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‘Top priority’: Ministry of External Affairs on 129 Indian students arrested in US

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New Delhi/Washington: At the Ministry of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj and her team are giving “top priority” to the Indian students who have arrested in the United States for enrolling themselves in a fake university.

Authorities have termed it as “pay-to-stay” in America scheme and out of 130 foreign students arrested, 129 are from India.

The US’ Department of homeland Security recently carried out an undercover operation at the university in Detroit’s Farmington Hills designed to expose immigration fraud.

 

While, the immigration attorneys said that the students were not aware that the university was operating illegally and illegitimately. Attorneys also criticised authorities for using “troubling” methods to trap them and hold students accountable as they claimed that they “knowingly enrolled” themselves in the fake university to maintain their visa status in US.

After the undercover operation, US’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 130 foreign students, including 129 Indians, for immigration violations.

According to latest reports, trackers have been put around the ankles of the detained students. They have been radio tagged and asked not to move out of a certain radius.

In 2011, in a similar incident, there was an outrage where Indian students were radio-tagged for their alleged involvement in an immigration fraud at US’ TriValley University.

Khaalid H Walls, an ICE spokesperson said, “The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has administratively arrested 130 foreign nationals enrolled at the University of Farmington for civil immigration violations. Of the 130, 129 were Indian nationals.”

The ICE agents made the arrests on Wednesday, the same day federal indictments were unsealed that charged eight people, all of whom are either Indians or Indian-Americans, in a visa fraud scheme. All eight were charged criminally for “conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbouring aliens for profit.” But the 130 students were arrested only on civil immigration charges.

The arrests took place across the US, in New Jersey, Atlanta, Houston, Michigan, California, Louisiana, North Carolina and St Louis.

According to attorneys, the students had immigrated legally to US on student visas, but had allegedly transferred to the University of Farmington so that they could work.

However, federal prosecutors claim the students were aware the university was not running a legitimate operation. But attorneys who have spoken with students or with family and friends of those arrested are pushing back against the government’s claims.

The Ministry of External Affairs has placed the issue as a “top priority”.

“The government of India, together with our mission in Washington and our consulates in the US are according the highest priority to the situation arising out of the detention of Indian students in the US,” Kumar said in response to queries.

Kumar also added that they have placed a formal request for consular access, emphasising that the request may be taken as very high priority.

The Indian embassy in the US has also opened a 24/7 hotline to assist 129 Indian students. It has appointed a nodal officer to help the students in distress.

The two numbers – (+1) 202-322-1190 and (+1) 202-340-2590 – would be manned by senior embassy officials round the clock, officials said.

The arrested students, their friends and family members can contact the embassy at the e-mail address: cons3.washington@mea.gov.in.


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National

Ayodhya on high alert following intelligence inputs

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Ayodhya: Amid VIP movements, Ayodhya has been put on high alert soon after intelligence inputs indicated a possible terror attack in the city.

“We have put more force into action. The force has been alerted. Also, intelligence officials in the civil dress have come here. They are checking all hotels, restaurants and railway stations. The police force is vigilant and keeping a track of all the movements,” Anil Kumar Sisodia, Superintendent of Police City, told ANI.

This comes ahead of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya on Sunday along with his party MPs.

 

According to reports, the security has also been heightened keeping in mind the hearing on 2005 Ram Janmabhoomi attack on June 18.

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Seven died while cleaning hotel sewer in Vadodara

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Vadodara: Seven persons, including four sanitation workers, died due to asphyxiation on Saturday while cleaning sewer of a hotel in Gujarat’s Vadodara district, officials said.

The incident happened at a hotel in Fartikui village in Dabhoi tehsil, about 30 km from Vadodara city. Three employees of the hotel were also among those killed.

“When one sanitation worker failed to come out of the manhole, others went inside. All of them died due to asphyxiation,” district collector Kiran Zaveri told PTI.

 
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Manmohan retires from Rajya Sabha

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New Delhi: For the first time in 28 years, former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s name ceased to be part of the list of members of the Rajya Sabha on its Web site, and was included in the list of former members of Parliament.

With the Congress lacking the numbers in the Assam legislature to ensure his re-election, 86-year-old Dr Singh retired from the Rajya Sabha.

Dr Singh, then finance minister in the P V Narasimha Rao government, had debuted in the House on October 1, 1991, from Assam and represented the state for five consecutive terms. He was the leader of the House during his 10 years as PM, and leader of the Opposition from 1998 to 2004.The former PM would now need to wait for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, an ally of the Congress, to send him to the Rajya Sabha next month or until the next biennial elections in the Upper House in April 2020 when 54 MPs retire.

 

Five Rajya Sabha members from Tamil Nadu retire in July. The DMK, along with its allies, has the strength in the state legislature to get at least three elected to the Rajya Sabha. It has promised one seat to MDMK chief Vaiko.

However, sources said the DMK and the Congress have not had any discussions on the issue.

The Congress could also hope to send Dr Singh to the Upper House from Gujarat if elections to fill the two vacancies from the state take place together.

The vacancies are on account of two Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha members from Gujarat, Amit Anilchandra Shah and Smriti Zubin Irani, being elected to the Lok Sabha. Shah has debuted in the Lok Sabha from Gandhinagar while Irani is the Lok Sabha member from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress’s numbers in the Gujarat assembly would ensure the party wins one of the two seats, the other going to the BJP, if elections to the two seats are held jointly.

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