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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Agent 'locks up expat for 3 days over commission'

Dubai: Oct. 11: A 23-year-old Indian claims he was locked up in a room for three days with no food and water by his agent in Dubai - because the agent did not receive the promised commission from his counterpart in India.

"It was a nightmare ... I was threatened with dire consequences if I ever planned to escape," said Murali Ranganathan.

The agent in India said the commission would only be paid after receiving a copy of the stamped employment visa of all the six men from the manpower supply company in Dubai.

Murali came to the UAE in July along with five other men on a visit visa. All found jobs illegally as masons for Dh800. Each of these men had paid around Rs90,000 (about Dh7,300) to their recruitment agent in Chennai.

"We worked for a private company and none of us got paid for a couple months, but did receive Dh500 for personal expenses. We were given accommodation in Satwa but were later moved to Ajman," he said.

According to Murali, on October 3, he along with his colleagues, who came from Chennai, were locked up for a day in their room by the agent in Dubai.

"The key to the room was handed over to one of his men who lived next door. There was no food or water made available for us," said Murali. "One of our colleagues escaped through the air-conditioning duct the very next day. This infuriated the agent who threatened to beat us up if anyone of us tried to escape," he said.

After a lengthy argument the agent agreed to repatriate the men back home, except Murali.

"We were all taken to Dubai International Airport. All the others except me were handed their passports.

"The agent said he would hand it over to me only after the agent in the India paid him the promised commission," he said.

Murali was taken back to the room in Ajman and locked up without food or water. He was only allowed to venture out to relieve himself but that too under the watchful eyes of one of the agent's men.

"I was in that room for three long days scared for my life. I was closely watched. On the third day I made a dash for freedom as I went out to relieve myself. I ran as fast as I could," he said.

Murali's visit visa expired yesterday. He approached the Indian consulate in Dubai where he submitted an application, wanting to be repatriated home.

"I handed the agent's mobile number to the Indian consulate, but instead of calling him up and helping me to get my passport back they asked me to buy an open ticket and get back to them.

"I really do not know what to do," he added.

There was no response from the consulate or the agent when contacted by Gulf News.

"I am living with my friend at present. The sooner I am able to get home the better. I am unnecessarily being made a pawn in the fight between two agents," said Murali.


Outgoing Indian diplomat happy with UAE tenure

DUBAI — Oct. 11: Yash Kumar Sinha, the outgoing Consul-General of India in Dubai, has expressed his satisfaction on his three-year service in Dubai saying that it was a privilege for him to be the part of Indian community in the UAE.

The India’s Ministry of External Affairs announced on Monday that Sinha would be the next Indian Ambassador to Venezuela. He is expected to take over his new assignment by December. Yash Kumar Sinha was appointed as the Indian Consul-General in Dubai in August 2003.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Sinha said, "I had a great time in Dubai as consul-general. I am very satisfied to be the part of Indian community here. It was reward for me to spend the time here. The Indian community in Dubai is very vibrant and it was a pleasure for me to be a part of their life.”

“During the past three years, I  was always there with the Indian community especially with the blue-collar workers. I always tried my level best to resolve their problems. I am looking forward to my new assignment and I will try my level best to serve the Indian community wherever I go,” he added.


Indian missing after trip to change visa

DUBAI — Oct. 11: Mohammed Jassim, a 22-year-old Indian, reportedly went missing from Dubai International Airport soon after he arrived from Kish Island on October 5.

He apparently couldn't be traced after he completed the visa change formalities.

"Jassim came to Dubai three months ago on a visit visa. He found a job with a shop in Karama. On October 3, he left for Kish for a visa change. He called me the next day from Kish and told me that he would be returning to Dubai on October 5 around 10 am,” said Shameer, a close relative of Jassim. “I have no clue as to where he disappeared after arriving at the airport.“

Shameer said Jassim insisted that he would take a bus home from the airport and asked him not to come to the airport to pick him up. “I waited for him until afternoon, but did not hear from him at all.”

“I went to the Dubai International Airport the next day to get some details. The officials at the immigration counter informed me that he had cleared his immigration on October 5 by 10am.”

Shameer said he filed a missing report at the Rafa police station. "The police immediately alerted all other police stations and hospitals, but we are yet to get any information on Jassim," he said.

No police officials were available for comment.

“Our family back home is really worried. They keep calling me and asking me about him. I cannot give them any answer. His new employer paid for his visit visa and the trip to Kish. ”

Jassim hails from Kasargod in Kerala.


New steps to upgrade Dubai's road transport

DUBAI — Oct. 11: The Road Transport Authority yesterday unveiled a raft of new measures to streamline and upgrade transportation systems in the city, so as to raise them to international standards.

Some 170 new public transport buses, including 125 double decker buses, will be introduced in the city next year, while 500 air-conditioned bus stations will be ready by the first week after Eid.

Year 2008 will see international bus services being operated via Dubai, reaching out to destinations like Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. This will be followed by services to Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt and Syria, in 2009.

State-of-the-art airconditioned bus stations will be set up in the UAE as also the other countries linked with the services.

"The stations will be identical to the terminals at international airports with restaurants and Internet services, sanitation facilities, parks and other services", said Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA.

Tickets for trips outside the UAE will be sold in bus stations, shopping centers, travel agencies and via the RTA website. "The fares are being studied by a consultant and will be announced soon".

The new double-decker buses to be introduced in the city will be equipped with latest services like wireless Internet, fax, telephone, display screens for passengers, and each of them will be manned by a host/hostess.

A distinct bouquet of new services and new colour codes for taxis and buses with each colour symbolising the type of service was also announced.

Five new types of bus services include VIP service, Quick Bus Service, Dubai International Airport Service, Public Bus Service, and the Metro Bus Service.

A 'Ladies Taxi' service will be characterised by the colour pink and the passengers will be women and children only.

"For the first time in the history of Dubai, the emirate has spent Dh7billion on construction works and expansion of services for the public," said Al Tayer.

Al Tayer said that already a law had been drafted and forwarded for approval to the Federal Government to limit registrations on old cars as a way to tackle traffic issues.

A dedicated lane for trucks and buses had been studied, but is not economical. "The roads capacity has to be seen and not all roads are wide enough," he said.

Al Tayer pointed out that the fleet of public buses, comprising 515 vehicles, operates across 64 lines, carrying 250,000 passengers a day across 600 trips.

These buses commute across 168,000km, and the figures are expected to rise to 90 million passengers by the end of this year, compared to 74 million passengers in 2005.

Obaid Al Mulla CEO, Public Transport Agency said: "Via 16 network lines, linking Dubai with Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Al Ain, the inter-emirate network also serves the cities and regions like Althide and Masafi and Jebel Ali and several residential, commercial complexes and other industrial areas.

The number of passengers transported this year was 4.1 million, registering a growth of 20 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year."

Speaking on colour codes for 516 buses which provide services within the emirate of Dubai, he said that the colour green will be for the VIP bus service. This will cater to office staff working in the service trade areas and important areas, especially areas where it is difficult to find car parkings, such as Shaikh Zayed Road and Dubai International Financial Centre, as well as congested places. "Seats will be air-conditioned and can be adjusted for comfort. Wireless Internet service will be available to businessmen," added Al Mulla.

Quick Service (Express) buses will be painted grey. Red is for public buses, the bus service for Dubai International Airport will have a greenish yellow rooftop. It will be characterised by wide seats and also have places reserved for bags and luggage. Metro buses will be blue.


Motorists to get new route if toll is implemented to ease traffic

DUBAI — Oct. 11: “Road toll is one way to reduce traffic jams in the city, but can only be implemented after thorough feasibility studies have been conducted,” said Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of Roads and Transport Authority while unveiling new identities and services for the public transport agency yesterday.

He also said that if the toll was implemented, motorists would be given alternative routes if they did not wish to pay. “Dubai is losing over Dh4billion in traffic jams and Dh2million in accidents. We are not inventing the system, and it will not be applied until studies have been carried out,” he clarified.

Ammar bin Tamim, Director of the Dubai Taxi Department, announced a taxi service called Ladies Taxis. “Initially, 50 modern and comfortable vehicles are being introduced for this service which will be driven by 100 women working seven days a week, round-the-clock,” he said.

Bin Tamim said: “All taxis will be beige and will be distinguished from company to company through different colours. Uniforms of the drivers will also be beige with his tie of the same colour as the taxi. ”

Dubai Taxi remains red. 'Dubai Taxi' retains the largest number of taxis, a total of 3,208 vehicles run by 4,500 drivers. From 2004 till the end of last August, 34,976,200 trips were made while 87,440,500 passengers were transferred.

Trips during the first eight months of this year were 1,900, 882 while 4,752,205 passengers were transferred. The top of Ladies Taxis will be pink, while National Taxis consisting of 754 cars will be yellow. Cars Taxis with 754 cars will be blue and Metro Taxi with 754 cars will be brown.

The Al Arabia Taxi, operating 500 cars will be green and the City Taxi with 30 vehicles will be white.

The Hatta Taxi with 30 vehicles will be golden.

Engineer Najib Al Zarooni, Director of the Intercity Transport Department, announced the fleet of medium-sized buses across the city, consisting of 111 air-conditioned medium-sized buses, are regularly being maintained by qualified supervisors and in addition 170 new buses and 125 two-level buses will be introduced next year. He added that buses will be monitored by electronic control system called Automatic Vehicle Management working through satellites.

Reviewing the colours of Inter City Bus Transport, Al Zarooni said that the Emirates Express will be painted golden while Dubai Bus will be gray. He said that the demand for transportation service across the city witnessed a big increase during the first nine months of the current year.

The numbers of passengers transported were 6,110,974 and the department achieved revenues of Dh37,866,000.


Company asked to remove beauty contest posters after public protest

DUBAI — Oct. 11: Emiratis have objected to posters put up across Sharjah announcing the launch of the Miss Emirates Beauty Contest 2007 and inviting applications for it.

In response to the strong public reaction against these ads, the Sharjah Municipality has ordered the Dubai-based company organising the event to remove all the posters immediately.

Ads for the event invited young Emirati and expatriate women to take part in the contest. These show two mobile phone numbers and an email address, but do not mention the names of the organisers.

These ads have drawn the ire of UAE nationals in Sharjah who believe that such a competition is against the country's traditions, Islamic teachings and the emirate's culture and heritage. Several people directed their anger towards the Sharjah Municipality which has allowed such ads to be displayed in the city in the first place.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, a number of Sharjah Consultative Council (SCC) members voiced their concern about the foreign cultural invasion. “It is socially unacceptable and against our customs and traditions,” said an SCC member, urging the authorities to ban advertisements of this kind in the media and discourage similar contests in the future.

Ahmed Khalfan Al Suwaidi, former chairman of the SCC, said: “This  practice is new to the UAE society in general and Sharjah in particular.” He demanded immediate investigation into the issue.

Hassan Al Hamadi, member of SCC, also criticised such posters being put up in Sharjah during the holy month of Ramadan. “Women in the emirates maintain their modesty in the way they dress and behave, and would never participate in this crime,” he added.

Hessa Al Midfa of Sharjah warned:  “It can end up destroying society and distorting its values.” She demanded stringent regulations against such events.

Fatima Al Mughani believes that such a contest is an indecent method of making money. "These kinds of businesses should immediately be banned," she said.

An official at a printing press in Sharjah said that any ads, brochures or posters should be first cleared by the civic body and the economic department. The official stressed that obtaining a permission is not the printing Press' job, it is the responsibility of the owner of the material.

An official of the Sharjah Economic Department said that all promotional ads and posters should first be approved by the department and permission is given only after the advertising company meets all conditions set by the government.

He added that the ignorance on part of some companies regarding these rules lead them to commit such mistakes. The department, he stressed, imposes fines on establishments violating these regulations.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Abdullah Al Amri, Director-General of Sharjah's civic body, said the municipality is keen to combat any practices that affect the society. "This kind of advertising is socially unacceptable and is against our norms and religion."

When contacted, an official from the company said that participants must be between 18 and 28 years of age, should have university diplomas and a sufficient level of cultural knowledge.

The company is specialised in dress designing and exhibition and event organising. He stressed that despite all the obstacles facing the contest, "it will take place next month".


Policewoman lands in prison after picking up drug habit from friends

Dubai: Oct. 11: A policewoman who claims she took to drugs because of her friends will spend four years in jail, a court ruled yesterday.

The Dubai Court of First Instance found the UAE national policewoman, B.H., guilty of taking morphine, codeine and other drugs, as charged by the Dubai Public Prosecution.

A doctor at the criminal laboratory told the court earlier that the accused picked up the habit from friends.

The Anti-Narcotics Department at Dubai police arrested the policewoman in May, who worked at Dubai International Airport, for taking drugs.

In her statement, the suspect denied taking any kind of illegal substance and said she was taking medicines which contained the drugs.

The public prosecution ordered the health authorities to confirm which of the drug components could be attributed to the medication she was prescribed by a doctor.

However, the doctor confirmed that a few weeks prior to B.H.'s arrest, the suspect had been taking two grams of the drugs per day.

The doctor said that among the drugs found in her system were morphine and codeine.

The policewoman handed two medical reports relating to her case to prove her claims. She used to spend substantial amounts of money to obtain the drugs and she took to the habit from her friends and had not received treatment for this habit before, the court heard.


Prefix must for dialling mobiles after December 15

Dubai: Oct. 11: Calling a cell phone in the UAE without a prefix will soon result in dead air.

According to a Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), a copy of which obtained by Gulf News, beginning 15 December, anyone calling a mobile number will have to dial the recipient's prefix.

For example, anyone dialling a mobile on etisalat's network will have to dial 050 before dialling the phone number. The move to include area codes is reportedly aimed at streamlining the 10 digit phone numbers prior to du's entrance into the market.

du subscribers will have an area code of 055.

After December 15, it will not be possible to dial a mobile number without the prefix, according to the TRA. The agency suggested UAE residents update their stored numbers.

The TRA has also approved a second area code, 056, for etisalat, although etisalat has not announced when it will begin using it.




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