NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Firms ‘flouting’ MoL directive on Ramadan working hours
DUBAI — SEP. 25: Several private sector employees have alleged that their companies were flouting the directive of the Ministry of Labour (MoL) by making them work for the same number of hours that they were doing before Ramadan.
The MoL has granted private sector employees less working hours during the holy month of Ramadan, and the shifts are to be shorter by two hours irrespective of the staff’s religion or nationality.
An employee at an interior design company in Dubai said, “We are working for seven hours a day in Ramadan. We are not being paid any overtime.”
Sayed, a technician at a pre-cast company in Dubai said: “We are working for eight hours a day. We have complained to the office administration several times but in vain. It’s hard to work such long hours while fasting.”
Maria, a designer at a jewellery manufacturing company pointed out: “We are still completing the regular working hours. There’s been no change in the working hours during Ramadan. Our company has a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ policy,” Maria rued.
However, it depends on the company. Paul, who works for an exhibition contracting company, said: “In our company, people do work for more than six hours during Ramadan but they get paid for it.”
Zoran, general manager of Al Shaafar Transport and Contracting Company noted: “It’s the MoL’s directive (less working hours during Ramadan), so we have to follow it, and we are doing that. The office staff work for five hours while the site workers work for six hours.”
Zoran added: “Sometimes, out of necessity, some workers are asked to work for more than six hours but they are paid the overtime.”
An official at the MoL said: “We have granted private sector employees less working hours during Ramadan. The private companies must comply with it.”
“We usually conduct inspection campaigns to check whether the companies are complying with the directive or not. We slap a penalty of Dh10,000 on the violating companies,” he said.
Indian embassy close to winding up amnesty cases
ABU DHABI - SEP. 25: The Indian Embassy yesterday stopped distributing exit passes at the Kerala Social Centre in Abu Dhabi, as the amnesty process draws to a close. The social centre, used as a temporary amnesty unit, has been closed as there are less than 150 cases of illegal Indian workers still waiting for outpasses – and those remaining will be processed through the embassy, officials said.
Under the amnesty, all illegal workers must leave the country by November 4 or risk prosecution.
Since the amnesty was announced, the Indian Embassy has issued 2,250 outpasses and returned 4,500 passports. The passports were among more than 15,000 turned over by the UAE authorities, a spokesman for the embassy said.
“The embassy has collected 15,505 passports from the local immigration authorities to return to illegal immigrants. We have handed over 4,500 of them. Most of the passports were old, some as old as 20 years,” he said.
The embassy has been making efforts to make sure illegal Indians in the country learn of the amnesty and make use of the scheme to leave without penalty.
As a result of the campaign, the embassy is still receiving about 10 inquiries a day from people looking to take advantage of the amnesty, the embassy official said.
“In reaching out and serving amnesty-seekers, members of the registered and nonregistered associations, individuals and groups have contributed immensely,” the spokesman added.
Nafis Feyzee, 60, from Maharashtra who worked as a volunteer with the embassy, said he and other volunteers helped amnesty-seekers who could not read or write to fill in application forms, guided them through the process and answered their questions.
“We received training and an information booklet from the embassy for handling the queries. It was a very professional and humane approach. We liked it all and worked like a solid team,” he said.
Feyzee said some volunteers used to work until midnight to take amnesty seekers, after the finger printing process, to shelters arranged for them so they were not left in the lurch in the middle of the night without transportation.
A number of amnesty-seekers who spoke to Emirates Today praised the young vol unteers and the embassy staff for their assistance.
Shashi Kumar, a 22-yearold from Punjab, picked up his outpass on Thursday and said he was planning to leave as soon as he got a ticket.
“I am really thankful to the embassy for collecting my exit pass from Abu Dhabi immigration and handing it over to me. Because of them I need not go to Al Wathba, which is 40km away. A taxi ride there would cost me Dh15.
“Moreover, there is language problem in Al Wathba as the people distributing the outpasses there find it difficult to understand Indian names,” Kumar added.
Ultra-modern transport system for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI — SEP. 25: Abu Dhabi is all set to come up with an ultra-modern transport system, necessitated by the fact that the capital’s population is set to rise to 3 million by 2030.
The Government’s Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, which is also known as the Urban Structure Framework Plan, deals with the actual traffic issues. The main goal is to improve every possible aspect in order to turn traffic congestion into something inexistent.
The plan consists of 10 basic statements and is mainly focused on public transportation plans and housing in the city of Abu Dhabi.
According to the plan, a well-conceived transit network will help guide and phase development as Abu Dhabi’s population increases to 3.1 million by year 2030. The plan aims to minimise traffic congestion on the streets and to provide sufficient parking as well as to offer alternative travel choices.
A city of more than 3 million inhabitants requires a developed transit system. When it comes to the transportation scheme it’s supposed to offer Abu Dhabi an efficient and list of components.
The first one is a high speed rail line, originating from the Central Souq train station, connecting the downtown to the Capital District, Airport, and ultimately to Dubai. A freight rail line will operate in the same right-of-way, connecting the new port airport, and Jebel Ali with the other GCC countries.
“The city needs at least two high capacity metro lines. One of those would have spurs originating on Saadiyat Island and Al Mina turning left at Central Station to follow the Airport District, Capital District, and Raha beach. The other line would cross the downtown from east to west, connecting Al Reem and Al Suwwah to the Central Station and the Marina Mall,” the plan explains.
The next step, the plan continues, is a fine-grained network of surface light rail, streetcars and buses that will ensure that no one ever has to walk more than five minutes to use public transit. The generous boulevards of Abu Dhabi provide ample space for median light rail or dedicated transit lanes for street cars or buses.
Finally, since walking is inescapable even with the most advanced transit planning in the world, a top priority is to improve the streetscapes while maximising pedestrian safety and comfort. This will imply increasing the width of sidewalks, adding shade trees as well as shading devices and to carefully design the entire public realm.
The establishment of two city centres, one in the downtown area of Abu Dhabi Island and the other in the new Capital District will facilitate balanced traffic flow in two directions, minimising congestion.
The city will also need a layered transportation network when the population reaches three million. This will significantly reduce the number of cars on the road, creating a better experience for those who are driving.
The transportation network should include a high-speed Lane separating different destinations. Accompanying this measure there will also be a local metro rail, a freight rail, a surface network of buses, street cars and light rail and finally, a fine grain of interconnected streets.
The possibilities to walk have to be increased, so as to motivate people to walk, especially when it comes to short distances.
It is said that to create a successful traffic system, some of the existing streets have to be reconfigured by carefully designing new ones in order to provide more space for pedestrians as well as more transit options.
The sidewalks will have to be wider and other additional options such as bus-only lanes, street cars, express lanes, and light rail medians could also make their appearance in the new construction if they are demanded.
While constructing all this, the plan is to protect and enhance the natural resources and cultural heritage of Abu Dhabi while at the same time integrating nature and humanity.
One of the ideas is to provide a variety of inter-connected transportation choices as alternatives to the automobile (transit, ferries, buses, bicycle and pedestrian pathways). The point is to prioritise and enhance the pedestrian realm (e.g. short blocks, wide and shaded sidewalks, medians, shaded seating at bus stops and active streets). There is a will to avoid highway and freeway expansion by providing an inter-connected multiple route transportation network that would include many small streets permitting more traffic.
The idea is to provide a layered, inter-connected public transportation network based on fast train links between Abu Dhabi city, Abu Dhabi International airport and Dubai so as to interconnect them to the CBD.
The plan features the idea to create a local bus system that will eliminate congestion, or at least, minimise it as much as possible.
The use of ferries will be proclaimed as to reduce congestion. The plan aims to attract a great variety of people, including high and middle income earners, business people, and women, as well as lower Income earners.
When it comes to the issue of parking, it will be reconsidered and studied very carefully in order to offer a larger amount of parking spaces. This concept will also be applied to the CBD area. The plan intends to limit congestion.
Nowadays, the boulevards running through Abu Dhabi have the virtue of distributing traffic evenly through the core allowing congestion on one street to dissipate through the grid.
New Garhoud Bridge 76 per cent complete
DUBAI — SEP. 25: Seventy six per cent work on the construction of the new Garhoud Bridge has been completed, according to a Press release of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) yesterday.
The project, which started in February 2006, is estimated to cost Dh415 million.
The importance of the project is underscored by the fact that it involves constructing two bridges; each with seven lanes in each direction. Total length of the bridge is 520 metres, with structures rising 16 metres above the water level, ensuring free navigation of the Creek. It provides additional traffic capacity as it will be capable of handling 16,000 vehicles per hour.
From Deira, there will be seven lanes leading to the bridge, four of them from Al Ittihad Road, two from Al Rebat Road, and one lane from Al Bustan Road. All of them converge forming 3 lanes at Al Garhoud Bridge. Similarly, traffic flow from Shaikh Rashid Road will have lanes decreasing from 6 to 3 lanes.
Engineer Maitha bin Adai, CEO of Traffic and Roads Agency, stated that the new bridge, which is scheduled for opening in March 2008, will ensure a balance between the number of lanes on the bridge and the number of lanes leading to it at both ends.
“This project is among a series of projects currently being undertaken to ease traffic flow in the emirate of Dubai. It is part of the RTA Strategic Plan, which strongly focuses on developing roads network so as to confront traffic bottlenecks, assist road users and ensure RTA’s vision of providing safe and smooth transport for all,” she said.
BLOOD TEST BEFORE YOU CAN MARRY
DUBAI - SEP. 25: Everyone planning to marry in Dubai will have to undergo medical screening before being allowed to proceed, a health official has announced. The new order applies to expatriates as well as Emiratis. Marriages will not be registered in court unless couples present a certificate confirming they have completed premarital blood tests.
Checks for sexually transmitted diseases – including Aids – and other conditions will be carried out. And there will be genetic tests conducted to determine whether a couple is likely to have children with hereditary blood diseases.
But health officials will not be able to stop people marrying unless one of the partners is HIV-positive.
The screenings will be introduced soon in other emirates, said Dr Rafeeiah Al Raei, a family physician who is head of Al Mankhool Health Centre and leader of Dubai Health Authority’s pre-marital scientific group.
“We are expecting a lot from this service,” she said.
The screening reveals the chances of a couple having children with thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia – genetic blood disorders that are very common in the UAE.
Conditions such as thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia and alpha and beta thalassaemia affect eight to 10 per cent of UAE nationals.
Couples in danger of having children with these disorders will be told of the risk and how their children would be affected.
Dr Al Raei said such couples would be invited to the Genetics and Thalassaemia Centre in Al Wasl Hospital, where they could experience first-hand how the condition affects children.
“This way they will know the burden of such disease,” she said. “Many at-risk couples have changed their minds about tying the knot since the procedure was introduced on September 9.
“Another benefit of premarital screening is that it helps monitor the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. It protects the rights of the healthy partner in case their would-be spouse is found to have Aids, syphilis or hepatitis B or C.
“All medical findings are kept confidential – information about a couple’s health will not be included in the certificate that the Dubai Health Authority issues for use in court.” The results of the blood tests are ready within a week and are announced in the presence of both would-be partners.
The service is free for UAE nationals who possess a health card, while expatriates are charged Dh260 per person for the test and Dh40 for each visit to a doctor.
Woman gets divorce from ‘unruly’ husband
ABU DHABI — SEP. 25: The Federal Supreme Court recently granted divorce to a woman from her husband who used to maltreat her.
According to court records, the woman had filed for divorce from her husband because he allegedly insulted, assaulted and swore at her most of the time.
She also complained that the man refused to take care of her and her 12-year-old son’s expenses. But the Abu Dhabi Shariah Court of First Instance rejected her petition.
The woman then moved the Abu Dhabi Shariah Court of Appeal, which assigned two arbitrators. Relying on the arbitrators’ report, the court gave a verdict in the petitioner’s favour.
The man was ordered to pay monthly maintenance of Dh4,600 to the petitioner and Dh2,000 to their son, besides Dh2,000 as accommodation allowance and Dh600 as maid allowance.
However, the man challenged the verdict in the Federal Supreme Court, but the apex court upheld the Court of Appeal’s verdict.
Building materials destroyed in Al Barsha warehouse fire
DUBAI — SEP. 25: Labourers were evacuated from buildings behind the Mall of the Emirates in the Al Barsha area of Dubai yesterday after a fire broke out in a building material warehouse.
The operations room of the Dubai Police was informed by a company official that a fire erupted in a building material store located behind the Mall of the Emirates.
The fire started at 1.53pm. Fire fighters from Al Quoz Civil Defence Station rushed to the scene at 2.07pm.
They evacuated labourers in buildings in the surrounding area. They managed to put out the fire by 2.26pm before it spread to a paint store and car garage adjacent to the warehouse.
Two caravans of building materials were destroyed completely. Captain Ali Hassan and Captain Osama and Dubai Civil Defence officials supervised the operations.
Dubai - No reprieve for housemaid who killed baby
Dubai - Sep. 25: The Dubai Court of Cassation yesterday confirmed a lower court verdict that sentenced a Filipina housemaid to three years in jail for dumping her baby girl in a rubbish bin in Dubai moments after giving birth inside a toilet.
The defendant, identified as MCT, was ordered deported after serving her sentence. “I feel so sad I must accept it with a heavy heart,” MCT, 40, told 7DAYS. She is currently taking care of her baby girl, now almost eight months old, inside a special baby room at Dubai Central Jail in Al Aweer.
She said that she hoped that her sentence would be reduced, claiming that she did not intend to kill her baby, whom she thought was dead already when she gave birth to her on January 30 inside the toilet of a driving school in Dubai. On July 8, the Dubai Court of Appeal upheld her initial verdict handed down on May 31 by the Court of First Instance, which was three years imprisonment followed by deportation.