Daily Current Affairs 05.08.2020 (H1B Visa, Consumer Protection Act,2019)

Daily Current Affairs 05.08.2020 (H1B Visa, Consumer Protection Act,2019)

1. Trump bars H-1B visa holders from federal jobs

‘Will not tolerate firing of Americans for cheap foreign labour’

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order preventing federal agencies from contracting or subcontracting foreign workers — mainly those on H-1B visas.

  • The move comes over a month after the Trump administration on June 23 suspended the H-1B visas, along with other types of foreign work visas, until the end of 2020 to protect American workers in a crucial election year. The new restrictions took effect from June 24.
  • Mr. Trump’s order follows an announcement by the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) that it would outsource 20% of its technology jobs to companies based in foreign countries.
  • Speaking to reporters after signing the order on Monday, Mr. Trump said TVA’s action could cause more than 200 highly-skilled American tech workers in Tennessee to lose their jobs to low-wage, foreign workers hired on temporary work visas. He said his administration will not tolerate firing of hardworking Americans in pursuit of cheap foreign labour.
  • Outsourcing hundreds of workers is especially detrimental in the middle of a pandemic, which has already cost millions of Americans their jobs, the White House said in a statement.
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H-1B Visa

H-1B visa holders in the US are facing problems in switching jobs even if the new job is similar to the old and requires the same exact skill sets.

  • The US citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS) has denied several applications by the new employer by citing that the new position does not constitute a ‘specialty occupation’.
  • The US H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations. Speciality occupations requires
    • Theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.
    • Any professional level job that usually requires you to have a bachelor’s degree or higher can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations.
  • If the H-1B holders starts working elsewhere and the transfer is denied, the person could be ‘out of status’ with a bar on entry into the US for three to ten years, unless the old employer is willing to take back the worker.
  • The US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff in specialty occupations. The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:
    • Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent.
    • The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree.
    • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position.
    • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
  • H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and children under 21 years of age to the US under the H-4 Visa category as dependents. An H4 Visa holder is allowed to remain in the US as long as the H-1B visa holder remains in legal status.
    • While, an H-4 visa holder is not eligible to work in the US, they may attend school, obtain a driver’s license and open a bank account while in the US.

Capping on Visa

  • USCIS sets a limit on how many H1B visas are issued each year.
  • These numbers can change as per regulations of the US government. Historically, the cap is placed at 65,000.
  • An additional 20, 000 H1B visas are issued for qualified people who have completed a Masters degree from USA. This quota is independent and additional to general 65,000 quota.
  • It is done through lottery process.
  • Employer prefer H1B visa because applying for a non-immigrant visa is generally quicker than applying for a US Green Card, therefore the H-1B visa is popular for companies wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment in the US.
  • However, because of the lack of available visas employers frequently have to look at applying for other visa categories such as:
    • L-1B for specialized workers
    • L-1A for managers and executives
    • E-2 Treaty Investor visa
    • E-1 Treaty Trader visa
    • E-3 for Australians etc.

Significant changes introduced to H1B visa

  • US says H1B visas will be issued to only the most-skilled foreigners or highest-paid beneficiaries
  • In July 2018, USCIS adjudicators granted right to reject H1B applications that do not provide the necessary required information when submitted.
  • In October 2018, The US initiates deportation of H1B holders with expired visas.
  • In October 2018, The US proposes revision of “specialty occupations” definition for the H1B visa.
  • In Jan 2019, The USCIS announces it will require petitioners seeking to file H1B cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with USCIS.

2. Rajapaksas aim for victory as Sri Lanka goes to polls today

196 legislators in the 225-memberHouse are to be elected

  • Over 16 million voters in Sri Lanka will on Wednesday have a chance to elect their representatives to Parliament in the all-island polls that the ruling Rajapaksa administration is aiming to sweep with a two-thirds majority.
  • Following President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s rise to power last year on a huge mandate, his Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP,  or People’s Party) is seeking a decisive parliamentary majority to amend the Constitution, especially the 19th Amendment passed during the former government’s term that clips the President’s executive powers.
  • The election, which was postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic, will see the direct election of 196 legislators — while the remaining 29 will make it through a ‘National list’ — to the 225-member House. The additional measures to follow health guidelines while holding polls has cost the country’s Election Commission an additional LKR 3 billion, raising the total cost of elections to LKR 10 billion, according to officials.
  • Mr. Gotabaya’s elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, serving as the Prime Minister in the present caretaker government, is contesting Wednesday’s polls as the Prime Ministerial candidate. The Alliance led by SLPP is widely expected to do well in the polls, more so due to the government’s efforts in containing COVID19 in the island — 293 active cases as of Tuesday and 11 deaths — and a fragmented political opposition.
  • Significantly, the two main political parties of Sri Lanka — the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) — have been reduced to a rump this election, while the SLPP, launched in 2016 by the Rajapaksas, with a large chunk of the SLFP, is trying to consolidate power in the legislature.

Weak opposition

  • The SLFP, under former President Maithripala Sirisena, has realigned with the SLPP, and the UNP, suffered a big split. Its former deputy leader Sajith Premadasa broke away, taking along most former UNP MPs, and is contesting separately from the new Samagi Jana Balawegaya (United People’s Front), effectively challenging his former leader and ex-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, fighting polls from the UNP.
  • Although it is not easy for a single party or alliance to secure a two-thirds majority under Sri Lanka’s Proportional Representation system of elections, the absence of anti-defection laws allows newly elected MPs from opposition parties to cross over to government.
  • The prospect of a two-thirds majority to the Rajapaksa administrations worries some sections, especially rights activists across the country, who fear that such power might threaten democratic freedoms, specially with no strong opposition. “When they [Rajapaksas] were in power the last time, the CID and intelligence officials would come and observe even small meetings of NGOs. That sort of surveillance might begin again,” said Gnanaveera Dissanayake, a human rights activist based in Kurunegala, in the North Western Province, from where PM Mahinda Rajapaksa is contesting.

Tamil vote

  • Meanwhile, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which had the largest representation of minority Tamils from the north and east in the last Parliament, is seeking to retrain its presence in Parliament.
  • Though many voters are disappointed with the lack of adequate development on the ground, contestant and former MP from Jaffna Dharmalingam Sithadthan said the TNA hoped that the people would still give it a good mandate to represent them as a block. “People know that we tried our best to engage with the previous government on constitutional reform. It is not fair to say we failed. It just shows that the Sinhala political leadership is reluctant to devolve more powers,” he said.

3. ‘Entire B2C online sector to come within new consumer law ambit’

Legislation aims to clean up the segment, says official

  • There’s a widespread impression that the new Consumer Protection Act will only regulate the operations of the legacy e-commerce players Amazon and Flipkart. However, that’s a misconception as the new law brings the entire B2C online sector strictly within its ambit, said a top official at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
  • “The Consumer Protection Act has already kicked in, but many online service providers still want to believe they are outside its scope,” said the official on condition of anonymity. “All kinds of B2C online services, irrespective of their size and reach, all mobile app-based services and all businesses running on social media platforms, will come within the bill’s purview.
  • “There’s no need to resist or ignore a law that aims to clean up the online B2C sector in the country. Only unscrupulous players who exercise unfair trade practices or indulge in counterfeit merchandise need to worry. Otherwise, this is a win-win piece of regulation that will protect the rights of customers and dignity of the brands,” the official said.
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Consumer Protection Act, 2019

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has come into effect from July 20, replacing the earlier Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

  1. The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 got the President’s nod on August 2019.

Highlights of the legislation:

  1. Definition of consumer:

A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration.

  1. It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose.
  2. It covers transactions through all modes including offline, and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling.
  3. Six consumer rights have been defined in the act, including the right to:
  1. Right to Safety.
  2. Right to be Informed.
  3. Right to Choose.
  4. Right to be heard.
  5. Right to seek Redressal.
  6. Right to Consumer Education.
  7. Central Consumer Protection Authority:

The central government will set up CCPA to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.

  1. It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements.
  2. The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into such violations.
  3. Increased compensation:

The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement.

In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years.

  • Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission:

CDRCs will be set up at the district, state, and national levels.  A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs in relation to:

  1. Unfair or restrictive trade practices;
  1. Defective goods or services;
  2. Overcharging or deceptive charging; and
  3. The offering of goods or services for sale which may be hazardous to life and safety.
  4. Appeals:

Complaints against an unfair contract can be filed only at the State and National levels.

  1. Appeals from a District CDRC will be heard by the State CDRC. Appeals from the State CDRC will be heard by the National CDRC.
  2. Final appeal will lie before the Supreme Court.
  3. Jurisdiction of CDRCs:
  1. The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore.
  2. The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs one crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore.
  3. Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC.
  4. Mediation:

The act provides for reference to mediation by Consumer Commissions wherever scope for early settlement exists and parties agree for it.

  1. Mediation Cells to be attached to Consumer Commissions. Mediation to be held in consumer mediation cells.
  1. Panel of mediators to be selected by a selection committee consisting of the President and a member of Consumer Commission.
  2. No appeal against settlement through mediation.
  3. Impact of Consumer Protection Act, 2019 on e-commerce platforms:

The e-commerce portals will have to set up a robust consumer redressal mechanism as part of the rules under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

  1. They will also have to mention the country of originwhich are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage on its platform.
  2. The e-commerce platforms also have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within forty-eight hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt under this Act.
  3. Product Liability:

A manufacturer or product service provider or product seller will be held responsible to compensate for injury or damage caused by defective product or deficiency in services

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