INDIA ABROAD October 27, 2017 30 INDIA
In the U.S. for a weeklong
visit with officials, India’s
Finance Minister Arun
Jaitley has pressed for
changes in the processing
of L- 1 and H-1B visas as a
way to ease access for Indian pro-
fessionals and the contributions
they make to the nation’s econo-
An Oct. 14 report in the
Business Standard noted that
during Jaitley’s discussions of
bilateral trade and investment
with Treasury Secretary Steven
Mnuchin and Commerce
Secretary Wilbur Ross, he
brought up the issue of Indian
professionals and their role in the
He spoke strongly about the
visas, noting that highly skilled
professionals need to be assured
they can continue to be part of
the job picture here.
President Donald Trump has
committed to additional layers of
oversight for the visa programs,
causing concerns particularly
among Indian tech workers.
The Economic Times quoted
Jaitley as saying that holders of
H1-B visas “are not illegal economic migrants. And that is why
the U.S. should treat them with a
different and better perspective.
We have expressed this concern
of ours with America.”
The Pioneer newspaper quot-
ed him further as saying: “These
are very high quality, highly
trained professionals. They’ve
contributed immensely to the
U.S. economy. They add value to
the U.S. economy. Therefore,
when the U.S. decides its visa
policy they must decide it in rela-
tion to these people appropriate-
Arun Jaitley Presses U.S. to Ease Visa Oversight
Delhi Braces for Pollution 'Airpocalypse' as Smog Looms
By Jalees Andrabi
— NEW DELHI
s Hindus across India cele-
brate Diwali this week, sci-
entists fear a ban on fire-
crackers and other emergency
deployed by authorities may not
be enough to prevent a repeat of
last year's "airpocalypse" in
Each year, as winter descends
on the Indian capital, a perfect
storm of seasonal crop stubble
burning, dense cloud cover and
smoke generated by millions of
firecrackers used in Diwali celebrations turns Delhi's skies a
Last year's unprecedented pollution disaster saw heavy smog
hover above the capital for
weeks, forcing schools to shut as
authorities scrambled to contain
the crisis. This time they are taking few chances, as India's environmental watchdog shut down
a coal-fired power plant on Oct.
18 and banned the use of diesel
generators in Delhi.
On Delhi's outskirts however,
farmers are busy burning crop
remnants to clear their land
before replanting, and the acrid
smoke has already begun to drift
south, casting a pall over the
world's most polluted capital and
leaving millions gasping for
The illegal practice shows no
signs of ending, as low-income
farmers like Devi say they have
no alternative, even if it harms
city dwellers miles away.
"We have to burn it. We know
this is harmful but what can we
do?" Devi, who only gave her last
name, told AFP on her farm in
Sonipat just 37 miles from Delhi.
"We also need to make money
for our families," she said, stoking the smouldering stubble and
defending the practice for being
cost effective and quicker than
other methods to clear her less
than an acre farmland.
The sharp reek of burning
stubble marks the onset of the
pollution season in Delhi as air
contaminants soar to dangerous
A NASA satellite image taken
early October showed widespread fires across India's northern breadbasket, with a thick
grey haze streaking toward Delhi
and its 20 million inhabitants.
Nearly 35 million tons of post-
harvest stubble is burnt annually
in Haryana and Punjab, two pre-
dominantly rural states near
Delhi, despite a nationwide ban
on the practice since 2015.
But farmers protest that they
alone are not responsible for
Delhi's atrocious air, and say
they need more support to shift
to a different method of farming.
"The farm fires in northern
India certainly worsen the pollution situation, but we need alternatives for it to end," said Gufran
Beig, chief scientist at state-run
System of Air Quality Weather
Forecasting and Research.
Government-led efforts —from
shutting brick kilns to limiting
cars on the road — have failed to
tackle air pollution, which a US
study in February found kills one
million people prematurely in
India every year.
Last year, levels of PM2.5 —
the fine particles linked to higher
rates of chronic bronchitis, lung
cancer and heart disease —
soared to 778 in the days that followed Diwali, prompting the
Supreme Court to warn of a public health emergency.
Levels of PM2.5 between 301
and 500 are classified as "haz-ardous", while anything over 500
is beyond the official index.
"If there are no remedies, we
might see a repeat of last year's
situation," Beig said.
On Oct. 19, levels of PM2.5
pollutants in Delhi were hovering
around 200 — still eight times the
World Health Organization's safe
limit of 25.
In the run-up to Diwali, the
government banned a host of
older diesel vehicles, temporarily
closed some polluting industries
and prohibited the burning of
The emergency measures followed a controversial Supreme
Court ban earlier this month on
the sale of firecrackers in Delhi
during the festive season.
The move upset some rev-ellers, who enjoy setting off
crackers to ring in the season,
and fireworks vendors who feel
they are being unfairly targeted.
"We also live in the city and
know our responsibilities," said
Amit Jain, a despondent firecracker vendor in Delhi's old
quarter. "We also want to
breathe clean air, but why target
firecrackers and not ban cars,
industries and construction?" he
Last year’s unprecedented pollution disaster saw smog hover for weeks
– NEW DELHI
akistan on Oct. 19
extended the detention
of the chief suspect in
the 2008 Mumbai attacks for a
month, government officials
Firebrand cleric Hafiz
Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) group and has a
$10 million U.S. bounty on his
head, has been under house
arrest since January following
a government crackdown on
"Hafiz Saeed's detention has
been extended for a period of
one-month," a senior government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He said the detention was
extended by a three-member
review board of Lahore High
Court headed by Judge Yawar
JuD, listed as a terror outfit
by the United Nations, is con-
sidered by the US and India to
be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba
(Le T), the militant group
blamed for the attack on
India's financial capital which
killed more than 160 people.
India has long seethed at
Pakistan's failure either to
hand over or prosecute those
accused of planning the
Mumbai attacks, while
Pakistan has alleged that India
failed to give it crucial evidence.
New Delhi is sceptical that
any action will be taken
against Saeed despite his
arrest, and has long said there
is evidence that "official agen-
cies" in Pakistan were involved
in plotting the Mumbai attack.
Islamabad denies the charges.
Despite the bounty against
him Saeed led a high-profile
public life in Pakistan until his
arrest, regularly delivering
fiery anti-India speeches.
Pakistan Extends Detention of Mumbai Attacks Suspect
Motorists drive on a major road
as smog covers the a skyline in
New Delhi,Nov. 6, 2016.