NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Last-minute amnesty rush at Indian mission
ABU DHABI — AUG 30: A huge number of amnesty seekers gathered at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi yesterday to collect their outpasses.
With tears in their eyes, many of them pleaded with the embassy officials to help them regularise their status.
Most of the amnesty seekers in the capital have cleared their fingerprinting at Al Shahama and are now waiting for their exit passes.
The First Secretary in the Indian embassy, Shrinivas Babu, requested the amnesty seekers to go to Al Shahama Police Station tomorrow to collect their exit passes as the embassy officials would distribute them there.
Around 3,000 amnesty-seekers who cleared their fingerprinting are waiting for their exit passes. The embassy officials have told them to register their names and mobile numbers so that they could be informed about the exit passes distribution venue, said Babu.
The embassy has sought police help to control the crowd which has been struggling to get into the embassy for processing their outpass applications.
Many amnesty seekers whose fingerprinting had not been done yet have been told to extend their travel date.
Seeing the huge rush since morning, the embassy had arranged food packets and water bottles for distribution among amnesty seekers.
According to the First Secretary, “Around 2,500 outpasses have been issued so far, while the mission has returned over 4,000 passports to applicants.”
Tarlok Singh from Punjab in India, who worked as a mason and is waiting for the outpass, said, “I applied for an outpass on August 14 and obtained a token from the embassy to get it. Hopefully, I shall get it at Al Shahama tomorrow.”
Ganga Dhar, a labourer said, “I am very worried over the past several weeks. What I will do if the amnesty period gets over?”
Prem Kumar, another labourer, who turned up for the outpass looked desperate as the September 3 amnesty deadline nears.
MoL gesture for amnesty seekers
DUBAI — AUG 30: The Ministry of Labour (MoL) will remain open on Saturday and Sunday to handle the rush of amnesty seekers before the September 2 deadline ends, Minister of Labour Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi said yesterday.
“We deem it proper to open the ministry for amnesty seekers on Saturday and Sunday from 7.30am till 6pm. We want to give them extra time so that they could finalise all the necessary formalities.
“Staff will be available at MoL on those two days only to process amnesty seekers’ applications,” Dr Al Kaabi said.
“The violating companies can come on those days to regularise their status or the status of their labourers.
“Individual sponsors may also approach the ministry on the mentioned days.
“It is a gesture from MoL to help and facilitate things for the illegals now that an official announcment has been made to not extend the amnesty,” added the minister.
Fine on illegal taxi operators doubled
DUBAI — AUG 30: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has increased the penalty for illegal taxi drivers from Dh2,500 to Dh5,000, senior officials of the authority have said.
To curb the illegal taxi operators, the Franchise and Performance Control Section of the Public Transport Agency of the RTA has also launched a new campaign to raise awareness on the heavy losses the public transport sector suffers because of illegal taxi operation.
Mohammed Obeid Al Mulla, the CEO of the Public Transport Agency at the RTA said the objective of doubling the fine was to put an end to this illegal activity. “Statistics gathered from a series of field campaigns show that illegal taxis cover all areas of Dubai. However, it’s been noticed that ‘passenger-smuggling’ is more rampant in locations well known to both the illegal taxi drivers and passengers,” he said.
The top official added: “But rarely do illegal taxis operate near main roads. Moreover, drivers constantly change these locations to avoid getting detected. The practice involves several categories of private vehicles like rented cars, commercial transport vehicles and private company-owned vehicles,” revealed Al Mulla.
He said that whenever any campaigns are launched against such taxi drivers, they retreat, but more newcomers join the illegal operation. “Smuggling of passengers is an illegal practice incompatible with the standing of Dubai as a commercial and economic centre of the region,” added Al Mulla.
Main locations where illegal taxis operate
Al Rifa’a (including Al Ghubaiba, Station and Carrefour)
Al Qusais (including workers quarters and Al Mulla Plaza)
Dubai International Airport (Terminal 1 and 2)
Naif area (including Bani Yas Road, Al Khaleej Road and Fish Market)
Al Muraqqabat area (including City Center and Al Hamriya)
Bur Dubai (including Al Quoz Industrial Area, Safa Park, Shaikh Zayed Road, Al Wasl Road, Al Aweer)
Jebel Ali area (including industrial area, workers accommodations, Emirates Road, Dubai Investment Park
Al Rashdiya area (including Al Garhoud and Umm Al Rumool)
150 students get degrees at BITS-Pilani convocation
DUBAI — AUG 30: More than 150 students of a reputed Indian engineering college in Dubai received their bachelor’s degrees from the UAE Minister of Labour Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi yesterday.
This was the fourth batch of students receiving their bachelor’s degrees for engineering with honours from BITS-Pilani, Dubai.
Scores of parents, students and dignitaries attended the convocation despite malfunctioning of air-conditioning that left those present sweltering in the heat. The college has recently moved to the new premises in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) in Al Aweer.
“ I am extremely thrilled at receiving my degree, after four years of working hard,” said Amit Sodhi, a student of Electrical and Electronics Engineering. “ I plan to work for a couple of years and then pursue higher studies,” he added.
Several students, according to the college authorities, have already received job offers from reputed companies in the UAE, while many have secured admission in universities abroad.
“I have already started work with the Emirates group,” said Sagar Gaind, a student of Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering. “ This is a happy and a sad moment for me, as I realise I would be parting from my friends,” he added.
However, a disappointed parent NP told Khaleej Times, “ My 96-year-old father in law had flown in all the way from India to witness our child at this ceremony. But, when I saw that the air -conditioning was not working, I couldn’t bring him in and we had to take him back home.
Dr M. Ramachandran, director of BITS-Pilani Dubai, said, “We just moved from our old campus at the Knowledge Village. Everything is brand new and was installed just a few days back and unfortunately, the air-conditioners didn’t work at the last moment. We had put up tower ACs, coolers and fans the moment we came to know about the problem.”
He stressed that the institute didn’t want to delay the graduation of its 156 students.
There were about 73 graduates in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, 43 in Computer Science and 40 in Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering. Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General of KHDA, Executive Director of Knowledge Village, Ayoub Kazim, Indian Consul General in the UAE, Venu Rajamony, Director of ETA Star Group, Essa Al Ghurair, MD of ETA Star Group, M. Salhuddin, Director-Finance ETA Ascon Group, Arif Rahman, Prof Emeritus-cum- advisor of BITS, Pilani, Rajasthan, Dr S. Venkateswaran were also present.
SEZ clarification on bus timings
SHARJAH — AUG 30: The Director-General of Sharjah Educational Zone (SEZ), Fuziya Gharib, has denied instructing the Emirates Transport Corporation (ETC) not to carry students of model schools in Sharjah before 2.30pm.
“The SEZ is well aware that efforts in the first week of the new academic year will be focused on distribution of textbooks and preparation of schedules. Duty will begin on regular basis the following week,” she explained.
“I didn’t give any instructions to the ETC.
“On the contrary the SEZ was informed by the ETC that a number of schools have requested buses to come before the end of classes.
“The zone agreed to that and didn’t send any letters or circulars asking the schools to stay open until 2.30pm,” she said.
Students of Sharjah Model School for Boys and Al Manar Model School for Girls waited yesterday for buses to ferry them to their homes but they were upset because the drivers did not open the doors until 2.15pm, saying that they were heeding orders from the zone.
Aysha Bu Samno, Headmistress of Sharjah Model School for Girls, explained that the transport officer informed them that he would not let students board the bus at 1pm without instructions from the Zone.
The drivers, she added, had gone to the mosque and waited there until 2pm.
She regretted that the SEZ’s decisions were communicated to them by transport officers and drivers.
SPEED TRIP BLITZ
DUBAI - AUG 30: Boy racers and speed merchants – your days of using Dubai’s roads as a Grand Prix circuit and getting away with it will soon be over. For police chiefs are putting the brakes on drivers who ignore speed limits by installing hundreds more radar cameras.
An additional 810 will supplement the existing 172 – extending coverage of the emirate’s roads from 30 per cent to 90 per cent.
“Installation of the new cameras will start by the end of next year, and by 2009 they will all be in place,” said Muhammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of Dubai Police’s General Traffic Department.
The new technically advanced cameras include 520 stationary ones, 250 mobile units and 40 handheld radars. A contract for their supply is due to be awarded later this year. Installation will be carried out in phases starting with stationary units, which will cost Dh150 million.
Initially the cameras will be placed along Emirates Road, Sheikh Zayed Road and the routes linking Dubai with Hatta, Al Ain and Al Khail.
The Roads and Traffic Authority is conducting a continuous study of all Dubai’s ‘danger’ roads. The placement of the cameras will be decided on the basis of traffic density, number of accidents and speeding.
Captain Saeed Mubarak Al Suboosi, Head of Dubai Police’s Radar Section, said the cameras along Sheikh Zayed Road and sections of Al Khail Road had been reset to match the cut in speed limits from 120kmph to 100kmph.
But the units had not yet been calibrated to catch drivers travelling below the new minimum limit of 60kmph on some roads.
Motorists yesterday welcomed the crackdown on speeding. Interior designer Mariam Najma, 31, who drives between Jumeirah and Al Twar, said: “This will help instill some level of discipline among drivers who only behave when they see a radar camera ahead.” Cameras catch up to 3,500 motorists committing offences every day, according to Dubai Police statistics. Fines for speeding range from Dh200 to Dh500.
Paying for petrol with plastic will cost more
DUBAI - AUG 30: Customers using credit and debit cards at petrol stations will have to pay more from September 1 as oil companies add a 1.65 per cent charge to cover bank fees. Notices announcing the increase have gone up at Eppco, Enoc and Emarat fuel stations.
The move has been condemned by credit card firms, which have promised to take up the issue with the petrol companies.
“Surcharging is not permitted under Visa regulations,” said Sameer Govil, Visa International’s area manager for the Middle East.
“We are in contact with the bank concerned which will review the details directly with the merchants.” Denzil Lawson, MasterCard Worldwide’s general manager for the Middle East and Levant, said: “We have rules that prohibit surcharging in order to ensure that consumers can choose their preferred form of payment, and not be penalised for choosing to use their card.We are reviewing the appropriate action to be taken.” A petrol industry insider said the increase had been introduced to reduce losses incurred by the sale of subsidised petrol.
“The charge is being introduced to cut down the losses incurred due to extra bank charges,” said a senior official at a petrol company speaking on condition of anonymity.
“All petroleum products we sell are already subsidised. In fact, the more we sell the more money we lose. Every time customers pay using cards we incur an additional expenditure charged by the bank.” Credit card transactions at petrol stations are so large that Eppco and Enoc alone pays millions every month in bank charges. According to sources, the petrol retailers are incurring a loss of Dh3.4 million every day.
“We are actually losing twice,” added the official. “Although most merchants do not pass on bank charges to customers, we are forced to do so because of the circum stance we are in. We encourage people to use cash at our petrol stations.” Every time a credit card is used, the merchant is charged a transaction fee by the acquiring bank – the bank dealing with the merchant.
A percentage of the charge is then transferred to the issuing bank – the bank that issues the credit or debit card to the customer.
A senior UAE banker, again speaking on condition of anonymity, said banks could not be blamed for the oil firms’ move. “They should increase the cost of petrol and pass on the burden of their subsidy to all customers instead of penalising credit card users. It will discourage people from using credit
Oil companies to charge customers using credit card 1.65 per cent extra to cover bank fees from September 1 Surcharging not permitted, say card firms
RTA draws up plans to ease parking woes
DUBAI - AUG 30: Dubai’s parking problems will ease soon as new car parks are opened up.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) plans to create 29,840 lots by 2009. The RTA’s parking department has already provided 11,480 paid spaces over the past two years. And a further 11,000 will be in place by the start of next year.
“We are studying all possible ways to ease the current problem, especially in residential and commercial areas,” said Hussain Al Banna, acting director of parking.
He said 6,240 paid slots would be created in Dubai in 2008 and an additional 12,600 in 2009.
“As well as providing new car park areas, existing free spaces – particularly those in residential areas – will be turned into paid parking,” added Al Banna.
“The RTA is responding to the urgent need for parking space, especially as the number of registered vehicles increase in Dubai daily.
“We are working on a scheme to put an end to the current woes in the Central Business Districts of Deira and Bur Dubai.” Plans include introducing one-way systems and closing off lanes for use as parking.
And access to some busy areas could be restricted to public vehicles.
The RTA hopes to further ease the emirate’s parking problems by encouraging the use of public transport.
Al Banna said solutions currently being implemented include building multi-storey car parks and stricter enforcement of parking rules.
Al Banna said 1,400 old parking meters will be replaced with new systems adding that there will be no increase in parking charges.
“The RTA is studying different ways to improve the efficiency of parking use in Dubai but the methods are not necessary related to parking fees,” he said.
Bur Dubai businessman Ilyas Khabad, 34, said introducing new parking slots would help reduce illegal parking, which is often the only option left for many.
“In busy areas people end up parking illegally because they cannot find a space,” he said.
“More parking spaces will put an end to this problem.” A total of 29,648,562 tickets have been issued to motorists for parking offences since the beginning of this year. Last year, 36,734,890 tickets were issued.
New diversions are no better than old ones, say motorists
DUBAI - AUG 30: Motorists say traffic diversions intended to ease congestion around Dubai’s Al Garhoud Bridge and Bowling Intersection have failed to prevent holdups. The detours replaced an earlier series of diversions that were introduced because of construction work on Al Ittihad Road.
Commuters complained that the original scheme was causing delays – but the revised one is no better.
Drivers using the route to reach Sharjah and other areas say serious traffic jams are causing endless problems in the evenings.The tailbacks are particularly bad along Sheikh Rashid Road.
Ironically, the snarl-ups are affecting drivers passing through the Salik tollgate on the bridge – the road toll scheme was intended to reduce delays.
“It is agonising for me to drive through a tollgate in heavy congestion,” said engineer Frank Nzamba, 36. “It was better before all these diversions.” He said, using the Salik route, he used to take a maximum of 50 minutes to travel from his office on Sheikh Zayed Road to his home in Al Mamzar.
“Since the diversions came into effect, Salik has meant nothing to me as my route is jammed all the way from Emirates Towers,” he added. “Now it takes me up to two hours to get home.” The new detours separate traffic leaving Al Garhoud Bridge in the direction of Sharjah from vehicles coming from other areas. The Roads and Transport Authority introduced the plan to stop the bridge traffic combining with the flows from Baniyas Road and Al Rebat Road.
Traffic from these two roads heading to Sharjah no longer has access to the underpass at the junction of Airport Road and Al Ittihad Road.
Airport Road, Rebat Road and most internal routes in Al Garhoud area are now overwhelmed with traffic.
There have also been long delays along Baniyas Road in Deira in the evenings with bumper-to-bumper traffic from the Sheraton Creek towards Al Ittihad Road.
Computer programmer Haitham Jamal, 41, who drives daily from Deira to Sharjah, says his journey takes 40 minutes longer since the new diversions came into place. “I now have to try and search for new routes that can lead me to Sharjah faster than Baniyas and Al Ittihad,” he said.
Some motorists are using Khaleej Road as an alternative way to reach Sharjah – and it is now experiencing a huge volume of traffic.
Badr Al Sairi, director of traffic at the RTA’s Traffic and Roads Agency, called on road users to abide by the diversion signs and comply with speed limits.
High level of mercury found in skin creams
DUBAI - AUG 30:Dubai Municipality has discovered high rates of mercury in skin-whitening and freckle creams that carry a manufacturing label of the US. The civic body will notify the General Secretariat about the finding of high rates of mercury in the green and red types of the cream.
The green cream is for skin bleaching and the red to eliminate freckles.
High rates of mercury are very dangerous to the skin and the body once the chemical gets through to blood vessels, said Hafed Ghuloom, head of the health control and epidemiology unit, clinic and community section of the Public Health Department.
He said the report will be sent to the General Secretariat soon to help notify other municipalities of the findings of the lab tests.
He said cosmetics, as per international standards, should be void of substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium as they are danger ous, can cause cancer, and liver and skin damage.
Such dangerous substances may get into the body through blood vessels in the skin.
He said Dubai Municipality had started subjecting cosmetics to laboratory testing two years ago. This was mainly because many general trading companies were dealing in cosmetics.
He said the unit has more than 100 registered firms specialised in cosmetics. These companies deal in reputed brands of cosmetics, known for their safety only approved after proper research.
“The manufacturers of cheap cosmetics do not care about effects of such materials on the body,” he warned.
The civic body is carrying out intensive campaigns to confiscate the contaminated products. “Unfortunately, cosmetics are sold by groceries and supermarkets” which makes the job of the municipality difficult, he said.
Ghuloom said collaborative efforts should be taken by all municipalities in the country to help pull the products off the shelves.
Asked why the civic body cannot ban such products, he said if these products were banned by Dubai Municipality and customs authorities, dealers would import them through ports of other emirates.
“Joint efforts from all emirates are needed,” he said, and added “People should be aware of the risks in using cheap cosmetics and must stop using them.”
A Dhs 7 Billion gateway into Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI - AUG 30: Abu Dhabi Municipality is teaming up with the private sector to develop a dhs7 billion upmarket residential and hospitality project along the Coast Road. The Emerald Gateway project – located halfway between Abu Dhabi downtown and Abu Dhabi International Airport – will includes 88 towers on both sides of a 3.5 kilometre stretch of the highway.
The master plan for the project was prepared by KEO International Consultants and aims to create ‘green’ residential communities, a business park and hotel complexes. At the centre will be giant, artistically designed sculptures inspired by the wings of a falcon which will be placed inside a ‘Sculpture Park’.
The project’s 88 towers will be situtated in two districts: the Canal Park Neighbourhood and the Recreational Park Neighbourhood. The Canal Park will make use of an existing water canal which will be developed further to incorporate new walkways, green spaces and 42 tower plots.
The Recreational Park Neighbourhood will sit along the southern edge of the site and include 46 tower plots. Abu Dhabi Municipality said the development would be one of the most important partnerships between the public and private sector inititated by the government.
The government will also separately spend close to one billion dirhams for all infrastructure and extensive landscaping services. Municipality officials said that design and construction guidelines would be issued to plot owners to ensure that quality adhered to the master plan requirements.
Emirates Post issues commemorative stamps
UAE - AUG 30: Emirates Post has issued a set of commemorative stamps to celebrate 30 years of one of UAE's leading bank, Emirates Bank. The stamps, issued in four denominations (Dh1, Dhs1.50, Dhs3 and Dhs3.50), are available at all post offices in the UAE.
In addition, First Day Covers of Dhs10 and souvenir sheets of Dhs15 are available at the philatelic counters in Karama, Deira and Abu Dhabi post offices.
Director General of Emirates Post, Abdulla Al Daboos said, "Emirates Bank has made a strong mark on the region's banking sector and in just 30 years, it has emerged as one of the major banking corporations with diversified products, making an effective contribution to the nation's growth."
"Emirates Post is pleased to salute Emirates Bank through these special stamps," he remarked.
Emirates Bank was established 30 years ago through a decree under the name, Union Bank of the Middle East, which was later renamed Emirates Bank International, following its merger with Dubai Bank Ltd. and Emirates National Bank Ltd.
Chief Manager (Group Affairs), Emirates Bank, Sulaiman Al Mazroui said, "We highly appreciate that Emirates Post has issued commemorative stamps to mark Emirates Bank 30th anniversary celebrations."
"We are proud that we have been successful over these years and have grown from a small local bank into one of the largest and most profitable financial institutions in the region," he added.
Emirates Bank's range of products and services encompasses conventional and Islamic commercial banking, investment services, property development, insurance, credit card and brokerage services.
The bank's network covers regional and international markets, including Riyadh, London, Tehran, Mumbai and Singapore.
The bank has also established strategic alliances by acquiring a stake in Bank of Beirut and Al Baraka Banking Group.
Emirates Bank has also been active in launching major business initiatives to boost the national economy and has taken part in the financing of the nation's major projects.
It has also launched the Al Tomooh Scheme for financing young entrepreneurs, as well as supported different educational, philanthropic, sporting and cultural activities.
Teachers seek hike in salary
ABU DHABI - AUG 30: Many teachers considering themselves "hard working parents" in the capital are urging the relevant authorities to increase their salary scales in order to ensure a decent living and for the well-being of their families with school going children.
According to these teachers, a higher salary will ensure some savings from what they mete out to accommodation and living costs.
Moreover, according to many of them, both men and women, a better salary will play a major role in boosting productivity in the school. Likewise, this will also bring an end to financial problems of some teachers.
And some teachers, especially new ones to the capital, say that the allocated amount of Dhs2000 per month is not given to them, and with a pay of only Dhs1,500 or 1,550 a month they are finding it extremely difficult to find affordable housing and to pay off loan debts and other expenses. Most of them say that teachers should be given proper payment in accordance with their experience, knowledge and qualification.
A teacher from a capital private school said that many a teacher with more than ten years of experience in the teaching profession gets only Dhs2,100 a month.
"Surely they as sole breadwinners of the family could be parted with a little more with the fees hikes the management of the school gets every now and then," he added.
"Due to the low salaries the teachers get their morale is also lost especially with some unruly children from affluent families who scoff at them and their salaries - this is a common occurrence between teachers and students in some of the schools," he further added.
"Many schools flout the Ministry rule of paying Dhs2000 a month to teachers. And officials are not aware that in many schools in the capital the management cheats on its teachers' salaries. Most officials only meet the principals who are also considered low paid person and avoid to say the real things to the officials," he explained.
"The management of each school should be convinced by the officials on the cost of living since a very large population in the UAE are teachers, and keeping them happy and satisfied is very essential. Secondly schools and teachers are a miniature society in itself - in fact a school represents a diverse community from all regions, different cultures and groups of people, and a teacher's job is really not so easy," he stressed.
He feels that an appropriate salary for a woman teacher should be Dhs3000 a month while a man teacher being the head of the family should get a wholesome Dhs5000 maximum in order to lead a comfortable life as well as to save some pennies.
"A teacher's pay should be based on factors like experience, and additional education. These special features should not be ignored. Their salaries should keep rising with the rising cost of living," commented another teacher from a private school in Abu Dhabi.
"Teachers shape the future of generations, and they should be provided with all possible supports they deserve," she remarked.
"There's just not enough money available in some of the private schools because most of them take low payments and are not able to give so much to teachers," she further added.
A principal from an Indian school in the capital said that in order to compensate teachers' low salaries, school authorities should opt for extra classes like "remedial coaching" for weak students to be held after classes in the school premises.
"These extra classes as part of the schools' responsibility on weak students would bring in more income, of which seventy five per cent could be paid for teachers' free accommodation, fifty per cent for transport and five per cent to the school."
"Most teachers in the capital are able to afford a decent living solely due to the private tuition they give to earn their extra bucks after school hours," the principal commented.
He opined that schools are the canvassing grounds for most of the low paid teachers who turn out to become thriving tuition teachers well sought after by affluent parents keen on their children's educational well-being.
A reasonable pay hike by the authorities will definitely solve most of these problems revolving around teachers who are truly finding hard to make ends meet with rental hikes, soaring cost of living conditions and other expenses.
Meanwhile, a leading Indian school in the capital, having acknowledged the hardship teachers undergo in their profession, has increased the pay from Dhs2,000 to Dhs3,000 for each teachers.