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India takes US to WTO over visa fee hike

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New Delhi, 29 March 2017 : India has taken the issue of hike in visa fees by the US to the dispute settlement agency of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply that the government has taken up with the new American administration the visa issues being faced by Indian services companies.

“The government of India continues to engage the US administration for better access of its professionals in the US,” the minister said.

“H-1B and L-1 visa issues, including increase in visa processing fees, high rejection rates and other difficulties faced by the Indian services companies have been raised with the US government at various levels,” Sitharaman said.

“India has also taken up the matter on US visa fee hike in the dispute settlement body of the World Trade Organization,” she added.

The US has told India that there is no significant change in its H1-B visa regime, Parliament was informed on Monday.

Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour last week that the new American administration has assured there is no significant change in the H1-B visa regime.

“The fear, at least for 2017, is not proved to be correct. They (US authorities) are saying their current priority is to deal with the illegal immigrants,” Sitharaman said.

The issue was also taken up recently with the visiting Congressional delegation led by Bob Goodlatte, as well as during the visits of the Commerce Secretary and the Foreign Secretary to the US during the first week of March 2017, she said.

IT industry body Nasscom has said it will continue to highlight the discriminatory nature of the proposed provisions of the bill for H1-B visas which has been re-introduced in the US Congress after a failed attempt in July last year.

The bill proposes a minimum pay of $100,000 annually to every employee taken to US under the H1-B visa which is an over 66 per cent increase from the current average.

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PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti released from detention after 14 months

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Jammu, 13 Oct : Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti was on Tuesday released from detention. “PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti is being released from detention,” said Jammu and Kashmir administration spokesperson Rohit Kansal.

A government order issued on Tuesday night said her detention was being revoked with immediate effect.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration in July had extended her detention by three months under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).

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Cinemas, theatres, multiplexes to open with up to 50% seating capacity from Oct 15

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Swimming pools for training of sportspersons to open with SOP from Oct 15

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SAD breaks alliance with BJP Leaves NDA in protest against farmers ordinance

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Chandigarh, 26 Sep : The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has severed its alliance with the BJP. The Akali Dal had a 22-year-old alliance with the BJP.

The decision was taken after a meeting of the Akali Dal’s Kaur Committee which lasted for more than four hours today. Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal addressed the press after the meeting and announced that he would no longer be a part of BJP-NDA.

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