NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Visa rules: Ministry warns against new tricks
ABU DHABI — SEP. 23: The Ministry of Labour (MoL) is gearing up to face the new tricks “visa dealers” and some unscrupulous firms might use to scuttle the law that imposes stiff penalties for hiring people on visit visas.
Obaid Rashid Al Zahmi, Assistant Undersecretary of the MoL, told Khaleej Times that the ministry and the authorities concerned warn the employers against using such methods to hoodwink the law and flood the labour market with illegals again.
The authorities fear that strict enforcement of the law that the companies must hire only workers brought on employment visas might force these fraudsters to bring people on regular visas after collecting huge amounts but leave them without work. They might later file absconding reports to render the poor workers illegals again, making them also vulnerable to exploitation.
Al Zahmi said if any labourer is tricked into such a situation must come to the ministry and complain about the sponsor or the employer who have let them without work. This would help in protecting their rights, including getting the financial dues. “The recent decisions taken by the MoL to tackle the problem of illegals also include punishments for the employers who let their workers without work,” warned Al Zahmi.
“We urge the workers to come to the ministry’s offices across the country to file complaints informing about any breach of trust or contract,” said Al Zahmi.
The MoL is following up with inspections to ensure that all formalities for issuing labour cards and signing the workers’ contracts have been completed, he added.
Mohammad Kamal, a PRO of a leading contracting company based in the capital, said many “visa dealers” will now bring the workers on employment visas after charging them up to Dh15,000. “After a few weeks the dealers might file absconding reports with the MoL,” said the PRO.
DAUGHTERS DAY SPECIAL
Excerpts from Emirates Today
Though many would deny it, female infanticide is still a common problem in India but isn’t it time we celebrated our daughters? David Tusing reports
Let’s celebrate the ones
In 2004, an Indian film Maker shocked his coun trymen when he made a chilling film about the pos sible implications of female infanticide on his country. Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women, is set in an imaginary Indian village of the future where there are virtually no women left – and the ones who have survived are put through often unimaginable treatment. Manish Jha’s film was banned from cinemas across India, although it went on to win a host of international awards.
Not much has changed. Population censuses reveal that the number of girls for every 1,000 boys dipped to its lowest of 927 in 2001 from 962 in 1981.The ratio has only marginally improved since.
According to a recent survey conducted by The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest medical journals, at least 10 million female foetuses have been aborted in India over the past two decades by middle-class families determined to ensure they have male heirs.
The figure, revealed by a survey of more than a million homes across India, found that sex determination in pregnancy and selective abortion accounted for 500,000 missing girls each year.
In 1996, the government banned the use of ultrasound machines for sex determination. The move has however done little to change the mindsets of millions of people for whom having a girl child is still a liability.
In an attempt to demystify myths and hopefully change the attitude of some of her listeners, a Dubai-based RJ has been running a campaign to raise support against female infanticide.
Called “My Daughter. My Hero”, Kritika Rawat’s campaign has seen her breakfast show English Breakfast Desi Mem on City 101.6 inundated with calls from her mostly Hindi-speaking listeners.
“We want to celebrate the girl child,” says Kritika. “We want to stop daughters getting second-class treatment and most importantly, we want to applaud daughters who have proven that they can stand their ground as girls and as women.” For Kritika, whose siblings are all girls, the issue is close to her heart.
“I come from a family where none of us were ever made to feel less wanted or loved. But most of my listeners are from countries where the sex ratio is awfully imbalanced,” she says. “We have days when we celebrate our father or mother or a teacher and I wanted a special day dedicated to daughters.” Kritika’s show today will see her interact with listeners as they share their stories in celebration of the girl child.
“We want to listen to inspiring stories and spread that joy,” she says. “It’s time to celebrate Daughters’ Day.” As a precursor to this morning’s show, David Tusing hears from some listeners who think a girl child was the best thing that ever happened to them.
SHE IS OUR LITTLE MIRACLE
In 2001, the day I lost my 18-year-old brother to a car accident, my life changed for ever. It was also the day my mother went silent.
When she heard the news, she shut herself completely from the world. She refused to speak and lost the will to do anything. She just refused to accept that she did not have a son anymore.
Soon, her health began to deteriorate as she suffered from severe depression. I had to leave my job to look after her because we were scared she might hurt herself.
By 2002, we began to have financial problems and I had to go back to work. It was then that an aunt suggested my mother baby-sit her neighbour’s new born. That was when little Caron came into our lives. She was just 45 days old when my mother first held her – and suddenly, at that moment, something changed inside her.
In just a week, smiles returned to our little home. Sometimes, there was laughter that we hadn’t heard for so long. My mother began to resume her duties as a housewife. She began taking care of us and little Caron. We reconnected with friends, began to socialise again as our lives did a complete turn-around.
She might not be related to us, but from the day little Caron came into our lives, she performed a miracle. The day she came was the day my mother began living.
SHE IS A BLESSING TO US
When we got married in 2004, my wife’s family and mine were against it. Ironically, it was an arranged marriage, but both parties had a disagreement and decided to call off the union while the wedding plans were made. By then, my wife and I had already met and liked each other and so decided to go ahead with it.
But soon after the wedding, things began to go wrong. The familial tension seeped into our daily lives and was causing a rift between the two of us. I wasn’t doing very well at work either. Then, just three months after the wedding, my wife and I separated and she went to live with her family. We were both still in Bombay then. After a few months of separation, I learnt she was pregnant. Then in February 2005, I got an overseas job offer in Riyadh and took it up. A week later, my daughter Sarah was born.
Things began to look up soon after. My wife and I sorted our differences and she decided to move back with me. Today, every time I look at my daughter, it dawns on me what a blessing she has been.
We now live together in Dubai, and are a happy family. My love for my daughter is greater than ever. She means the world to me and I thank God every day for her.
SHE’S MY WORLD
When I married my husband in 1991, I knew he was just a social drinker. Then as the years passed, he began to drink every day. As his problem became more severe, so did the arguments in the house.
He would scream at my son and me, and as it got worse, I was slowly beginning to lose hope. Then in 2002, I got pregnant with our second child. I remember telling my husband the day I was delivering, “I’ll give you your daughter as promised but I’m going back to my father.” I had lost all hope and even the willingness to live.
When little Rhea was born on May 15, 2003, our lives changed for ever. The day I took my little angel home, her father put his hand on her head and took an oath never to touch alcohol again. It was the most beautiful moment in my life.
It’s been four years now and my husband has not held one drink in his hand. He has become a completely changed man and is the best father anyone could ever have.
Every day, I thank God for Rhea and the joy and happiness she has brought along with her.
OUR MOST VALUED TREASURE
My mother was diagnosed with cancer on her left leg in 2004. A few years later, the disease resurfaced. Amidst the treatments and chemotherapy sessions, she began to tire of it all. I had also lost my father a couple of years before.
Then, earlier this year, doctors found another tumour on her right leg. More rounds of treatment followed, which did not go very well. Then, doctors told my mother, who was already 60, the only guarantee for survival was an amputation.
It took her a while but she did make her decision and she decided to do it because of my children. “I want to see your children grow up, I want to be a part of it,” she told me.
My mother fought her disease and she went ahead with her amputation. It is still a fight every day, but when I look back at that moment, I remind myself how lucky I was to have such lovely children, who literally gave me my mother back.
Today, my daughter Upasana is more like a daughter to my mother. Everything my mother does is for her and I know she means the world to her. She does to all of us.
we love - MY CHILDREN. MY EVERYTHING Vasantha Satish
Background: On May 29, 2004, four terrorists attacked two oil industry installations and a housing complex for foreign workers in the Oasis Compound, in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. They took more than 50 people hostage and killed 22 of them.
On May 30, Saudi Special Emergency Forces stormed the compound where the terrorists held the hostages. Despite dramatic live footage, three of the terrorists escaped by stealing a car and using hostages as human shields.
The nationalities of those killed included eight people from India, three from the Philippines, two from Sri Lanka, one each from Sweden, Italy, England, the United States, South Africa and Egypt.
May 29, 2004, was the longest day of my life. That was the day my husband called in the afternoon, telling me his hotel was under attack by terrorists. He was hiding in the washroom and was asked by staff not to answer the door for anyone.
My husband was on a business trip to Saudi Arabia and Oasis Compound in Al Khobar, where his hotel was located, was under siege.
Nobody should have to go through what I went through. There are no words to even describe it.
My husband asked me to switch on the television. As I furiously flicked the channels between CNN and BBC, I knew I had to break the news to my children. Quietly, we all gathered in the living room, glued to the television.
My daughter Omrita, who was 15, took on the motherly role, assuring me everything was going to be alright. The younger girl Shrita was more protective, hugging me all the time. My little son was too young to understand what was going on.
As the drama continued, we spoke to my husband constantly.
On different occasions, his phone would die and he had to recharge it. Those were the most tense moments as I wasn’t sure if the conversation we just had was going to be our last.
On television, the terrorists were killing their hostages as they fought the Saudi forces. At one point during our conversation, my husband told me he did not think he was going to make it.
He began telling me about insurance papers and where he kept various documents and that I should take care of the children and give them the best education.
Who would want to hear such a thing? Who would want to be in such a situation? But I assured him everything was going to be alright. That it was all going to be fine.
I have no idea where I got the strength to say such things because I was a total wreck inside.
My children never left my sight. They followed me everywhere I went around the house. They wanted to show me they were going to be with me, all the way through.
My husband was one of the lucky survivors and he came back to Dubai on May 30.
That is easily the happiest day of my life.
When I look back now to those terrible hours, it was my daughters I got my strength from.
It was their support and their love that got me through those terrible times. I couldn’t live a day without them in my life.
MoH sets new conditions for medical technicians
DUBAI — SEP. 23: The Ministry of Health (MoH) has set new conditions and standards for medical technicians to qualify for its licensing exam.
Applications of only those technicians who graduated from colleges and universities recognised by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Research will be accepted, said Dr Najat Mohammad Rashid, Director of the Department of Federal Medical Laboratories.
Dr Najat is also heading the Committee for Evaluation and Equivalency of Credentials for Paramedicals that assesses the certificates of educational qualification and work experience submitted by technicians.
She said as per the new rules, the applicants must obtain equivalency certificates of their academic degrees from the ministry.
“The certificate of experience has to be attested and certified by the authorities concerned,” she said, adding that a minimum of three-year-clinical experience is required for applicants who hold PhD while two years’ clinical experience is a must for those with master’s degree. A certificate of one-year experience is required from those with a bachelor’s degree and that of three years’ has to be submitted by diploma holders.
“Applicants holding one- or two-year diplomas must have a minimum two years’ experience. All the certificates of experience should be stamped and attested,” she said, adding that candidates who do not meet the experience requirement will be evaluated with a lesser degree than the legally approved one and will be re-evaluated after receiving the required experience.
She said the GCC candidates holding bachelor degrees and having a licence to work in any member country are exempt from the written exam, but will have to undergo an oral test in their specialty.
“Expatriates holding bachelor’s degrees from a UAE university or college will also be exempted from the written test. However, they should have a minimum of one year’s clinical experience,” she added.
Dr Najat said the ministry would also give exemption from written test to graduates with attested certificates from American universities and European Union universities. However, she said, these candidates should also have a licence to practise in their home countries.
“Applicants who fail in the written test will not be allowed to sit for the viva-voce test. Those who do not pass the oral test will have to undergo the oral test again,” she added.
Talking about the retesting procedures, Dr Najat said that the applicants would be given three chances for retest per year. However, failed applicants will not be able to sit for the fourth exam before the completion of a year from the last test they underwent. In this case, they need to provide the certificate for at least six months’ practical experience, she added.
The next written test is scheduled for November 11. The Department of Federal Medical Laboratories will start receiving applications for the exam from October 21 to 28.
Prices of foodstuff continue to soar
AJMAN — SEP. 23: Residents of Ajman have been complaining that despite promises of a price control of foodstuff and vegetable, authorities are not pursuing the matter seriously. The authorities concerned, however, said they are monitoring the markets to check prices during the holy month of Ramadan.
The retailers in Ajman said since the beginning of holy month of Ramadan, prices of vegetable, fruits and meat have gone up by 20 per cent.
Residents wonder how long this trend would continue.
Mohamed and Ibrahim, traders in Ajman vegetable and fruits market, said retailers are under pressure from wholesale suppliers to jack up prices of vegetables, fruits and meat by 20 per cent during the holy month.
As a result, Pakistani mango now costs Dh10 a kg, small grapes Dh14 a kg, green apple Dh7 a kg, and guava and cantaloupe Dh15 a kg. Saheb Abdul Qadir, another trader said, the price of lettuce has gone up to Dh6 a kg, and a box of red apple is costing Dh18.
“Prices in Ajman central vegetable and fruits markets are less compared to other markets,” he added. According to a consumer, Al Rasheed Obaid, the price of a 2kg peach box has gone up from Dh6 to Dh 8. He attributed the rise in prices of essential commodities to the greed of traders and suppliers.
Bahi Badr Al Tuhami, another consumer who was shopping at the vegetable market, expressed concern over the increase in the prices of food products, saying that just three days before Ramadan he bought a medium-sized potato box crate for Dh12, which is now being sold for Dh14.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, a top official from Ajman Municipality stressed that the inspectors were working round the clock to keep a check on prices of eatable items during Ramadan.
He also urged the public to lodge a complaint with the municipality’s emergency section if they come across sellers resorting to price hikes.
India hails charity initiative
NEW DELHI — SEP. 23: India has strongly commended the ‘Dubai Cares’ initiative of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, saying such resourcefulness would encourage countries, organisations and individuals to work towards the cause of goodwill and benevolence.
The government and non-government organisations and activists in the region feel Shaikh Mohammed’s gesture would help poor children come out of poverty and suffering from constant physical and mental abuse.
India’s Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury says: “Dubai Cares is a brilliant act of generosity. We welcome the initiative. India has a stringent policy in place for child development, welfare, protection, food and nourishment, but a lot needs to be achieved despite some of the best initiatives like Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) representing one of the world’s largest programmes for early childhood development.”
Says Priti Patkar of ‘Prerana,’ an NGO that works among under-privileged, abused and sexually-exploited children: “It is a very welcome announcement by the Dubai Ruler. Such funding is needed even in cities like Mumbai where there are a growing number of children who are being deprived of primary education.”
Patkar feels that Shaikh Mohammed’s gesture is something that should be emulated by other world leaders. “It is good to know that though a lot of resources are being allocated for the development of Dubai’s infrastructure, the rulers also think of the under-privileged in other countries and want to do something for their upliftment.”
Parking woes to end soon in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI — SEP. 23: The problem of insufficient car parking lots in Abu Dhabi will be solved soon, according to Colonel Hamad Adeel Al Shamsi, Director of Traffic and Patrols Department at the Abu Dhabi Police. Landlords of the newly-constructed buildings can build parking lots underground or around the buildings, he said.
Fears loom large on bachelors
SHARJAH - SEP. 23: A host of bachelors living in Sharjah have urged the management of their respective companies to provide them accommodation as the prospect of their eviction from their present dwellings looms large following the authorities fresh warning against those sub letting flats without completing certain formalities.
The government has disallowed subletting except with the written approval of the property's owner as the sublease contract governs the relationship between the original tenant and sublet tenant.
The tenant can transfer the lease to another person with the written approval of the landlord, after which a new contract between the landlord and new tenant must be signed and attested, the government has ruled.
But the plight of bachelors living in the residential areas is also not less if one listens their complaints.
"Where we will go if the authorities start evicting from our rooms", remarked a senior Accountant Sudhir living in an apartment on Jamal Abdul Nasser street.
He said that his company has not provided any accommodation to him and he is paying a good amount to share a room with his few other colleagues.
"The company has not listened to our plea and the management is only satisfied with paying a meagre amount as house rent allowance", he rued.
"Where would bachelors go if they are not given accommodations in Sharjah", asked a sales executive on the condition of anonymity.
"The rents are going up and it is becoming difficult to keep families together", remarked Anthony, an employee with a grocery shop.
"Such type of a decision only puts people in more trouble," he noticed and added that the concerned authorities should initiate immediate steps for mitigating sufferings of the bachelors.
Another bachelor, B. Khan living in Al Khan area said that it is high time the management should do something to solve the accommodation problem of their employees as no body knows when they would be finally leave their rooms.
"I do not think many bachelors will be able to complete all these formalities to stay in their flats and hence the company management should do something for them", he added.
Meanwhile, a cross section of the people has also voiced their concern over the problems of flat owners or renters providing accommodations to bachelors in the residential areas of the city.
An engineer, Sudarshan said, "a person who got the keys of a flat from its owner after paying Dhs35,000 per annum are now earning Dhs72,000 per annum by violating all norms.'
When asked about the arithmetic, he said that the person who gets the flat in turn lets it to bachelors and each bachelor pays Dhs400 per bed every month and if 15 people are staying in a single flat, he is making Dhs6,000 per month.
"It has become really difficult to live a comfortable life in the flats as several of them have been rented out to bachelors who indulge in several unwanted activities', he observed adding that areas like Rolla, Nabba and Al Mujarrah are specially affected by such type of menace.
Airlines monitor soaring oil prices
UAE - SEP. 23: AIRLINES operating to the UAE are uncertain if they would have to toe the line of American carriers in hiking fuel surcharge to offset skyrocketing oil prices.
With global oil prices hovering around $82 and the climb forecast to continue, the aviation industry is rattled with the dimming prospects of improved earnings as fuel costs chew into the revenues.
Market leader and local favourite Emirates airlines is perhaps the only company not overtly perturbed at the possibility of having to fatten the fuel surcharge component. Since the airline incorporates all levies into the ticket cost, customers just pay the total amount without actually finding any break-up of the fares.
An official spokesperson of the airline told The Gulf Today that "We review our fares periodically and would consider revising them in line with overall costs and market demand."
It was in 2006 that the airline began incorporating fuel surcharge into the ticket cost on its worldwide network. "We feel that fuel cost is part of the operating cost of the airline, and it makes more sense to our customers to make it a part of the fare."
Expressing concern at the manner in which oil prices are shooting up, Alka Arora, marketing co-ordinator of Air-India said the airline would follow what is passed down from its headquarters. "Whatever is decided by our higher management will be implemented," she said.
Like most other airlines to South Asia, the airline levies fuel surcharge of Dhs420 for two-way and Dhs210 for one-way fares from Dubai. Similar amounts are charged from other UAE gateways as well.
Airline officials whom The Gulf Today spoke to were non-committal since they were all watching the situation. Jose Thachil, district sales manager (market development) of Singapore Airlines said nothing has been decided on the issue. One of the few airlines that actually reduced fuel levies in October 2006 when oil prices scaled down from the highs, he said the big bosses were watching the situation.
A senior official of another Asian carrier said rising fuel costs have upset their overall plans. "I have a strong feeling there would be another dose of fuel surcharge passed on to passengers," said the official who did not want to be named.
He however said several airlines, like his own, have a built-in mechanism to hedge such increases since rising oil prices have been recurring since the past few years. "But there is a limit to which we can hold on and we move ahead with additional surcharge once we feel fuel costs would cut deep into the revenues," he said adding several airlines had hedged for $35 per barrel of oil.
While 2007 has been relatively calm on the fuel surcharge front, with most airlines operating to the UAE holding on despite minor turbulence, the first half of 2006 had witnessed a round of frenzied hikes.
While British Airways slapped an additional $10 per segment from April 21, 2006, Emirates airlines, then following a different pricing pattern, followed suit on May 1. That was when global crude oil prices crossed the $75 barrier.
Emirates that had added on to its fuel surcharge on Feb.15, 2006 and September 2005 before that, later switched to its existing mechanism whereby fuel surcharges are not reflected in the fare break-up.
By and large left to airlines, the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) of carriers operating to Dubai, usually provides some direction on the methodology to take. With no BAR meeting in sight, airline sources said it would now be left to what their costing experts suggest.
Supermarkets feel the pinch
UAE - SEP. 23: SUPERMARKETS are having a hard time due to severe shortage in number of salespersons, skyrocketing prices and plummeting sales of certain commodities.
The success of the recent amnesty has clearly had an impact. One could say so as many shopkeepers cited the above problems as a fallout of the amnesty.
Illegals who were employed in these supermarkets availed the amnesty and left for their homes. Many eateries and supermarkets had to pull down their shutters as there are hardly any customers at such outlets.
"The daily sales figure has come down to half or less than that. So we have decided to close down the shop," a manager of an eatery said. The shop is at Caterpillar Roundabout.
A number of outlets of Al Madina Supermarket chain in Sharjah have stopped their house-to-house delivery due to the lack of salespeople. A supermarket chain stopped home delivery due to lack of staff but resumed the services before Ramadan.
"We all believe that our salesmen without visas will be pardoned even if they are caught by the authorities. So we re-called them for work. We do not know what will happen after Ramadan," the manager said.
A manager at Ashjar Supermarket in Sharjah said he also "re-employed" his salesmen who are seeking amnesty and go home. "After Ramadan they will leave. And I do not know what else will happen after this amnesty period," he said. The government has allowed outpass-holders to stay in the country till Nov 2 or get a flight ticket to the home country, whichever is earlier.
Businesses in the hot-bed of Sharjah's activities at Rolla area and the surrounding half-a-dozen settlements where expatriate bachelor employees used to live, have dwindled to half or less than that, managers said. "We have a restaurant closed near our grocery shop because they have no cooks," a grocer at Rolla's Al Oruba Street said.
Most of the cooks at small restaurants, tandoor roti kitchens, at take-away kitchen homes were Indians and Pakistani cooking talents. Several of them who were working without proper work permits, either left the country or are preparing for their final exit.
The trend also gives customers only one choice either buy their favourite food items from costly restaurants or give rest to their palates.
Willing to re-hire
The restaurants and groceries, however, are willing to re-hire their former employees on regular visas provided they are willing to work for the same salary without other regular considerations offered to employees on visa.
"We need a comfortable salary and other perks when we are on a regular visa. Otherwise what sense is there to come again and be stranded," a grocery salesman who is set to leave the country on out-pass, asked.
"See, they are trying to cash in on the opportunity," his sales manager commented.
Arab governments are looking for ways to cut down the number of smokers in the Arab World.
Here is a new strategy to cut cigarette smoking through an unrelated regulation -- temporary amnesty.
Sales of around 10 brands of cheap cigarettes, mostly puffed by labourers, have come down to nil or nearly nil at several groceries in Sharjah.
Several cheap brands such as Bon, Three Star, Tradition and others have no connoisseurs at hand, salesmen said.
"These brands are the cheapest cigarettes in the market, Dhs1.50 per packet and the favourites of the labour community. Since they are gone, there is no sale," a grocer in Sharjah said.
A sales representative of Wills and other Indian cigarettes in the UAE contended with this saying that "let us not conclude that in Ramadan when people smoke less than half of usual numbers. We have found a slump in the rate of sales. It, however, could be due to Ramadan and some people have gone back," he said.
He added that the brand Bon, another Indian brand, has suffered the "worst defeat" as it was preferred by labourers from Andhra Pradesh in India. A state from where a large number of people have gone home.