Opinion 2013

Used Book Fair aims to encourage youth to read more

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Used Book Fair aims to encourage youth to read more

Fair promotes the vrtues of reading, volunteering and brings the community together
By Ramesh Menon, Gulf News reader
Published: 00:00 February 17, 2013

Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS) is finalising preparations for the fifth Used Book Fair, which will be held from February 26 to March 1 at the Palm Garden by Khalid Lagoon. Books are currently being accepted from anyone who wishes to donate, provided the books are in good condition. One can donate books in any language, but magazines and textbooks will not be accepted.

Schools that donate less than 2,000 books will be allocated one booth and those that donate more than 2,000 will be allowed two. Participants will be given a certificate of achievement.

Students who donate more than 20 books will also receive a certificate.

The Used Book Fair is organised every two years and has a number of objectives, such as promoting the habit of reading by offering low-priced books, planting the spirit of volunteering in the minds of the youth and raising funds to support the services offered by SCHS to people with special needs. 

SCHS is a local non-profit organisation, which was founded in 1979 and aims to change society’s attitude towards people with special needs and effect policies regarding disability-related issues. It also aspires to pave the way to a brighter future for children with mental and physical challenges, giving them confidence and a chance to live in a society that provides equal opportunities.

During the four days of the fair, visitors will find books available for as little as Dh3.

The last day to donate books is February 24.

Anyone wishing to donate books can contact SCHS on 06-5669966, SCHS Collection Supervisor Mihraj Abdul Rahim on either 06-5671117 or 050-7965576 or drop them at SCHS premises in the Al Yarmouk area of Sharjah.

The reader is a technical officer based in Abu Dhabi. Be a community reporter. Tell us what is happening in your community. Send us your videos and pictures at readers@gulfnews.com 

 To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS online

Kerala Chief Minister turns a new page

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Kerala Chief Minister turns a new page

My letter to a interesting dialogue with Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy by Roopa Kurien for Khaleej Times.

To read it in full, please visit Khaleej Times online

My comments as below:

An interesting dialogue with Kerala Chief Minister covering majority of the talked about issues. Non Resident Keralities (NRK) are always keen on issues and developmental activities happening within the state. It can be visibly observed by the number of print, online and electronic media and associations in Malayalam within this region actively discussing day to day actions.
Air Kerala is looked up on by all malayalees to ease up the travel tensions. How and when it will materializes and how far it will resolve the cost of travel is to be seen as it happens.
We have been hearing of SmartCity and in reality still hearing about it other than the developments projected in press.
Voting rights, if given to NRKs may bring about a phenomenal change to the outlook towards their demands and actual requirements.
Abolishing strikes or stoppage of educational hours should be a solution thought about by all parties to bring in a smooth flow of classes and curriculum once a student is enrolled. Peaceful protests and expression of freedom of thoughts should be allowed without interruption of classes should be implemented by bringing out an all party consensus to the current situation.
A strict no-no to public damaging of properties by any protesters should be also enforced by a joint political consensus discussed and finalized within the legal and legislative framework.
A single window processing channel for NRK investments which monitors the entire life span of each project and assist them till it become a success and after should become a reality.
A major point which did not come in this discussion is the road, transport and infrastructure facilities, which are in pathetic conditions in several parts for a long time. Road conditions from Trichur to Coimbatore, which connects Kerala with Tamilnadu is a major example of ignoring time, safety and convenience of lakhs of commuters every day.
On the health sector, NRKs and general public look forward to availability of quality medical services to them as well as general public. 
Quota for NRK students in Kerala educational institutions is also another requirement.
Hygiene issues prevailing in several parts of the state is a major problem. The poor overall facilities provided to the devotees visiting Sabarimala temple is an open issue. As also, waste management problems in all major cities like Trivandrum, Cochin, Calicut etc.
Transportation facilities in quality and quantity available to connect nearby and far away states has always been another major concern.
Last but not the least, Kerala State government is promoting various lotteries for developing different projects. Why not a lottery specific for the welfare of NRKs. It could be sold at all Airports and regular distributors.
Taking on a lighter note on the statistics projected on Janasamparkam programme, we hope the Chief Minister is conducting this to not get himself an entry into the Guinness Book of Records.
Several instances of no reply to issues addressed are in plenty, even after repeated follow up.
We look forward and welcome him to organize a real Pravasi Kerala Dhinam (day) in the UAE to interact with normal working class NRKs to understand the real issues pertaining to all from the state.

Death toll rises to 22 in Al Ain bus tragedy

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Death toll rises to 22 in Al Ain bus tragedy 

The National staff Feb 4, 2013 Updated two hours ago AL AIN //

A total of 22 people have been killed and about 24 injured in a road accident in the city this morning.

The crash happened on the Old Truck Road (E30), near Sih Sabra, Al Ain, just before 8am when a bus carrying 46 workers thought to be from a cleaning company collided with a large lorry carrying concrete.

The lorry overturned and landed on the bus at 7.53am when its brakes failed, according to Brig Gen Hussein Ahmed Al Harthi, head of the Traffic and Patrols Directorate at Abu Dhabi Police. He also said there wasn’t a safe distance between the two vehicles.

“Twenty-two people were dead at the scene and the bodies were taken to Al Ain Hospital. There were 24 others injured, and their injuries ranged from minor and moderate to serious,” he added.

The accident is thought to be the worst in the history of the UAE.

Police sources said the injured sustained moderate to serious injuries. A total of 11 of them were taken to Tawam Hospital and are currently in stable conditions in intensive care units or in surgery, a hospital employee said. The dead, all of whom were Asian, were taken to Al Ain Hospital.

Brig Gen Al Harthi along with other senior police officials reported to the site of the crash.

Five of the injured men were transferred to Al Noor Hospital, where three were treated for minor injuries, said a member of staff.

“We received five patients in our ER department, and the nature of the injuries varied,” he said.

“Two of them were minor and were treated and sent home. One had a foot injury and is still in the hospital but will most likely be sent home.

“The last two, their situation was more critical.”

All police units were immediately dispatched to the scene upon receiving the report to rescue victims that were trapped in the bus and to provide first aid to the injured.

Emergencies and Public Safety ambulance teams from the general directorate for central operations at Abu Dhabi Police, the medical services division at Al Ain Police and Seha transported injured victims to Tawam, Al Ain, Al Noor and specialised care hospitals.

One victim with a severe injury was airlifted to Tawam Hospital.

The director of the Traffic and Patrols Directorate at Abu Dhabi Police urged contracting and general transportation companies officials to ensure the safety of brakes and other parts of their vehicles before departure and to take buses and lorries off the road in times of fog and rain. He also urged motorists, in general, to avoid overloading their vehicles.

Brig Gen Al Harthi praised the swift response of all police units and expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased and wished the injured a quick recovery.

My comments as follows:

Extremely sad to read about this tragedy, probably the worst in the history of UAE in a single one on one collision. While we all pray for the departed souls, let the authorities come out with stricter rules on speeding. The speed of buses transporting labourers to and from work in the morning and afternoon hours are scary and at times dangerous for those who are cautious on the road. Refresher courses on road safety and vehicle condition to all heavy duty drivers every year or two as they renew their visas is an option to educate them about newer conditions and road realities. Companies handling heavy vehicles and drivers should also think about having a safety expert or seek training through authorized safety institutes approved by police to give continuous guidance to drivers to adhere to road safety guidelines all the time.

 RameshMenon Abu Dhabi

To read it in original, please visit The National online.

For more pictures, please visit The National online

Safer roads – Letters to the Editor – Gulf News Dt 31 Jan 2013

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Safer roads

I took a look at the newspaper recently and was horrified to see the photo of a totally burned car, resulting in the death of an Emirati – yet another victim of speeding on our roads. A search of news reports over the past two months showed me at least 12 other similar deaths due to speeding. What’s happening to our drivers?

There is clearly a crisis.

A closer look revealed the alarming fact that most of these vehicles are driven by educated men and women.

Does this show that there is a lack of willingness to acknowledge and respect safety initiatives in place?
If so, it has to be controlled by initiating stricter rules and regulations so that no life is lost due to dangerous driving.

I suggest the authorities bring in a fine system which is pro rata, based on the type and model of the vehicle and driver involved. In addition, all automobile dealers should be requested to give a 2-3 hour mandatory safety training to the new owner, with a certification issued after successful completion that he is well aware of the controls of the car he is going to own and fit and safe enough to drive it.

I wish to see zero tolerance on speeding on our roads and no fatalities in the future, as a result. 

From Mr Ramesh Menon Abu Dhabi
To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS online

The thoughts behind my letter were based on these news items published in the GULF NEWS:

Tunnel speed limit should be uniform

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Tunnel speed limit should be uniform

The new Sheihk Zayed Tunnel in Abu Dhabi looks beautiful and is a state-of-the-art structure that will serve the growth of Abu Dhabi for years to come.
However, when I use it, I am confused by the implementation of several different speed limits along the tunnel.
I am a cautious driver who likes to remain below the displayed speed limit, but I too often find cars speeding up to me, flashing their lights, despite clear signs saying that the limit is 60km/h or 80km/h.
The authorities must find a way to book those drivers who break the limits or there will be many accidents in the tunnel.
I also think they should establish just one speed limit for the entire length of the tunnel, obviating the need for people to speed up or slow down.
Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi

To read it in original, pleas visit THE NATIONAL online

Abu Dhabi Police launch pedestrian safety drive

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Abu Dhabi Police launch pedestrian safety drive150 killed and almost 1000 run over last year By Nada Al Taher and Aghaddir Ali, Staff Reporters Published: 18:43 January 7, 2013

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Police launched the first road safety campaign for pedestrians in 2013 after reports that more than 150 people were killed and almost 1000 run over in accidents during the first 10 months of last year across the Emirates.

The number of deaths of pedestrians is almost double the 83 that were recorded in 2011.

According to Brigadier General Ghaith Hassan Al Zaabi, Director General of Traffic Coordination Department at the Ministry of Interior, people being run over constitutes 18.65 per cent of the total number of deaths and 15.35 per cent of traffic accidents in the UAE. Moreover, almost 30 per cent of injuries during the first 10 months of 2012 were caused by people being hit by vehicles, the official said in a statement.

So far, it is not clear whether or not pedestrian accidents have decreased from 2011 to 2012, but Dubai Police statements claim that being run over is the leading cause of road deaths in the Emirate. In 2012, Gulf News reported a 20.7 per cent reduction such incidents between January 1 and September 30, with 46 deaths reported compared to 58 over the same period in 2011.

The figures led many motorists to call for stricter penalties for jay-walkers.

“Frequently, pedestrians would jump from the side of the road on to a busy street and I would have to do my best to control my car and attempt to dodge them,” said Syrian driver and automobile valuation analyst Ahmad Zendaki. “The law in the UAE is strict on jay-walkers but is also harsh on the motorists who hit them until the pedestrian is proven guilty. Charging them heftier fines and building overpasses in areas where jay-walking is recurrent may help ease problems because they are endangering their own lives as well as others.”

Drivers travelling at 60km/h may not be able to stop in time if pedestrians appear a short distance (of a few metres) ahead, the director of the Dubai Police Traffic department told Gulf News.

Colonel Hamad Al Ameri, director of the Abu Dhabi Police Traffic and Patrol Directorate, said the reduction in people being run over in the capital was a result of the efforts of police officials in Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain and Al Gharbia (Western Region). Efforts in Dubai are also aiming to curb such accidents as the Dubai Police traffic department expressed its will to tighten penalties against offenders last year.

According to the Federal Traffic Law’s article 7, those who cross the street from undesignated areas will be fined Dh200. Similarly, motorists who do not give priority to pedestrians on zebra crossings will also be fined Dh500 and six black points, according to Al Zaabi. 

The official said that crossing the road from non-designated areas and drivers’ not giving pedestrians road priority are dangerous traffic offences, therefore it is vital, he said, that road users become more aware on topics relating to pedestrian-safety.

Al Zaabi also explained that there are basic rules that both motorists and pedestrians should abide by and that cooperation between both groups is essential in ensuring a safe road environment. The Ministry of Interior launched the awareness campaign titled Pedestrian Safety is Our Responsibility as an initiative to improve overall road safety. The campaign will continue until March.

My comments as follows:

Congratulations to Abu Dhabi authorities for initiating this campaign at the beginning of a new year. Indeed, “Pedestrian Safety is Our Responsibility” and each road user has to constantly remind themselfves of this. There are several heavy usage sectors like Abu Dhabi Mall, Hamdan Street and Airport Road where one will get to see violators at any given point of day or night. How many hours the authorities can man these roads by policing in uniform or not is a question once again to the general public. The rate of accidents have reduced due to strict laws. However, general awareness campaigns showing the consequences to undergo as an accident victim, either as a pedestrian or as a driver involved should be highlighted repeatedly. The recovery time, the legal proecss, etc are too long and harsh when compared to a few minutes of delay taken to follow the path at designated areas. Let us all support the authorities by following the road safety rules strictly. Community Organisations and companies should educate and remind members and staff on a regular basis the importance of road safety in tandem with Police support.

Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS online.