News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Banking on relaxants to clear driving tests

DUBAI — JUL 28: Several aspiring candidates seeking driving licences are taking medicines to ease their tension before appearing for their driving tests, Khaleej Times has learnt.

However, medical experts opine that relaxants induce drowsiness, and therefore, may be dangerous to consume before carrying out any kind of physical activity, especially driving.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, some candidates admitted taking medicines to relax before appearing for the driving test as they dread failure. “I was recommended a drug by a friend after he managed to clear a test after consuming the medicine. So I thought I would try it as well, but unfortunately it did not work for me,” said Anchit G. (name changed), who has failed the driving test for the third time. Anchit, however, admitted he did not seek a doctor’s opinion before taking the medication.

Likewise, Ali Mahmoud, who cleared the test in his second attempt said, “I was also asked to take a certain medicine by a friend to relax, and for me it worked.”

Not relaxed

Mahmoud said that he did indeed feel relaxed after taking the medicine, though he admitted that he should have consulted a doctor. “I took only a small dose, so I did not feel sleepy at all. I felt relaxed and cleared the test easily.” Mohammed Yakoob, who missed his test date and is waiting for another one, said the medicines had a negative impact on him. “I felt extremely tired after consuming the medicine, and was unable to take my test. I, too, was asked by a friend to try it out. But I don’t think I will do that again because it does not work for me,” he added.

Explained Sharjah-based physician Dr M. Sulaiman: “Relaxants are used to relax certain muscles in the body and relieve the stiffness, pain, and discomfort. However, these medicines cannot be an alternative to rest, exercise or physical therapy.”

He explained that the relaxants affected the central nervous system (CNS) to produce their muscle relaxant effects, and could only be obtained on a prescription. The doctor, however, said that relaxants could be acquired without a prescription and were  easily available. “Relaxants are also contained in antihistamine drugs, including cough syrups, or medicines for colds, tranquillisers and even sleep-inducing medicine.

Talking about the side effects, Dr Sulaiman said that the medicine could cause blurred vision, drowsiness and even clumsiness in some people. He warned that taking such drugs before major physical activities such as driving could be a cause of concern as these symptoms could include lack of coordination and concentration and dizziness.

Officials from the licensing authority in Dubai said they were not aware of any incidents.

Personal decision

Ali Jassim, Director of Licensing Department at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said: “Consuming any medicine before taking a driving test or doing any other kind of work is a personal decision. It is up to the person who does it at his own will and discretion. But, we see no reasons for him/her to do so.”

Jassim refuted the claims that driving instructors were encouraging candidates to take medicines. “We have not heard of any such case.  Those who conduct the test should not encourage trainees to consume sedatives, but in case of any report of any such incident, action will be taken against the instructor.

“Examiners are trained to carry out their duties and are prepared to deal with the trainees as per the situation requires,” he said. He also said that any trainee could submit suggestions or any kind of complaints to officers-in-charge at the station.



Etisalat offers money remittance over mobile

ABU DHABI — JUL 28: Etisalat yesterday announced that it will soon launch a service that will enable customers to transfer money overseas using their mobile phones.

Using this service, customers can send money to various countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Phillipines and Egypt.

Etisalat is working closely with leading banks, financial institutions and telecom operators in other countries to offer a comprehensive network of partners for the service. Money transfer over mobile will allow Etisalat customers — the senders — to transfer funds to the recipient’s bank account or to be encashed at designated outlets.

As an additional security feature, the sender will also be able to track the transaction until the money reaches the recipient. Etisalat is an active member of the GSM Association-led mobile money transfer project, which is an international standard for mobile remittances.

“Money transfer over mobile” is already available in a few countries and in countries such as the Philippines and Kenya. The service has seen high acceptance due to its inherent simplicity and reliability.

Essa Al Haddad, chief marketing officer, Etisalat, said: “We are excited with the opportunity to extend the reach of our customers through this service. This offering combines the strengths of our extensive network, our reputation for innovation and trustworthiness.”


Illegal taxis roam freely in Sharjah despite vigil

SHARJAH — JUL 28: Despite stringent measures being taken by the authorities to curb the trend, unauthorised taxis are still operating in the emirate of Sharjah.

The presence of unauthorised cab operators can be attributed to the shortage of taxis and public transport in the emirate, which is unable to cope with rapid increase in the emirate’s population.

However, even with registered and unauthorised taxis plying in Sharjah, commuters still have to endure long waits before they manage to get a taxi.

Sharjah Transport have, on a number of occasions, ordered all private motorists to abstain from picking up passengers in Sharjah. Private companies owning unlicensed buses, too, have ben told to stop this malpractice or else face heavy fines. 

“All taxis and buses operating in the emirate must get a trade licence from the Economic Development Department and a vehicle registration plate from Sharjah,” said an official from Sharjah Transport.

In an attempt to discourage unauthorised ferrying of passengers, Sharjah Police in cooperation with Sharjah Transport have started imposing fines on illegal operators.

In a surprise check last week, police officials in civilian vehicles stationed themselves at Al Wahda Road and stopped cars. The passengers were asked to produce IDs and prove that the vehicles they were travelling in were not taxis.

More than 100 unauthorised taxi operators were reported to have been fined in just one day, an indication of the growing malpractice in the emirate.

Mohammad Al Amin, head of Sharjah Police’s Public Relations Department, said it was not a special campaign, but a routine crackdown on illegal taxis in the emirate.

Among those fined were a group of six journalists of a Dubai-based Television Station, who were travelling to their office in an official van but failed to prove to the police officials that the vehicle they were travelling in was not a taxi.  A group member said that even though all of them produced their labour cards, they were fined.

‘Private taxis a better option’

SHARJAH —JUL 28:  Even though Sharjah Transport in cooperation with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) recently introduced big buses to ferry passengers between the two emirates, it hasn’t done much to ease the problem of public transport within Sharjah.

“There are no buses on Al Wahda Road despite a large number of people staying in the area. All you have to do is to go to Rolla which is increasingly expensive,” said Mohammad Abdullah, a passenger who was trapped while travelling in an unauthorised taxi.

Mohammad said the police officers were checking the passengers’ labour cards and jotting down their details on a fine sheet. “We don’t know what it was all about,” he added.

Mohammad also complained that because the authorised Sharjah taxis refuse to go to Dubai, passengers are compelled to patronise illegal taxis.

Ahmed Sulaiman is another passenger who landed in the police trap while travelling in an unauthorised taxi. He pointed out that though it was illegal, the unauthorised taxis have been of great help to him since he works in Rashidiyah and authorised taxi drivers don’t usually want to take passengers travelling to Dubai.


Amnesty to have positive impact on UAE society

ABU DHABI — JUL 28: The exodus of ‘illegals’ during the amnesty period will have a positive impact on the Emirati society which is known for its unique texture and demographic imbalance, say experts from various fields.

According to social experts, the departure of thousands of ‘illegals’, mainly Asians, will better enable the Emirati society to preserve its national identity and avert the emergence of alien norms and cultures that do not conform with the authentic Arab traditions prevalent in the UAE.

From the health point of view, medical professionals have welcomed the amnesty as a massive step to curb parasitic diseases, which had registered a significant increase in the country over the past few years. The spread of diseases is largely attributed to the phenomenon of shared accommodations, a common practice among labourers, specially those belonging to low-income groups who work and reside illegally, and consequently could not claim their rights to live in a healthy environment.

Experts also blame the labour camps that lack basic conditions of occupational safety and health, and account for most labour disputes lodged with the Labour Ministry (MoL), for being another reason of infections taking into consideration that there are more than 70,000 companies running in the capital.

Dr Hassan Ismail Obeid, social consultant, opined: “The amnesty period will assist the society to get rid of different alien patterns of cultures like the new Urdu-Arabic language which has become a common means of communication in the society.”

He said another impact of less qualified illegal labour force is the bad behaviour of some domestic servants on whom most of the Emirati families rely for the upbringing of their children.

“It is important that the amnesty will also have another socioeconomic benefit as it will prepare the ground for the labour market to employ highly skilled people who will better serve the country in this era of globalisation we are living in,” said Dr Obeid.

“The amnesty will help eradicate the phenomenon of shared accommodation, which is one of the major cause of infectious diseases, specially skin ailments,” said an official medical source at the Preventive Medicine Department, Abu Dhabi who preferred not to be named.

He said shared accommodation could serve as a breeding environment for parasitic diseases as well as fungal infections.

Colonel Mohammed Saleh Badah, Deputy Director of Public Relations and Morale Guidance in the Ministry of Interior, affirmed that departure of violators of entry and residency law will contribute to maintaining security and stability in the country.

He said that most of the illegal residents are unknown to the police agencies because they have no residency, no sponsors and no fingerprints.


Villa tenants suffer as power and water supply snapped

DUBAI — JUL 28: The figure 13 is considered notorious for spelling bad luck to some. Whether or not that is true, is debatable. But for the 10 women who occupied Villa No. 13 in the Al Barsha area, it has certainly brought agonising moments, rather days.

For the past five days, the villa’s tenants have been struggling to cope with the harsh reality of going without water and electricity. Reason: they were living in partitioned rooms in violation of municipal rules.

Dubai Municipality officials took the decision to disconnect power and water supplies to Villa No. 13 because the landlord set up partitions to accommodate tenants without heeding the municipality’s regulations.

The municipality has been repeatedly conveying through various channels that the villas are meant only for families and that partitioning of rooms is not allowed under any circumstances. The civic body has also been warning violators of stern action, including fines. According to the ‘women in distress’, the landlord did not give them any information and now they have been asked to move out within two days. Frustrated and angry, all the women are now adamant and are even talking about approaching the Ruler’s office.

“You cannot imagine our condition. We have been living a wretched life for five days without water and electricity. The whole problem started last month when the inspectors of the Dubai Municipality came for an inspection. When they found out that the landlord had rented out rooms to single women and had partitioned many rooms into two and three in order to make more money, they immediately slapped a fine of Dh50,000 on him,” they said.

“In addition to this, water and electricity was cut off. We had been asking the landlord for quite some time whether we needed to shift. But he kept on saying that the matter would be resolved. I went to Bahrain and returned a day before to see that my room had been broken down in a bid to remove the partition. They did it without my permission. And now the landlord is asking us to vacate in two days time,” said one of the tenants.

The women said the landlord had made many partitions and also given them to male bachelors. “We did not know that this is illegal. We are sure that being a landlord, the man must be knowing about this. We are suffering due to his fault. We are paying hefty amounts, ranging from Dh45,000 to Dh52,000 a year for the different accommodations. For the past two days, I have been living in a hotel room. The others are forced to live in the heat and without water for so many days. One can easily imagine the situation,” said another tenant.

The landlord accepted the fact that there were partitions in the rooms. “Even I did not know the rules and the regulations. Otherwise I would not have done it. And I also paid up the fine of Dh50,000 on July 25. And the partitions were removed as per the directives from the municipality. We have asked them to vacate as there is no choice now. I am unable to say anything more,” said K.V. Ibrahim, the landlord.

The women had called the Dubai Police and heated arguments were on between the two parties yesterday in the presence of this reporter.


It’s all change as capital unwraps parking meters 

Authorities in Abu Dhabi have announced that from September meters will be installed in the capital to charge for parking.  The Abu Dhabi Municipality and Agriculture Department said it will launch the project in three areas and expand the scheme over two years to cover all the city’s commercial zones.

“We will start executing the first phase this September and it will take two or three months to complete,” said Assistant Undersecretary Saif Al Qubaisi.

“The fee will be Dh2 per hour for parking in public parking areas between buildings and the fee shall not exceed Dh15 a day,” he said.

“On the other hand, the tariff will be Dh3 for parking in above-ground areas that are parallel to main roads and around state-run buildings.” The first phase will see meters in the area around the Ministry of Public Health in Hamdan Street, near Al Nour Hospital and around the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange, said Al Qubaisi.

The plan is part of a pay for parking trend. Meters were introduced in areas of Dubai in 1995 and Sharjah in 2006. By the end of 2006, there were more than 48,000 metered spaces in Dubai.

However, the tariff scheme is only one part of the municipality’s plan to relieve parking woes in the capital. Efforts to increase the number of parking spaces and patrol those already built are also under consideration.

Issa Al Mazroui, head of Roads and Bridges Maintenance Unit for the island of Abu Dhabi, said: “We are in the process of determining the locations and sizes of areas for the construction of high-rise buildings that would be used only for parking.” The municipality said it has also started reviewing its licensing policies for new businesses to motivate companies to make plans that include adequate parking spaces.

But Colonel Geith Al Zaabi, head of the traffic and patrol department, said: “We know there are parking problems in Abu Dhabi and it is not all about lack of space.” Inconsiderate drivers are partly to blame, he said, for blocking other cars in and using multiple spaces.

“We have requested the municipality to re-plan some of those areas suffering the most due to lack of parking and to paint some spaces with bars to make parking easier for people,” he said.

Authorities will patrol parking spaces, said Al Zaabi, to crack down on those who park their vehicles illegally.


Debts make workers think twice about amnesty offer
UAE - JUL 28:
Hundreds of illegal workers remain undecided about applying to leave the country under the amnesty programme because they are weighed down by debt.  While thousands have already taken advantage of the government’s offer, some without proper documentation say they are driven by financial pressure to continue working despite the risk of legal action when the amnesty ends next month.

Others said they were delaying their applications until late August because they want to continue earning until the last possible date.

Illegal workers told Emirates Today the Dh50 they earned per day at construction sites or doing odd jobs was necessary to support their families in their home countries.

“I want to go home without being jailed,” said Muthu Swamy, 46, a construction worker from Andhra Pradesh, India. “But I have not yet made up my mind whether to apply for the amnesty because in the past five years of my stay here, I have not been able to save anything,” he said.

“I owe more than Dh5,000 to a landlord in India.” Mohammed Ishan, 27, another construction worker from the south Indian state, said he was deeply in debt and wanted to continue working in the UAE.

The father of two said: “People tell us this is the last chance to leave the country without being fined for being here illegally. But I do not have enough money either to purchase a ticket or sustain myself without a job.” Another Indian worker who gave only his first name, Alagappan, from Tamil Nadu, said many of his friends had not applied for the amnesty.

“We came here after paying a lot of money to agents and they cheated us by offer ing jobs with much lower salaries than were mentioned in the contract,” he said.

“I have been without a regular job for the past two years – how will I clear off my debts if I go back to India?” Many of the amnesty-seekers said recruitment companies were still providing construction sites with illegal workers despite a strict warning by the authorities against the practice.That was encouraging some workers to remain in the country, they added.


People with a heart of gold come to the rescue
UAE - JUL 28:
As the end of the amnesty period nears, the Keralite community has come to the aid of illegal workers who cannot afford to buy a ticket home.  Social and media organisations and wealthy individuals, both in the UAE and India, have arranged to purchase tickets and have chartered entire flights.

Kairali TV, a channel popular with Malayalam-speakers, has chartered an Air India Express flight to carry workers to Kochi, Kerala, free of charge on Monday.

EM Ashraf, assistant editor at Kairali’s Middle East bureau, told Emirates Today the station had worked hard to promote the amnesty.

“We have chartered a flight that will carry 160 passengers who cannot afford a ticket,” he said. “Some prominent Keralites have come forward to sponsor tickets. Yousuf Ali, a businessman, sponsored 100 tickets. Fifty were sponsored by [clothing chain] Snowhite and 10 by Sabha Joseph, another businessman.” Abdul Kareem, general secretary of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, an expatriate organisation in the UAE, said its members were inspired to help.

“On Monday, we will give 65 tickets to amnesty-seekers, while an entire flight will be chartered in August,” he said.

Gulf Madhyamam, a leading Malayalam daily based in Dubai Media City, started a scheme to help amnesty-seekers with pocket money and tickets. It will give 200 tickets to Keralites in UAE jails.

Abdul Nazer, the daily’s bureau chief, said: “We have started Amnesty Life Jacket to help amnesty-seekers fly home free of charge.”


Price rise leaves bitter taste

UAE = JUL 28:
Sugar is not so sweet any more. The price of the household staple has risen by almost 180 per cent in the past six months and consumers have asked authorities to take action to reduce the price hike. Residents have said they are surprised they have heard nothing about the increase from officials.

However, work at the consumer protection department is currently suspended because of the absence of its director, Dr Hashim Al Huaimi.

Supermarkets across the UAE yesterday confirmed the price of sugar had risen over the past months.

“I am not sure if the prices have gone up by 180 per cent. But it has definitely risen. A couple of weeks ago we were not able to include sugar into the list of items on promotion as we could not afford to give any discounts,” said a senior manager at one of the co-operatives.

Meanwhile, an official at one local sugar company, who declined to give his name, said: “The UAE is the first in the world in the re-export of sugar. We export some 95 per cent of sugar after processing at plants in the UAE.” Ali Jawad Hamza said six months ago he could buy 50kg of sugar for Dh50, where now it costs Dh140. The UAE national said: “Increases in salaries can no longer match the crazy price hikes – they have devoured the entire rise.” Emirati Khalid Al Ali expressed disbelief at the high price of the basic commodity given that so much sugar was refined in the UAE.

“If the outside world is speculating about the price of sugar, don’t we have factories that make sugar? They should cover our needs first in a subsidised manner.

“The factories should compete to fix the price of sugar locally rather than get carried away by attempts by some to achieve gains at the expense of the citizen,” said Al Ali.

Responding to the criticism, the sugar company official said: “International prices control local prices. Also, Brazil is heading for the production of ethanol as fuel for cars and is cutting down its production of sugar. This has led to a world increase in the price of sugar.” The source said he expected prices to be stable until Ramadan when he predicted they would increase slightly.




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