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A techie writes to Modi: Why did your magic not work on H-1B?

Neeraj Thakur | Updated on: 5 July 2017, 17:36 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Donald Trump on 26 June, expectations among software engineers ran high as to whether the meeting would help lift the dark cloud hanging over their heads.

But the hopes of Indian IT professionals were dashed as Modi missed the opportunity to raise key issues such as H-1B visa restrictions, which have become a huge pain for the Indian IT sector with jobs being lost on a daily basis.

The following is a letter from a fictional software engineer, describing the pain he felt at having had such issues so crucial to him, and millions like him, left off the table.

Dear Modiji,


I am a software engineer who admired your statesmanship and articulation of the idea of a new India. I voted for you in 2014 with the hope that you would be the catalyst to launch India into the league of prosperous nations that provide high standards of living to their citizens.

All was going well, Modiji, as our nation looked set to touch the stars riding on the ship of technology, entrepreneurship and your ability to negotiate with the world leaders India's rightful space in the world economy.

However, a few days ago, I got the shock of my life.

I, along with many other colleagues, was asked to leave the company for which I had worked for seven years. I was told by my HR manager that I was no longer required as the company's finances are strained thanks to reduced project orders from foreign clients.

Just few months ago, I was hoping to go to the US, like many of my colleagues have, on the H-1B visa with the hope of improving my skills to earn a higher compensation that would have helped me improve my lifestyle.

But Modiji, I was told that Donald Trump, the new president of the US, is against Indian engineers working in his country. I was told that his government has passed an executive order that will make it difficult to hire Indian engineers for foreign projects.

So going abroad is no longer an option for me. But I believed in you, Modiji, as you possess the charisma to negotiate the interests of Indian workforce abroad. How can the US government ignore Indian engineers, who are the backbone of all the technology companies there?

Given the fact that our government has done so much to help US-based companies to run their operations efficiently in India, it is a natural expectation to get something in return for the burgeoning highly-skilled workforce of India.

I truly believed that a hardliner Prime Minister like you would not accept this treatment to the Indian workforce. And when your meeting with the US president Donald Trump was announced, I almost took it for granted that a leader of your stature, will not be afraid to demand a fair deal for the Indian workforce in the US.

There were news reports, quoting sources in the leading newspapers of our country that said that Indian PM would take up the issue of H-1B visas with the US president. It gave me hope. The pain of being jobless with a monthly EMI of over Rs 60,000 per month eased for sometime. I spent an anxious last night, waiting for you joint statement with the US president.

But alas, as I read the news websites in the morning, the joint statement issued had nothing for India's workforce. There was not a single assurance by Donald Trump or you that would cheer people like me who have been the backbone of India's rise in the services exports over the last two-and-a-half decades.

In fact, I realised that it was Trump who had something to show his citizens in terms of jobs when he said, “I was pleased to learn about an Indian Airlines recent order of 100 new American planes, one of the largest orders of its kind, which will support thousands and thousands of American jobs.”

Trump got good business from India. Our companies help create thousands of jobs in the US by buying their products. But what about India, Modiji?

Your joint statement did not have a single word on the H-1B visas. What are we engineers to do now, who have no takers within India and have no chance of going abroad either?

Though I really appreciate that India managed to get assurance of strategic support from the US in dealing with terrorism, but aren't these assurances a part of the regular statements issued at the end of every meeting between two state heads?

Dear Modiji, I am no strategic expert and I am not even an economist, but what I make out from whatever has appeared in the media reports about your meeting with Trump is that while the latter managed to push his agenda of creating jobs for the US citizens, you settled for less.

First published: 27 June 2017, 22:02 IST
Neeraj Thakur @neerajthakur2

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