563618/are-robots-hurting-job-growth/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an NPR report on the abuse of H1b visas:

If you scroll through the government's visa data, you notice something surprising. The biggest employer of foreign tech workers is not Microsoft — not by a long shot. Nor is it Google, Facebook or any other name-brand tech company. The biggest users of H-1Bs are consulting companies, or as Ron Hira calls them, "offshore-outsourcing firms."

"The top 10 recipients in [the] last fiscal year were all offshore-outsourcers. And they got 40,000 of the 85,000 visas — which is astonishing," he says.

Hira's a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He's also the son of Indian immigrants and has a personal interest in questions of labor flow across borders.

For the past decade, he's been studying how consulting firms use temporary work visas to help American companies cut costs. He says they use the visas to supply cheaper workers here, but also to smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas.

"What these firms have done is exploit the loopholes in the H-1B program to bring in on-site workers to learn the jobs [of] the Americans to then ship it back offshore," he says. "And also to bring in on-site workers who are cheaper on the H-1B and undercut American workers right here."

The biggest user of H-1B last year was Cognizant, a firm based in New Jersey. The company got 9,000 new visas. Following close behind were Infosys, Wipro and Tata ‑‑ all Indian firms. They're not household names, but they loom large in tech places like the Seattle suburbs.

Cutting Costs

Rennie Sawade, a software designer with 30 years of experience, grew up in Michigan — watching the decline of the auto industry. And so, he went into computers in search of a more secure career. But that's not how it turned out.

"Basically, what I see is, it's happening all over again," Sawade says.

Programmers like him tend to be freelancers, or contract workers, and the big consulting firms are the competition. Sawade remembers when he almost landed a plum job at Microsoft.

"I remember having phone interviews and talking with the manager, having him sound really excited about my experience and he was going to bring me in to meet the team," Sawade recalls.

And then: nothing. He called his own placement agency to find out what happened.

"And that's when they told me, 'Oh, they hired somebody from Tata Consultancy.' And they actually told me on the phone, the woman I was talking to said her jaw just dropped when they found out how little Microsoft was paying this person from Tata Consultancy to do this job," he says.


http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/04/03/176134694/Whos-Hiring-H1-B-Visa-Workers-Its-Not-Who-You-Might-Think
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a piece by Thane Richard, a Brown University student who did a semester abroad at St. Stephens College in India:

“Wait, what?! You are studying here for three years just so you can go do it again for four more years?” I could not grasp the logic of this. What changed my understanding was when I started taking classes at St. Stephen’s College. Except for one, they were horrible.
This was not an isolated incident — all my fellow exchange students concurred that the academics were a joke compared to what we were used to back home. In one economic history class the professor would enter the room, take attendance, open his notebook, and begin reading. He would read his notes word for word while we, his students, copied these notes word for word until the bell sounded. Next class he would find the spot where the bell had interrupted him, like a storyteller reading to children and trying to recall where he had last put down the story. He would even pause slightly at the end of a long sentence to give us enough time to finish writing before he moved on. And this was only when he decided to show up — many times I arrived on campus to find class abruptly cancelled. Classmates exchanged cell phone numbers and created phone trees just to circulate word of a cancelled class. I got a text almost daily about one of my classes. My foreigner peers had many similar experiences.
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To pause for a moment, here is the problem with me talking about this topic: right now many Indians reading this are starting to feel defensive. “Nationalist” is a term I have heard as a self-description as they defend Mother India from the bigoted, criticising foreigner. They focus on me rather than the problem. I have had people unfriend me on Facebook and walk out on meals because I politely expressed an opinion on politics or history that went against the publicly consented “Indian opinion.” For a nation that prides itself on the 17 languages printed on its currency, I am greeted with remarkable intolerance. Even after living in India for close to three years, attending an Indian college, working for an Indian company, founding an Indian company, paying taxes in India, and making India my home, I am not Indian enough to speak my mind. But in a nation that rivals all others in the breadth of its human diversity, who is Indian enough? Because if loyalty and a feeling of patriotism were the barometers for “Indianness,” rather than skin colour or a government document, then I would easily be a dual U.S.-Indian citizen. This Indian defensiveness is false nationalism. It is not a stance that cares about India, it is one that cares about what others think of India, which is not nationalism. That is narcissism.
My voice should be drowned out by the millions around me who are disappointed with how they have been short-changed by the Indian government — their government. Education is one of the most poignant examples of this and serves as great dinner conversation amongst the elite:
“The Indian education system is lost in the past and failing India.” Everyone at the table nods, mumbles their concurrence, and cites the most recent Economist article or Pricewaterhouse Cooper study on the matter in order to masquerade as informed....


http://www.thehindu.com/features/education/college-and-university/an-indian-education/article4683622.ece
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Guardian story on US penalizing Infosys for violating visa restrictions:

Infosys Ltd said on Wednesday it has reached a $34m settlement with US authorities in a case involving the widespread practice by Indian firms of flying workers to client sites in the United States on temporary visas.

The fine, which the US Department of Justice said is the largest in a case of its kind, comes as US lawmakers consider legislation that would make it more difficult and costly for Indian IT firms to send workers to the United States on temporary, restricted visas.

"Infosys denies and disputes any claims of systemic visa fraud, misuse of visas for competitive advantage or immigration abuse. Those claims are untrue and are assertions that remain unproven," Infosys said in a statement.

"There were no criminal charges or court rulings against the company. Furthermore, there are no limitations on the company's eligibility for federal contracts or access to US visa programs as a result of the settlement," it said.

Infosys, India's second-largest IT services exporter, employs roughly 15,000 people in the United States. As of March 31, about 10,800 of those were on H-1B visas, which allow an employee to stay and work in the United States up to six years, and 1,600 were on temporary L-1 visas, a company filing said.

The US investigation focused on the use of B-1 business visas and I-9 forms, Infosys has said. I-9 forms verify the identity of employees and their authorisation to work in the United States. A person on a B-1 visa in the United States can participate in meetings but is not allowed to work.

"It is likely to add more fuel to the ongoing debate around visa reforms," Chirajeet Sengupta, practice director in Mumbai at Everest Group, which advises clients on technology vendors, said on Tuesday after reports that a settlement was imminent.

"These reforms, if executed, have the potential to impact Indian service providers' landed resource model that is largely driven by access to H-1B visas in large numbers," he said.

In its statement, Infosys said only 0.02% of the days that Infosys staff worked on US projects last year were performed by people on B-1 visas.

"The Company's use of B-1 visas was for legitimate business purposes and not in any way intended to circumvent the requirements of the H-1B program," the Bangalore-based company said.

Infosys has secured roughly one B-1 visa for every 10 H-1B visas, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be identified.

US authorities have been looking into Infosys' use of visas since 2011. Earlier this month, Infosys set aside a reserve of $35m, including legal fees, as it worked towards a resolution of the US investigation.

The case is "an important event in the annals of Indian IT industry," Sundararaman Viswanathan, a consultant in Bangalore with Zinnov, which advises US corporations on sending outsourcing work to India, said ahead of the settlement.

"This is a common issue amongst all the Indian service providers – just that Infosys had to deal with it," he said.

"Though the Indian service providers do not intend to flout the visa regulations, there was definitely a lack of regard for certain norms and procedures. This will be fixed. There will be an increase in onsite hiring," he said.


http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/30/infosys-34m-settlement-us-department-justice-visa
Riaz Haq said…
There is an increasing evidence of India’s growing stature and presence in the high-end value chain, where cost advantages may not be the only drivers to future growth,” Mr. Kumar added. India, once dubbed the back office of the world because of its abundance of cheap labor and tech proficiency, has suffered in recent years as call centers have been relocated back to the company’s headquarters and cloud computing has reduced firms’ need for offshore tech support.

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Average annual salaries in India for those working at this level are $41,213 compared with $42,689 in China and $132,877 in the U.S. which was the fourth best-paying country for those in the IT field. The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia rank lower than India for pay and the lowest paying of the 9,413 companies surveyed were in Thailand, Vietnam and Bulgaria. The survey was conducted by asking human resources managers about salary scales at each company.

The figures don’t take into account purchasing power parity – the principle that the same number of dollars can buy different amounts in different countries – but the findings could still mean tech companies are tempted to move more jobs to India.

“Lower-level roles are being moved to regions where talent is cheaper; the jobs that remain in Western Europe and the United States may be fewer in number but are more demanding and complex,” Rajesh Kumar, the chief executive of MyHiringClub.com said in a statement.

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2015/09/21/what-it-professionals-earn-around-the-world/
Riaz Haq said…
2 #Indian owned #SiliconValley body shops fined for underpaying H1B visa workers from #India http://www.theindianpanorama.news/potpourri/business/2-silicon-valley-companies-owned-by-indian-americans-have-been-penalised-for-violating-h1b-visa-rules-article-52750.html … via @theindpanorama

Scopus Consulting Group and Orian Engineers, two companies based in Silicon Valley and owned by an Indian-American Kishore Kumar have been ordered to pay fines of $103,000 to the federal government. Along with this, the company is required to pay $84,000 in back wages to its employees who are carrying H-1B visas.

The two companies bring workers from India and other countries on H1B visas to employ them as software engineers for Silicon Valley firms such as eBay, Apple and Cisco Systems.

During investigations, US Department of Labor Wage and Hour investigators found that the two companies violated the H1B provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act by misrepresenting the prevailing wage level on the Labor Condition Applications required by the act, an official release said yesterday.Federal Administrative Law Judge Stephen R Henley ordered the two businesses owned by Kishore Kumar to pay 21 workers $84,000 in back wages and $103,000 in fines to the federal government.

“Some of the country’s most cutting-edge, successful organisations benefit from underpaid H-1B workers,” director for the Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco, Susana Blanco said.

“H1B workers must be paid local prevailing wages. We will not allow companies to undercut local wages and hurt US workers and businesses who pay their workers fairly,” Blanco said.
Riaz Haq said…
#India Body Shops Abusing #America's H1B Visa System. #US #SiliconValley high-techs hire few #Tata #Infosys #Wipro http://nyti.ms/1Y1VpdL

H-1B visas are designed to bring foreign professionals with college degrees and specialized
skills to fill jobs when qualified Americans cannot be found. But in recent years, global
outsourcing companies have dominated the program, winning tens of thousands of visas
and squeezing out many American companies, including smaller start-ups.

Congress set a limit of 85,000 visas annually, and more than 10,000 companies applied in 2014. But just 20 companies received more than 32,000 visas, according to Ronil Hira, a professor at Howard University who studies visa programs and analyzed federal H-1B data. The top 20 included several large outsourcing firms that provided temporary workers for businesses like Disney and Toys “R” Us.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approves the visas on a first-come-first-served basis, beginning each year on April 1. Federal officials allow only one application for each foreign worker, but companies can submit an unlimited number of applications for their employees, so global outsourcing giants can, and do, submit many requests.

H-1B visas are granted by a computer-run lottery if the number of applications exceeds the annual quota in the first week, which has happened in recent years.
To prepare an H-1B visa application, employers must first submit a public document, known as a labor condition application, to the Department of Labor. Companies can apply for more than one employee based on one labor condition application, and many outsourcing firms use one application to apply for 10 or more workers. The more labor condition applications a company gets approved, the more H-1B applications it can submit.
Because H-1B visa applications are not public record, the labor condition applications are an indicator of how many applications a company intends to file.

Since 2011, as the American economy returned to growth, there has been a spike in the number of H-1B visas granted to outsourcing companies. Some companies are receiving at least four times as many visas as they did just a few years ago.

Under federal rules, employers like TCS, Infosys and Wipro that have large numbers of H-1B workers in the United States are required to declare that they will not displace American workers. But the companies are exempt from that requirement if the H-1B workers are paid at least $60,000 a year. H-1B workers at outsourcing firms often receive wages at or slightly above $60,000, below what skilled American technology professionals tend to earn, so those firms can offer services to American companies at a lower cost, undercutting American workers.

The top outsourcing firms primarily bring temporary workers from India. American companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple have drawn from a wider range of countries, including China and Canada, for their H-1B workers. But in 2014, 70 percent of the H-1B visas went to workers from India, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Riaz Haq said…
Big #India Body Shops Game #America's H-1B Visa Program To Hurt #US Employees and Move #American Jobs Overseas http://nyti.ms/1MU1K9c

Théo Négri, a young software engineer from France, had come up with so many novel ideas at his job at an Internet start-up in San Francisco that the American entrepreneur who hired him wanted to keep him on.

So he helped Mr. Négri apply for a three-year work visa for foreign professionals with college degrees and specialized skills, mainly in technology and science. With his master’s degree from a French university and advanced computer abilities, Mr. Négri seemed to fill the bill.

But his application for the H-1B visa was denied, and he had to leave the United States. Back in France, Mr. Négri used his data skills to figure out why.

Continue reading the main story
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The answer was simple: Many of the visas are given out through a lottery, and a small number of giant global outsourcing companies had flooded the system with applications, significantly increasing their chances of success. While he had one application in last year’s lottery and lost, one of the outsourcing companies applied for at least 14,000. The companies were squeezing out American employers like his boss.

“I had this great American dream that got broken,” Mr. Négri said, speaking by telephone from Lyon, France.

Congress set up the H-1B program to help American companies hire foreigners with exceptional skills, to fill open jobs and to help their businesses grow.

But the program has been failing many American employers who cannot get visas for foreigners with the special skills they need.

Instead, the outsourcing firms are increasingly dominating the program, federal records show. In recent years, they have obtained many thousands of the visas — which are limited to 85,000 a year — by learning to game the H-1B system without breaking the rules, researchers and lawyers said.

In some years, an American employer could snag one of these coveted visas almost anytime. But recently, with the economy picking up, the outsourcing companies have sent in tens of thousands of visa requests right after the application window opens on April 1. Employers who apply after a week are out of luck.

“The H-1B program is critical as a way for employers to fill skill gaps and for really talented people to come to the United States,” said Ronil Hira, a professor at Howard University who studies visa programs. “But the outsourcing companies are squeezing out legitimate users of the program,” he said. “The H-1Bs are actually pushing jobs offshore.”

Those firms have used the visas to bring their employees, mostly from India, for large contracts to take over work at American businesses. And as the share of H-1B visas obtained by outsourcing firms has grown, more Americans say they are being put out of work, or are seeing their jobs moved overseas.

Of the 20 companies that received the most H-1B visas in 2014, 13 were global outsourcing operations, according to an analysis of federal records by Professor Hira. The top 20 companies took about 40 percent of the visas available — about 32,000 — while more than 10,000 other employers received far fewer visas each. And about half of the applications in 2014 were rejected entirely because the quota had been met.

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The top companies receiving H-1B visas in recent years, Professor Hira found, include Tata Consultancy Services, known as TCS, Infosys and Wipro, all outsourcing giants based in India; Cognizant, with headquarters in New Jersey; and Accenture, a global operation incorporated in Ireland.

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