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Overseas Indian Centre to be opened in Dubai

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Overseas Indian Centre to be opened in Dubai
By Riyasbabu (Our staff reporter) KHALEEJ TIMES 1 April 2008

DUBAI — India will soon open an Overseas Indian Centre in Dubai to facilitate legal, medical and financial counselling to its nationals based in the Gulf, said Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.

Speaking to Khaleej Times over the telephone from India, Ravi said, his ministry has begun to implement the proposal and a similar centre has already started functioning in Washington.

“Dubai centre will have a director and supporting staff and it will work under the Indian Embassy. The centre will coordinate with Indian doctors, solicitors and financial consultants living in the region and facilitate services to the Indian expatriates,” Ravi said.

“I cannot say when the centre will open. We are working on it at the moment and we will start operations as soon as possible. The Centre will coordinate its activities with the Indian diplomatic missions in the Gulf,” he added.

“India had plans to start a similar centre in Kuala Lumpur to cater to the Indians based in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei but the plan has been stalled for now,” Ravi stated.

Elaborating the aim of the centre, the minister said, the centre will educate the Indians living in the region about their rights and obligations and ensure that they are not exploited.

He revealed that six posts have been created in Dubai under the Indian consulate to operate the centre and the staff will be professionals with legal, medical and financial expertise.

“The legal cell in the centre will run awareness campaigns among Indians about their rights and give advice to Indian citizens in case of disputes with employers.

“The medical cell will provide medical support, including psychiatric counselling, while the financial cell will provide financial advice on transfer of funds, savings and investments,” Ravi said.

The centre, Ravi said, will also focus on the issues of women and provide all the necessary assistance to them in times of need.

If you are illegal for less than three months, you can legalise your status

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If you are illegal for less than three months, you can legalise your statusBy Ahmed Abdul Aziz (Our staff reporter)KHALEEJ TIMES 1 April 2008

ABU DHABI — If you are an illegal resident in the UAE or your driver or maid has an expired visa for less than three months you can go to the Naturalisation and Residency Department (NRD) and legalise the status without being penalised, according to Major Hilal Aida Al Mazrouei, Director of the Department of Illegals.

He told Khaleej Times that the work on following-up on illegal workers in the country will take a different shape as we seek the cooperation of all the sponsors in the society — nationals, expatriates and the illegals themselves – to weed out this problem.

The move will enable sponsors to legalise the status of their housemaids and domestic servants’ if their visas have expired. They can do this by going to the courts, which will waive the fines and legalise their status by renewing the visa or transferring the sponsorship.

In the past, one month was given as grace period to the sponsors to renew the visas of their workers, maids, domestic servants, relatives and dependants. However, the new decision now allows them up to three months.

Meanwhile, the NRDs countrywide have launched inspection campaigns to flush out illegals.

“We are on the move in the light of the directives of Minister of Interior Lt-Gen. Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” said Major Al Mazrouei.

He added that the inspection campaigns teams arrested about 80 illegals yesterday in the capital.

Al Ain bans smoking in malls, restaurants

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Al Ain bans smoking in malls, restaurants
By Lana Mahdi (Our staff reporter)KHALEEJ TIMES 1 April 2008

AL AIN — The Al Ain Municipality has decided to regulate smoking in all enclosed public places, including shopping centres, malls and restaurants.

Awad bin Hasoum Al Darmaky, Director-General of the municipality, said yesterday that the ban would be enforced from April 15.

Al Darmaky said the move is in line with the national campaign against smoking which is the main cause of several diseases.

He highlighted that the Public Health Administration, which is part of the Al Ain Municipality, will organise inspection campaigns to ensure that the decision will be enforced.

Al Darmaky said all malls, shopping centres, restaurants and all enclosed public facilities will be no-smoking zones.

Violators of the ban would face stiff penalties, he added.

The regulation is aimed at assisting people who want to quit smoking by creating a helpful environment for them and the passive smokers who suffer due to the bad habit of others.

It may be mentioned that the Al Ain Municipality had already banned smoking in the offices of its departments. The ban came into effect on April 1, 2007.

Passenger bus rams into the middle of bridge in Sharjah

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Passenger bus rams into the middle of bridge in Sharjah
Staff Report GULF NEWS Published: March 30, 2008, 11:05

Sharjah: A passenger bus bound to Dubai from Sharjah rammed into the median of a bridge in Arouba Street near Al Khan Road, Sharjah, early on Sunday.

The cause of the accident is still being verified. Two passengers sustained minor injuries, said a passenger.

The accident sparked massive traffic jams, blocking motorists trying to get to work after the weekend.

RTA sets up a new agency to regulate driving licences

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RTA sets up a new agency to regulate driving licences
By a staff reporter 30 March 2008 KHALEEJ TIMES

DUBAI — Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, has ordered the setting up of the Licensing Agency within the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). Ahmed Bahrouzyan will be the chief executive officer of the agency.

The Licensing Agency will be responsible for licensing driving institutes and centres as well as training instructors and inspectors of drivers and vehicles.

It will also be responsible for testing and licensing of drivers and vehicles along with endorsing the conditions and guidelines governing training of drivers.

The agency will regulate circulation of number plates and manage public auction of number plates.

Among the other tasks of the agency will be developing and updating database of drivers and vehicles, issuance of No Objection Certificates with respect to commercial and tourist activities related to transport, in addition to controlling the performance of driving institutes, vehicle testers and commercial activities of transport.

The CEO of Licensing Agency will oversee the administrative affairs of the agency, prepare a work plan of the agency together with its annual budget estimates for submission to the Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA.

The CEO will implement the approved annual plan of the agency, realise the targeted performance results, submit the periodical performance reports to the chairman and draft rules and regulations related to the business of the agency.

Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA, pointed out that the aim of establishing an agency dedicated to licensing is to enhance the level of services rendered so as to win customer satisfaction. It also aims at educating and heightening the awareness of all types of road users.

The decision to establish the agency is also dictated by the increasing numbers of licensed drivers in the emirate. The number of driving licences issued last year reached 89,475. The number of registered vehicles was 848,357, of which 802,376 are light vehicles and 45,981 are heavy trucks

15 double-deckers to ply between Dubai and Sharjah from September

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15 double-deckers to ply between Dubai and Sharjah from September
By Joy Sengupta (Our staff reporter)30 March 2008 KHALEEJ TIMES

DUBAI — A new fleet of double-decker buses would be transporting passengers between Dubai and Sharjah from September this year, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced.

Abdullah Yousuf Al Ali, Director of the Public Buses Department at the Public Transport Agency in the RTA, said, “We will be starting with 15 double-decker buses in September this year. The number will be raised to a total of 70 in the coming months. With the number of passengers travelling between the two emirates fast increasing, these buses will be very helpful.”

Al Ali added that the buses would be linked with the control centre through the GPS system and people with special needs will be able to board the buses with their wheelchairs and also be able to move around in the bus.

The new buses will be equipped with the eco-friendly Euro IV engines.

“The service will help in the development and expansion of the bus network between Dubai and the rest of the country. The new buses will also strengthen the position of Dubai as a commercial and regional economic centre and a point of attraction for investors and businessmen from all over the world,” added Al Ali.

Air fares set to rise again

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Air fares set to rise again
By Zoe Sinclair (Our staff reporter)KHALEEJ TIMES 28 March 2008

DUBAI — Passengers’ pockets are likely to be hit again with airlines serving the UAE yesterday indicating fare increases due to escalating fuel prices.

The price of oil is circling around $110 per barrel while the UK airports — Heathrow and Gatwick — have raised taxes. The airlines are being forced to consider passing the cost on to their passengers.

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark announced on March 5 it would be increasing fares amid plans to cut costs by $100 million.

A statement this week revealed fares were increased by 5.5 per cent as of February 15.

“Emirates increased fares by 5.5 per cent across all three classes — First, Business and Economy — with effect from February 15,” a spokesperson said.

“Our fares incorporate our operating costs which include fuel, salaries, taxes, fees for use of facilities and other costs of operation. As with every airline, pricing is also subject to market forces and we will continue to evaluate our fare structure based on these.

“The staggering increase in fuel prices has had an inflationary effect on all our operational costs. However, Emirates will continue to work very hard to shield our customers from any price fluctuations,” the spokesperson said.

A British Airways spokesperson has indicated it would cover the passengers’ airport taxes for those who had already purchased tickets.

However, the airline would in future pass on some of the additional cost of airport taxes to its passengers.

The airline currently charges a fuel surcharge on its tickets and said it was continually reviewing the situation as to whether any increases had to be made. An Air Arabia spokesperson said the airline had included a fuel surcharge in its ticket fare but had not increased this charge for the past year.

“We usually do our best not to increase ticket prices as per the cost of fuel,” the spokesperson said.

“This (a fuel surcharge increase) is an option to consider if the fuel prices keep rising.”

Etihad Airways spokesperson Thomas Clarke said the airline was continually reviewing fuel prices but used tactics, including hedging, to avoid peak prices.

“Rising fuel costs are a challenge for all airlines and remain a significant proportion of Etihad’s total costs,” Clarke said.

“Our hedging policy helps us to achieve greater certainty and allows us to manage seasonal fluctuations.

“Fuel costs represent about one-third of Etihad’s total costs.”

Thick blanket of smoke envelops Dubai after Al Quoz fire

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Thick blanket of smoke envelops Dubai after Al Quoz fire By Alia Al Theeb, Kevin Scott and Alice Johnson, Staff Reporters GULF NEWS Last updated: March 26, 2008, 20:53

Dubai: Two people were killed and five injured when a huge explosion ripped through a warehouse in Dubai’s Al Quoz industrial area on Wednesday.

Three people are also unaccounted for as a result of the fire which sent plumes of black smoke spiralling across Dubai on Wednesday morning.

Three firefighters suffered moderate burns trying to contain the inferno and two passersby were also hurt.

The fire, which started in a warehouse that stored fireworks illegally, soon spread to more than 70 warehouses that stocked a variety of goods, ranging from electrical equipment, clothes, plastic toys and food.

The losses have been estimated at around Dh600 million.

A 29-year-old Filipino died after being hit by a piece of flying shrapnel and another person — still to be identified — was in the warehouse when it exploded.

Dubai police said one person is missing.

A huge mushroom cloud of smoke formed over the city’s skyline after the explosion at about 7.15am. Thousands of residents were woken by the huge blast and the trail of smoke was visible to motorists making their way to work all over the city.

Debris from the fire spread across the area, reaching as far as Safa and Jumeirah.

Dubai Civil Defence said illegal fireworks had been stored in the warehouse, hindering the control operation. Firefighters also blamed the presence of flammable materials as a factor contributing to the ferocity of the fire.

The blaze was eventually brought under control by late evening.

Flames covered one square kilometre of the industrial estate.
The UAE armed forces, along with teams from Abu Dhabi Police and Civil Defence personnel from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, and Al Ain, helped Dubai personnel in fighting the fire. The department of Environment, Health and Safety at Jebel Ali also joined the efforts.

Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, Director of Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), said the owner of the warehouse containing the firecrackers has been detained and is being interrogated.

Al Mazeina said investigations were ongoing to discover how the firecrackers were brought into the country. He said the authorities were waiting for firefighters to complete cooling operations before examining the scene.

The Roads and Transport Authority closed a number of roads around the blast site, leading to huge traffic jams on major arteries including Shaikh Zayed Road, Al Khail Road, Muscat Road and Umm Suqueim Road.

Hussain Al Banna, Director of the Right of Way Services Department and head of the emergency team, said: “The road closures were intended to provide easy access for fire engines as well as rescue and ambulance vehicles.”

History of disasters

– February 6, 2003: Powerful explosion and fire rip apart three warehouses in Al Qouz. Seven people were killed. Ten others were also injured in the blast said to caused by firecrackers.- March 13: Massive warehouse blaze in Al Quoz, but no one was injured. Some 2,660 barrels of petroleum compounds and 6,500 lumber planks, which were soaked in a highly inflammable liquid were gutted.

– August 9: A fire destroys workshop of a factory in Al Quoz Industrial Area. No injuries reported.

–January 24, 2004: Goods worth over Dh15 million go up in smoke when a massive fire destroyed at least three warehouses in the Al Quoz Industrial Area. No injuries or casualties reported in the incident

–May 2: Fire guts two warehouses in Al Quoz Industrial area, causing more than Dh10 million in damage.

–April 1, 2007: Fire guts a warehouse and three others partly burn down. No injuries were reported. The fire broke out in a warehouse which stocked paint and construction materials and spread to the surrounding warehouses.

–March 18: Huge blaze breaks out at a site for recycling paper in Al Quoz Industrial area number 3 behind Al Ghurair University. No injuries were reported in the fire.

Expat pension plan under study

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Expat pension plan under study
Gulf News Report Published: March 27, 2008, 00:18

Abu Dhabi: Expatriates are likely to be brought under the national pension scheme, according to a government plan.

A proposed “Pension Savings” draft law is being studied by the General Authority for Pensions and Social Insurance (GAPSI), and aims to include all expatriates working in the public and private sectors, a senior official said yesterday.

At present, pensions in the private sector are provided through an end-of-service payment (gratuity) relative to the employee’s length of service calculated on the basis of basic salary.

“The law is still being studied, and we expect the studies to conclude by the end of April, and that will be followed by receiving the necessary initial approvals,” Abdul Rahman Al Baqer, GAPSI’s deputy director, told Gulf News.

Raft of proposals

“The proposal covers all expats in the country’s public or private sectors, and I want to make it clear that this endeavour was not commissioned or directed by the government … it comes as an initiative from the authority itself according to the outline set by the leadership, within the framework of our strategy to include all those working in the UAE in the pensions scheme,” Al Baqer said.

The study includes various pension proposals and mechanisms to implement it. “We are not consulting businessmen or companies over the proposed legislation,” Al Baqer said.

As per the proposed legislation, the pension amount will be collected by an entity other than the companies of the employees, through monthly subscriptions to be cut from their salaries in favour of their respective accounts with GAPSI.

Camel gala offers Dh35m in prizes

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Camel gala offers Dh35m in prizes
By Eman Mohammed, Abu Dhabi Deputy Editor GULF NEWS Published: March 26, 2008, 00:06

Abu Dhabi: A total of Dh35 million prize money is to be given away during the first Mazayin Dhafra Camel Festival being organised in the Western Region next month, said an official.

Ganem Huraiz Al Mazroui, director of the competition, told a press conferenceon Tuesday the winners will get Dh35 million in cash prizes and 100 cars will also be given away.

He said around 2,000 competitors had registered for the competition so far and the number is expected to increase.

A ‘camel beauty contest’ among other activities will be held during the festival at Zayed City in the Western Region from April 2 to 10.

The festival is being organised by Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) and sponsored by General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, as part of ADACH’s efforts to promote local folklore through cultural events.

The participating camels are required to be of pure-bred origin and free from any contagious diseases. The camels are to be divided into age groups and owners can participate with more than one camel as long as they can prove ownership.

Mohammad Khalaf Al Mazroui, Director-General of ADACH, and deputy-head of the festival’s committee sees the event as a symbol of the significance that camels enjoy in Arab culture.

“We hope that this event will become an annual one so we preserve that part of our heritage,” Al Mazroui said.

Praise: ‘Part of heritage’

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Butti Al Hamed, Head of the High Committee for the Festival, Representative of the Ruler at the Western Region, praised the status camels held in traditional Arab life.

“Although the camel has always been a companion to the Arab during his travel in the old days, today camels still play a part in our lives, as thousands of people continue to attend camel races and watch what is perceived as part of our heritage.”