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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Indian recruiting agent held over job visa ‘scam’

DUBAI — 29 Aug: The Indian consulate in Dubai forwarded an official complaint to the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) yesterday urging the authorities to initiate stringent action against Rajan, a Dubai-based recruiting agent, who allegedly swindled about 20 Indian workers.

Rajan was handed over to the police three days ago after the victims locked him up in his accommodation in Deira demanding the repayment of the money they had paid him earlier for securing employment visas.

According to K. Asokan, labour consul at the Indian Consulate Dubai, an official complaint from the Indian Consulate was submitted to DNRD officials yesterday for further action against the unscrupulous agent. "They assured us all the necessary assistance. They also told us that they will check with the police whether any case had been registered against the accused. If not, DNRD will initiate a case against the agent," he said.

The DNRD's Assistant Director, Col. Rashid Bakheet, told the Khaleej Times, "we have received the complaint from the

Indian Consulate officials and we are investigating the matter. However, since Rajan had allegedly taken the money from his victims in India, legal action needs to be initiated against the recruiting agents in India. But as far as DNRD is concerned, we will investigate the matter and take action against the Dubai-based companies which issued visit visas to these 20 Indian workers."

Meanwhile, Asokan added, "We have informed the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in New Delhi about the incident. They have started investigating the issue with the help of the Kerala state government. Strict action will be taken against the agents in India who indulge in this kind of malpractice and fraud," he added.

"The Indian Community Welfare Committee has arranged food for the victims. We will also initiate further action to help the workers get their money refunded," he disclosed.

According to the victims, Rajan had charged them amounts ranging between Dh10,000 to Dh12,000 promising them jobs in the UAE. He used different agents in India to canvas the jobseekers. Contrary to his promise of employment visas, all the victims were brought into the UAE on visit visas.

The workers were left in a lurch after entering the UAE since Rajan failed to arrange any jobs for them. They struggled for days to find some food. Finally the workers traced Rajan's apartment in Deira and locked him up. The Indian consulate officials rushed to the spot and handed over Rajan to the Dubai police. Currently, the accused is in the custody of Naif Police Station. It is learnt that the accused had brought in many workers in the past using a similar modus operandi. Meanwhile, no police official was available for any comment.


New legislation formulated to protect consumer and trader

ABU DHABI/ DUBAI — 29 Aug: The new Consumer Protection Federal Law no 24 issued on Sunday by the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is being seen by traders and consumers as a timely move to control the chaotic increase in prices and curb the exploitation by some traders. However, a number of small-time retailers feel that consumers might use such a legislation for their own benefits.

The law stipulates the establishment of a new government department with powers to fine companies and traders for violations of consumer rights. It will also keep an eye on major price hikes, attempt to wipe out monopolies and receive consumer complaints via a new hotline.

Mariam Al Roomi, Minister of Social Affairs, saw in the new law a qualitative move to control prices and protect the society from exploitation by some traders. “This law has come at the right time and it is one of the most important laws issued by the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It will put an end to the chaos that characterised the market in recent years as a result of the failure of traders to observe the prices and specifications of consumer products, especially food and children's toys,” said Al Roomi.

She said that the ministry's Cooperative Societies Department will facilitate the implementation of the law and will introduce a mechanism for encouraging cooperative societies to establish economic blocks through which they can import quality consumer products at affordable prices. “A meeting will soon take place at the ministry to discuss the law's enforcement with representatives of cooperative societies and the Cooperative Union,” she said underscoring the importance of the role played by cooperative societies and calling on consumers to complement this role, “now that they have a proper channel to express their grievances.”

The minister warned traders of the penalties stipulated in the law, noting that consumer protection bodies in other countries are powerful and feared by  big companies and traders.

According to Naji Al Hay, Director of the Cooperative Societies Department at the ministry, the consumer protection policies that were in place before the law was issued were individual and scattered. “Now the bodies concerned will work on specific strategies for dealing with the increase in prices.”

The Consumer Protection Society at present has no role in protecting consumers. It has been managed for the past one year by a temporary board following the Ministry of Social Affairs' decision to dissolve the previous one. “The role of the association in the coming period is very vital and it should have a permanent board in order to be able to contribute to the implementation of the law and so that it can serve consumers actively,” said Mohammed Mousa Al Jassim, chairman of the temporary board. 

Commenting on the trend of skyrocketing price hikes, a consumer protection expert in Abu Dhabi said the new Federal Consumer Protection Law issued by the President is an important step on the path towards protection of both the consumer and trader. “The executive regulations and mechanism for enforcement are the key to the success of the new law,” said Hassan Al Kathiri, former chairman of the Consumer Protection Society (CPS).

 In a statement to Khaleej Times, he said that protection of the consumer requires a dynamic, effective management, and highly specialised technical human resources to keep a close eye on prices of commodities from cars to cosmetics in the market. “The secret lies with the mechanism of implementing the law,” he emphasised.

He stressed the need for the creation of a higher committee made up of the trader, consumer and lawmaker to maintain a real protection for all. He also indicated at the rights of the honest trader with regard to competition, as some traders import low quality goods which do not meet specifications, prompting the need for strict regulations. He explained that the law mandates the Minister of Economy to check and control prices through the higher committee in emergency cases and in cases of a sudden, unjustifiable hike of prices. He warned that increase in prices would have an adverse impact on nationals and expat residents alike, as well as on domestic economy, disturbing the balance between the trader and the consumer.

 “The executive regulation should have simple and friendly mechanisms for the consumer and guarantee his rights in a short time. There should also be one responsible authority as the distribution of powers among the Ministry of Economy, municipality and various control organs will turn the consumer into a victim who has no right,” he said. He suggested that the Ministry of Economy shoulder this responsibility before the trader and the consumer, in coordination with other control authorities. “The consumer should not be referred to different bodies. Transparency should prevail in dealing with all sides,” he underlined.

He called for adopting the Australian, US, and Western systems for withdrawal of commodities, pointing out to the daily announcements on consumer protection web sites about removal of items from the shelves. He noted that these ideas were acknowledged by the law, but implementation is yet to be seen. “The law provides a clear-cut, solid basis for both the trader and the consumer who is being subjected to fraud, will give birth to top class companies due to fair competition, and put an end to the entry of random import and entry of bad quality goods into the UAE market,” he underlined. This, he affirmed, would have positive results on the UAE economy. “Successful enforcement of the law will turn the UAE into a model to be emulated,” he said. According to him, the law made mention of private societies for consumer protection and the need to be represented in the higher committee. This should strengthen these bodies to make their presence felt.

Meanwhile, an economist told Khaleej Times that the aim of the new law is to break and eradicate the monopoly of import in consumer commodities which constitute 35 per cent of total imports of the country in 2005. “At the end of the day, this means a decline in the inflation rate which recorded eight per cent against IMF estimates of 12 per cent,” he added. He explained that a decrease in the expenditure on consumer commodities would give a boost to spending in other sectors. He admitted other factors behind price incresaes like the appreciation of the US dollar and hike in the prices of imports from abroad like sugar whose price also jumps locally.

Retailers in the UAE say that the new law will make the country truly a shoppers' paradise and boost the industry.

Saifee Rupawala, CEO of the Emke Group, that runs the Lulu hyper and supermarket chains all over the country said, “We believe this will help make trading in the UAE more transparent and position the country as a place with fair policies.”

He further said that the country is becoming a major tourist destination and the new law will  make shoppers more confident that competent authorities are looking after their rights. “This is a stringent step that will give consumers a shopping security,” he added.

Suppliers too will be forced to deliver a better quality of products, Rupawala said, adding that the law will help new people who are trying to enter the market and increase competitiveness.

Highlighting the impact on the market, Rupawala said, “The law will not have a significant impact on established retailers who already follow codes of practice regarding consumer protection. But it will definitely affect the shops and suppliers who make easy money and operate without any clear consumer policy.”

Consumers have welcomed the move. “The introduction of the law proves that the country is growing internationally. The law will definitely help consumers make better choices,” said Greg Lohan. 

For housewife Farheen Jabbar, the introduction of the law has instilled confidence in her. “I am glad that the government has turned its attention towards consumers. We were at the mercy of retailers and wholesalers because we have not been able to air our grievances openly and were being cheated on several occasions. Now I know for sure that there is an organisation that will help me if my shopkeeper refuses to take back or exchange a faulty product. Besides, the prices will be in control too,” said Farheen.

“The law will help us acquire more information because the government regulation will force traders to disclose detailed information about products, particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food,” said Mohammed Hussain.


Abu Dhabi is praised as exciting travel destination

ABU DHABI — 29 Aug: Nick Redman, Deputy Editor of the ‘Sunday Times Travel Magazine’, one of the UK’s leading travel and lifestyle publications, recently experienced the authentic culture and Arabian hospitality of Abu Dhabi.

After attending one of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority’s (ADTA) open-house functions at No. 1 Knightsbridge in Central London, Redman was inspired to witness first-hand, the exciting developments contributing to secure Abu Dhabi’s image as one of the world’s most exciting tropical leisure destinations.

While in Abu Dhabi, Redman met Ali Al Hosani, Director of Marketing for ADTA, to discuss future opportunities of working together and further strengthening the relationship and synergy between the ‘Sunday Times Travel Magazine’ and Abu Dhabi. Commenting on the new relationship, Hosani stated: “The ADTA is delighted to be further developing our links with such a key and high profile UK publication that is an excellent vehicle to promote Abu Dhabi.”

During his two nights stay, Redman experienced the luxurious Emirates Palace, while also exploring the cosmopolitan city of Abu Dhabi.

He will be back in October to take in more of the treasures the city has to offer and to explore further.

Reflecting on his trip, Redman commented: “With the proposed luxury international hotels in the pipeline — such as Banyan Tree and Shangri-La  — and the potential for tourist development across its 200-plus natural islands, Abu Dhabi is obviously going to be a focus of media attention in the coming months and years.”

The ‘Sunday Times Travel Magazine’ is a glossy monthly magazine, affiliated to the UK’s biggest selling quality broadsheet newspaper of the same name.  


Driving simulators boon for beginners

DUBAI - 29 Aug: A fresher in the driving seat? Relax, as now you don't have to loose your nerves even if your car bumps to an abrupt stop amidst nerve-racking traffic while you are still learning how to drive: And that, because the Emirates Driving Institute has got state-of-the-art simulation machine for beginners.

These advanced driving simulators, brought in from Germany would indeed help beginners who may otherwise hesitate to take to the roads from day one itself. According to the officials of the driving institute, this would also take the excess pressure off trainers who have to slog hard over newcomers to boost their confidence.

The scheme will also save a lot of time besides ensuring better safety. Costing Dh200,000 approximately, the Institute has come up with three machines for the time being. The beginners would be trained on the simulators from mid-September. There would be four lessons in all, each consisting of some some pre-determined scenarios. Four of the total 33 classes would be completed on stimulators. It has been made mandatory for any newcomer to go through an assessment test before being allowed to handle the real steering wheel and the accelerator.

Fatima Raees, the marketing officer of the Emirates Driving School, pointed out that this simulator would teach the very basics of driving to new entrants. "Earlier we had some simulators but then they were not fully automatic. So we removed and replaced them with these new ones. This is a sort of a phychological preparation for them. The whole set up consists of three giant screens serving as the windscreen and the two windows. Then, there are both the brakes, the clutch and the acclerator besides rear-view mirrors and even a seatbelt," she said. 


Brakes put on crash plans

Dubai - 29 Aug: A plan to free up hundreds of police hours by bringing in a private firm to inspect minor road crashes has been scuppered over details of who will pay for the project.

It will now not happen until at least the start of next year as the parties involved continue to try and hammer out a solution.

Back in June, when the plan was first mentioned, officials were quoted as saying that First Security Group, the company to be given the minor crash contract, could take over from the traffic police within four months.

However, the company’s CEO, Gen Abdulaziz Al Bannai, said that the new scheme could be introduced in the beginning of 2007 at the earliest.

“We have to do a lot of homework with the Roads and Transport Authority [RTA], the traffic police and the insurance sector,” said Al Bannai.

“If these meetings… go smoothly we can start at the beginning of 2007.” “A lot of small issues have to be finalised,” said Al Bannai, adding that besides funding, there are some operational issues still to be finalised. “To handle such an issue is not an easy job and our mission is that if we are going to be involved it has to be A-class service… I do not want to start something that will cause more problems.” Top police officials have been praising the imminent privatisation move, saying the police currently spend too much time tending to minor crashes. According to Al Bannai, after First Security Group takes over, police officials will have more than 100,000 cases off their hands each year.

However, when the plan was first presented to the insurance industry back in June, it drew emotional responses from the insurance bosses, who protested against the news of their companies having to pay a minimum Dh15,000 annual subscription as well as a charge of Dh250 for each accident report issued by the private company.

Al Bannai said that the Dh250 charge is not a final figure. “We are looking for a reasonable price… the figure could be less or more,” he said. It is yet to be decided how the scheme will be funded, said Al Bannai, explaining that First Security Group is currently holding meetings with insurers, the RTA and the traffic police.

“I personally believe that Dubai Police should bear some of the cost,” said Al Bannai, adding that the RTA and the insurers will also have to bear some of the cost. “At the end of the day, this is a service to all of them.” Once the service is up and running, the company will open a dedicated call centre for motorists to report minor accidents.The aim of the company will be to respond within five minutes of receiving a call, said Al Bannai.

The current green or red papers are also set to become a thing of the past, he said, explaining that all data will be transmitted to a central data base electronically, with motorists only being given a reference number.


Giant Crab Spider is harmless, says specialist

Abu Dhabi: Aug 29: Gulf News readers may be relieved to read that the large spider delivered in a jam jar to our offices over the weekend is completely harmless, according to one of the country's leading arachnid specialists.

Tony Van Harten, who has written a number of papers and contributed to books on spiders in the region said yesterday the 4- inch, hairy legged arachnid was a Giant Crab Spider, also known as the Huntsman in Australia.

He said the nocturnal hunter is a member of the family of spiders called Sparassidae. The variety in the UAE isn't poisonous but little research had been conducted on them here.

"This is a beautiful adult female specimen. During the day they will hide under rocks or in dark enclosed areas. People have no reason to be scared of them," he said.

Killing insects

Van Harten, who before coming to the UAE compiled an inventory of spider species in Yemen, described how his family often welcomed the larger species of Crab Spiders into their home in Cape Verde, West Africa because they are good at killing insects.

"They can move incredibly fast. We often used to allow them to come into the house to catch the cockroaches," he said.

Speaking from the office in which the spider was found, marketing executive, Oasis Fernandes said he and his colleagues were relieved to hear the spider wasn't poisonous.

"We were all a bit nervous to see in the newspaper that the species couldn't be confirmed so this is good news. But we'd prefer it if they stayed above the suspended ceiling when we have guests in the office," he said.

Spider story: The nocturnal escape

Gulf News readers may also be amused [happy, even] that on coming into the office yesterday, staff discovered the big spider had escaped overnight from the large container it had been moved into.

"Oh my God, are you serious?" was the cry of one male journalist who wanted to remain nameless, "Do we tell our editor when he comes back from leave?"


The huntsman spider, Heteropoda venatoria (L.) is sometimes called the giant crab spider or the banana spider (due to its occasional appearance in marketed bananas)

Adult specimens have a body length of 2.2 to 2.8 cm (about 1 inch), and have a leg span of 7 to 12 cm (3 to 5 inches). Adult females have a larger body size, especially the abdomen, than males.

It has sometimes been mistaken for a large brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa Gertsch and Mulaik, family Loxoscelidae), a poisonous spider, but it is neither related nor is it dangerous.

- "Featured Creatures", University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


Dubai rent cap rule keeps committee busy with cases

Dubai: 29 Aug:The number of disputes between landlords and tenants has ballooned in the first eight months of this year, nearly reaching last year's total case load.

The bulk of the cases deal with rental hikes over Dubai's 15 per cent cap, which expires in November.

More than 2,200 cases have been heard by Dubai Municipality this year, compared to just over 3,000 in the whole of 2005, according to municipality's rents committee.

Approximately 80 per cent of these cases are related to new tenants being charged way over current market prices and rental renewals going over the maximum legal limit.

The committee is now dealing with approximately 80 cases-a-week covering the full spectrum of residential and commercial property, according to its chairman, Saeed Al Gandi.

"Whereas before we were dealing with many cases of tenants not paying their rent, now the significant majority of complaints relates to landlords charging too much," he said.

Al Gandi explained that when the committee receives a complaint over rental rates it checks prices in the area surrounding the property in question to gauge what should be paid. A committee of between three and five members then deals with the case in approximately 10 minutes.



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