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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

City areas may face shortage of taxis

DUBAI — Sept. 19:If traffic conditions continue to remain the same in Dubai city, everyday commuters might soon be facing a scarcity of taxis. Tired of everyday traffic snarls, a majority of taxi drivers now are beginning to ply in the outskirts like Jebel Ali and Al Quoz in order to make both ends meet.

According to them, finding customers in the city might be a bit easier, but then they are not able to make much money owing to traffic jams. Plying in the outskirts is comparatively easy as they do find customers and can drive without applying brakes too frequently and standing still for a long time.

Each of these taxi drivers gets a commission on the basis of total earnings per month. “We are not given a fixed salary. Suppose we earn Dh12,500 in one month, the company gives us Dh3,500 only. Moreover, our duty timings are also fixed. We generally drive for 6 to 8 hours at one stretch before handing the vehicle to the next driver. And now, driving in the city is nothing but a loss for us, ” said Mohammed Ashfaq, a driver with the National Taxi.

“The fare from the Bur Dubai Bus Stand to Deira comes to around Dh13 to Dh15. There have been many instances when I had to stand for at least one hour or more to just cross the Maktoum Bridge. In such a case, how am I supposed to meet the target? These days, I have just stopped plying in that stretch of the road in the evening time. Generally, it would take just 15 minutes. We have to stand for more than an hour for just Dh15. And our duty time is fixed. In one hour’s time, we can make at least two to three trips in the Jumeirah area and make Dh50 or even more,” he added.

The drivers said that with the taxi meter remaining stable whenever the car stops, driving in the city was nothing less than a loss for them these days. “I have seen the taxis in India. Even though the vehicle is caught in a jam, the meter keeps rolling. Here, the case is not the same. In one instance, a passenger

boarded my taxi near Karama and asked me to go to the Bank Street in Bur Dubai. Five minutes after I had started, we got caught in a huge jam near the Burjuman Centre. With no movement of traffic at all for more than an hour, the passenger just opened the door and walked off. And I had to stand like a fool for another 45 minutes. So, one hour and forty five minutes were wasted for nothing. In such a case, how do we survive?” remarked Shaukat Ali, a driver with the Citi Taxi.

The officials of the taxi companies also nodded about the problem faced by their employees. “Yes, it is true. Nowadays, the problems have multiplied with the constant traffic congestion. We also understand the problems of the drivers,” said an official of the National Taxi.

The drivers said that moving along the suburbs of Dubai was the only way out for them. “Why should we waste our time in the city? In places like Jebel Ali, Al Quoz, Jumeirah etc, we can move freely, and it is also easy to find customers. We can make several trips in the given time-frame. It is much more easy for us rather than getting stuck for no reason at all,” they added.


Small realtors find novel way to fleece customers

DUBAI — Sept.19: With rents skyrocketing almost daily in Dubai and desperate customers approaching prominent real estate agents, small operators in the business have adopted a new scheme to earn some quick money: it is dubbed the ‘service charge’ or a ‘showing charge’.

According to market sources, some real estate agents have started charging a ‘small’ fee ranging from Dh300 to Dh600 for showing accommodation available for rent.

If a customer falls into their trap, he or she would have to shell out this fee even if the person eventually decides not to rent the flat.

Officials of some of these small companies insist that all real estate companies, whether big or small, have started charging this fee.

As an agent of the Faizal Street Real Estate Company said, “We are at one with the new system. The customers will have to pay the amount if we show the flat to them. It is the same with all other companies, although the rates may vary.”

Yet another real estate agent at Al Yasaf Company in  Karama said: “This move is a new one. The standard commission we charged earlier is just not enough these days. And, in any case, we are not doing anything illegal. There is nothing wrong in asking for such a service charge.”

However, the bigger players are apparently unaware of this move by the small and medium-size real estate companies in Dubai. One of them said, “It is just a trick to make some money out of nothing.”

An agent at Comfort Real Estate said, “We have not heard anything about any such service charge. We have never charged such a fee, nor are  any plans to do so. We just charge a flat five per cent commission.” 

Officials of the Green Apple Real Estate also echoed the same view. “We have heard about this practice in Abu Dhabi. There the companies charge this fee. However, we ask for our commission only after a customer has agreed to rent the flat. There have been instances when we have shown them 20 flats and they have rejected them all. Even then we charged nothing.”

Meanwhile, even when it comes to commission rates, it is obvious this rate does not have to be approved by any government office. “How can it be approved by the municipality or any other government office? And this five per cent is flexible. It is based upon a lot of factors. It can never be fixed,” they added.

However, Dubai residents reeling under the pressure of escalating rents and the mounting difficulty in finding small-size apartments at an affordable rent say, the additional payment of a service charge plus commissions will prove difficult for many if not most people.

“This will only add to our burden and woes,” said Shashi Raj, who is frantically looking for a studio apartment in Dubai.

He said house agents often simply end up showing poorly maintained flats. The whole exercise, he added, is a fiasco and a rip off.


Child ‘abused’ at local nursery, claims mother

DUBAI — Sept. 19:A woman has alleged that her son has been ‘abused’ at a local nursery located in an upscale area of Dubai. It happened on his second day in the nursery, she said.

“My two-and-a-half-year-old son, Aristotelis Kannas, recently started going to this British-run nursery in the Mirdiff area. There he has  undergone such a traumatising experience that he cries out in distress when I mention the word ‘school’ to him,” said Alexandra Kannas, a Cypriot, told Khaleej Times yesterday.

She claims that on the second day of his school, when she went to pick up her child, she found him lying with his face down on the floor crying uncontrollably. “He was crying so bitterly. I was pretty upset and asked the class teacher what happened. She said that she was about to change his diapers,” explains Alexandra.

“I later noticed that there were some kinds of bite marks or bruises on his arms. When I asked the teacher, she told me it was paint. But I was really upset and took my child to the police station  in Rashidiya where the officers told me to get my child medically examined,” she said.

She said that the medical examiner in Rashid Hospital’s emergency unit confirmed that the child had multiple bruises on his arm.

“My husband and I are both very upset because of the incident. It seems from his bruises that someone has squeezed his hands hard,” said A. Kannas, father of the child.

“He also says repeatedly that the ‘teacher’ beat him in school. The police have also registered a case against the nursery and we will proceed further,” he added.

Ahmed Habib, one of the members of the group that runs the nursery, said, “We are not sure if the child was really hurt in the school or not because the mother never complained to us directly. We run a nursery of good repute, and never in all these five years since its inception  have we faced any such complaint.”

Another representative from the nursery said, “We do not ill-treat children here. We have a walk-in policy whereby parents can walk in at any time they want and have a look at their child. This parent was very concerned for her child, and did not leave him alone at all.”


New dirham coin to mark 50 years of Dubai Police 

Abu Dhabi: Sept. 19:To mark the 50th anniversary of Dubai Police, the Central Bank of the UAE will be issuing a commemorative dirham coin.

The coin will be issued tomorrow. The coin's face will remain unchanged while its back will feature a commemorative logo. The commemorative coin will be put in circulation through the branches of the Central Bank, as per usual practice.

The commemorative dirham will be 24mm in diameter and it will weigh 6.4 gm. It is an alloy of 75 per cent copper and 25 per cent nickel.


RTA in talks with companies to help ease traffic jams

Dubai: Sept. 19:Tailor-made programmes will be offered to public and private organisations to meet the transport needs of their employees in order to reduce traffic congestion in the city.

The transport solution programmes include car-pooling, flexible working hours and company bus services. They also include the option of working from home for employees whose presence in the office is not necessary.

"We invited Dubai-based employers to work in partnership with us to help reduce traffic congestion on the city's roads," said Salem Al Shafei, Director of the Strategic Transportation Planning Department at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). In addition to expanding Dubai's transportation infrastructure through large-scale road and public transport projects, the RTA is also aiming to provide solutions targeted to improve the mobility of employees.

"The new strategy will give people real alternatives to driving alone in their cars in kilometres of traffic jams. Some of these alternatives considered for the new transport strategy are car sharing, flexible working hours, working from home, discounted bus passes and company transport services," he said.

Al Shafei said these options were viable alternatives to driving alone in a car. He added there were several benefits for employers and employees, such as saving time and money and improving quality of life.

The RTA invites public and private sector organisations to work with its officials to chalk out ways for better transport facilities for their employees.

Who to contact

Any organisation interested in participating in this new initiative, can contact the Strategic Transportation Planning Department at the RTA on 04-206 5161 or Fax No. 04-206 5227.

In early October, participating organisations will be given an employee travel survey form for staff to complete. Based on the survey data, the RTA will offer a tailor-made 'auto trip reduction' programme for participating organisations


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