News headlines

Excerpts from U.A.E. Dailies

Ministry sets midday break timing

Dubai: 03 June: The midday break for construction workers has been cut by an hour and a half compared to last year when workers were given four hours to rest from 12.30 to 4.30pm in July and August, as per a circular issued by the Labour Ministry.

Construction companies which violate the rule will be named and shamed in public, the ministry said.

The break this year will be effective from July 1 to August 30, from 12.30 to 3pm, said Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Minister of Labour.

If construction companies are found violating the decision, the names of the establishment, the directors and owners shall be published in daily newspapers, according to the circular.

The new shift schedule should be written in Arabic and a language understood by workers, and should be clearly posted for all to see, it said.

If workers are needed during those hours when the work cannot be stopped, due to technical reasons, employers are excluded from following the regulation but have to provide the facilities of desalinated water, first aid, cooling systems and sheds to protect the workers from direct sunlight, the circular said.

Workers, sponsors, business owners, main contractors and directors shall be held responsible for any violations, it said.

Despite the shorter breaks, workers welcomed the move and said they were happy.

Nanak, who works as a steel fitter in a company in Sharjah, said he was glad to hear the news and will tell his colleagues. "The heat did not affect me last year," he said.

Pardeep, another construction labourer in Sharjah, said some of his colleagues fall ill during the summer. "They are brought back to the camp and told to rest in an air-conditioned room," he said. "I am from Punjab, but the heat here is even more intense."

Getting tough: Hefty fines and punishment

Companies found violating the order for the first time will face a fine of Dh10,000, and its applications for new labour permits will be suspended for three months, as per the Cabinet decision in 2005.

Second time violators will face a Dh20,000 fine and labour permit applications will be suspended for six months. If companies are found violating for the third time, a fine of Dh30,000 will be levied and the company will not be able to issue new labour permits for one year.

Last year, 12 companies violated the regulation, and faced a fine of Dh3,000 for each worker made to work in uncovered sites during the break.


‘Dubai is not a bubble’

Dubai : 03 June: The phenomenal growth of Dubai and the emirate’s impressive development experience cannot be described as a “bubble”, and those who label it so fail to understand the meaning of development and economic progress.

This was stated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in his first inter view with a pan-Arab publication in his capacity as Vice-President and Prime Minister of the sevenemirate federation. He assumed his new duties on January 5, 2006.

Dubai has stunned the world with its phenomenal growth over the past few years, prompting some to call it a “bubble” waiting to burst.

Sheikh Mohammed, answering a question on how best to avoid the negative impact of the highspeed implementation of development projects, said that if the gov ernment listened to the “bubble talk, we would not have achieved anything.We have heard this word for decades and with every project we carried out. And when the word ‘bubble’ loses its effectiveness, we hear about the ‘white elephant’, describing some giant projects, like the aluminium project, Jebel Ali Port, the World Trade Centre, Palm Islands, Burj Al Arab and others.

“The ‘bubble talk’ is rampant in the region and affects all successful development operations. If you ask those who use this term about the meaning intended, you would only find the ‘bubble’ answers that have nothing to do with economy, development, knowledge or reality,” Sheikh Mohammed added.

As optimistic as ever, Sheikh Mohammed also spoke about the future and Arab and regional issues.

Domestic issues were also discussed, with a particular stress on the efficiency of his new Cabinet. He expressed confidence that the federal duties will be handled with the same level of efficiency as those in the emirate of Dubai.

Sheikh Mohammed also spoke of the imbalance in the UAE demographic structure and the means to tackle this problem.

On the political level, Sheikh Mohammed denied that the UAE would pay a political price for the Free Trade Agreement being negotiated with the United States. He expressed confidence in the joint action of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC), stressing the critical role of the private sector in pushing the AGCC’s development march forward.AGCC fears over the Iranian nuclear installations were “legitimate”, said Sheikh Mohammed.

On Iraq, Sheikh Mohammed said the country should be acknowledged as a multi-ethnic entity with different religions and sects, and underlined that agreement among various factions is the only solution to protect Iraq against entering a dark tunnel.


ATM gangs blocked after customer cards cancelled

Dubai - 03 June:International fraudsters got away with “tens of thousands of dirhams” after targeting ATMs in Dubai, leading bank chiefs said yesterday.

Thousands of bank customers from a swathe of UAE banks have had their cards cancelled after the Emirates bank ATM in Umm Suqeim was targeted more than a week ago.

It is believed a second ATM was also targeted after the Emirates Central Bank – the UAE’s banking regulatory body – sent out an urgent message to all UAE banks saying two ATMs had been targeted and instructing banks to cancel any cards that could potentially have been cloned.

The criminals wired the data to Eastern Europe where they made new cards and set out on a spending spree that was quickly stopped by UAE banks.

But many customers do not yet know their cards have been cancelled. Kate Linsell, a Commercial Bank of Dubai customer, only found out on Thursday night when she tried to pay for a meal and had her card confiscated by the restaurant.

She said: “It was very embarrassing. Why couldn’t the bank just have got in touch?” Lou Scotto, general manager of retail banking at Emirates Bank, said the fraudsters’ ill-gotten money had been restricted to tens of thousands of dirhams, spent in countries outside the Arab World.

Bank staff became suspicious when they noticed the same car repeatedly coming to a halt outside the Umm Suqeim ATM for a few minutes before driving off again, he said.

The fraudsters were using a laptop computer to remotely download information copied from cards by a “skimming” device attached to the slot in the ATM machine.

At the same time a tiny camera recorded the customers as they tapped in their PIN numbers.

Having both the card’s magnetic information and the PIN number allowed the fraudsters to create fake cards to break into the banking system and withdraw money. But when the fraudsters began to use the cloned cards in counties outside the Arab World, their purchases were logged by Emirates Bank staff because transactions outside the UAE are automatically flagged up.

As a result, the bank was able to “slam down” the countries affected and other countries considered to be at risk and the fraud was restricted to tens of thousands of dirhams, Scotto said.

Scotto said: “A handful of transactions showed up outside the Arab World but we restricted it to tens of thousands of dirhams.

“If they had used the cloned cards inside the UAE before we cancelled them, the transactions would not have shown up as suspect.” He added that bank staff and police were scouring CCTV footage to try to identify the culprits.

Emirates Bank has cancelled about 1,300 cards used at the ATM before the fraud was discovered. Other banks such as Lloyds TSB have also cancelled cards following the fraud.


Passengers escape bus fire unhurt

Dubai - 03 June: Passengers had to flee a bus yesterday when it caught fire on a road in the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

The Mitsubishi minibus was gutted by the blaze, but the driver and passengers escaped unhurt.

“The fire on the minibus happened during prayer time and there were only six to eight passengers in the bus. A minibus can accommodate about 25 passen gers. If it was a normal time, more people would have been travelling,” said a safety engineer working in the free zone.

A Dubai police official patrolling the area said that the fire was controlled by the Civil Defence team and that no one was injured.

“The fire brigade came to the scene and controlled the fire. I was supposed to be driving the vehicle on the next trip. It is totally burnt and only the metal structure remains,” said an employee of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

This is the third instance of an RTA bus catching fire this year.

In April 2006, a larger bus caught fire in Jumeirah due to technical faults. Another vehicle then caught fire near the Gold Souq bus station.

The series of fires, which is being partly blamed on high temperatures, is being taken seriously by regular commuters who we spoke to, although no injuries have been reported.

According to the RTA website, its fleet is made of top quality custom-built buses equipped with individual seats, air-conditioning, electronically operated destination display system and computerised fare equipment.

Emirates Today could not get a comment from the RTA officials in regards to the latest incident, but previous cases have been put down to varying technical issues.


Many Indians make use of crisis prevention plan

Dubai: 03 June: The crisis prevention programme launched less than a fortnight ago at the Indian consulate in Dubai has already received 40 calls for help from community members.

The majority of calls are from people suffering from depression and anxiety caused by marital discord.

"The calls were from people from all walks of life. We had labourers coming to us and complaining of acute depression. Some were at the point of committing suicide," said Rachana Buxani, one of the professionals who helped initiate the programme.

The programme according to senior community members could not have come at a more appropriate time since the suicide rate in the community has reached an alarming level.

A dedicated phone line is established at the consulate for the service which is operational from 11am to 6pm. Counselling sessions take place twice a week.

The services include suicide prevention, stress management, family conflicts, academic and peer counselling and others.

According to the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, a UAE-based organisation, there were 84 suicides among Indian expatriates in the UAE in 2005, up from 70 in 2004.

The figures served as a rude awakening to the plight of Indian labourers as a result of which a proposal was also made by Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi to establish overseas counselling centres in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Finance.

Case studies

A labourer suffering from acute depression was on the verge of committing suicide. The counsellors got in touch with his employer and solved his situation.

Another Indian facing financial problems resorted to alcohol. His family, which included two daughters, was affected by his excessive drinking. He sought help from the programme. His case was referred to Alcoholics Anonymous.

An Indian woman complained about her abusive husband. Both husband and wife are now undergoing counselling.


Airport Road to be closed partially from today

Abu Dhabi: 03 June: The Department of Traffic and Patrols at the Abu Dhabi Police headquarters has announced that the right lane between Al Maqta bridge and the Zayed Sports City intersection will be closed for seven months due to maintenance and road activities. The maintenance work on Rasheed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street (also known as Airport Road) will begin today, and the lane closure will be done in stages. The Department of Traffic and Patrols urges all road users to take necessary precautions while travelling through this area.

Libraries: Summer camps to begin today

Dubai: Dubai Municipality's Public Libraries Section has announced the launch of its summer activities this year, which commences from today with the Faith Environs. Mohammad Jasem Al Eraidi, Head of the Public Libraries Section said the summer activities for this year is divided into five environs starting from today and ending on July 26. The Faith Environs will be followed by Art Environs, Food Environs, Colour Environs and Hobby Environs. At the end of all the environs, the Public Libraries Award for the Best Creative Child will be given for the children in the age group of 6-16 years, an official said. Children would be received at the libraries at Hor Al Anz, Rashidiya, Safa and Hatta from 8.30am to 1.30pm and 3.30 to 8.30pm from Saturday to Wednesday and in the mornings only on Thursdays.


Hostage drama in Sharjah as man threatens to kill all five of his kids

SHARJAH — 03 June: The Sharjah Police arrested yesterday a father of five who detained all his children in a house in Al Hairah Area, and threatened to kill them using a sword, according to a police source. The source said that the 55-year-old man — who cannot be named for legal reasons — was suffering from a mental disorder and was an alcoholic.

He detained his children and threatened to kill them for no apparent reason. His wife — who was also not named by the police — said that her husband was jobless, and never made an effort to look out for a job to keep himself busy and take care of the children. She said he always quarrelled and fought with the children and other family members.

The children, whose ages range between 3 and 11, were very terrified and scared of their own father. They were screaming badly and crying, seeking the help  of others. He threatened to harm the children if somebody tried to approach him. The children’s mother called the police on Thursday evening and informed the duty officers about the case. A team of officers from the Al Hairah Police Station, headed by Brigadier Ali Nasser Al Fardan, arrived at the house where the father was detaining his children.

They saw that he was holding a sword in his hand and had locked the door from inside, threatening the police that if anyone tried to approach him, he would harm the children. After the police followed precautionary procedures to protect the children from being harmed by their father, Brig. Al Fardan held negotiations with the father and succeeded in convincing him to release the innocent children who should not be blamed for the mistakes of others. The father agreed to release the children. He was arrested by the police, and they referred him to a psychiatrist whose report proved that he was abnormal and an alcoholic. When the police searched the house which belonged to him and where he had detained the children, they found a large number of arms, including swords. The case was referred to the Sharjah public prosecution


Indian worker’s dream turns sour

DUBAI — 03 June : He came to the UAE 10 years ago with a dream to provide a decent living for his family back home in India. But fate had something else in store for him.

Muthayya Devar Sornam, a 40-year old Indian national from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, left yesterday in a semi-paralysed condition after spending four months in Rashid Hospital.

Muthayya came to Dubai in 1996 and was working with a catering company. Six months ago he left the company following some dispute regarding his payments. Since then he was working in the construction sector.  "The company was not paying the salary on time and he could not meet his financial commitments in India as well as manage his affairs here. The consequent stress led to severe headaches which in turn caused interal cerebral bleeding. He was admitted to the Rashid Hospital where they have performed two surgeries to cure his illness," said Mathew, a volunteer of Sneha thazhvara, the organisation which co-ordinated the repatriation of Muthayyah.

"He was however paralysed and disoriented," added Mathew.

He disclosed that the Indian Consulate Welfare Committee has provided an air ticket for Muthayyah while Rashid Hospital waived his medical treatment charges.

“The problem is not solved yet. He needs more money for further treatment and his other financial commitments," Mathew said, adding, "We are trying to help him as much as possible. But we hope that some good samaritans will come forward to assist as well.”




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