UAE: Indo-UAE Pact to Benefit Air Travellers

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Indo-UAE pact to benefit air travellers

UAE - Feb. 13: THE new air services agreement between India and the UAE is widely seen as the solution to end travel woes of low-income travellers who have been clamouring for more air carriers to connect their destinations and introduce lower fares during peak periods.

Hitherto served mostly by India's state-owned carriers, Gulf-centric airports like the ones in Kerala, and Hyderabad, were seen as goldmines for other airlines. And when RK Singh, joint secretary in India's ministry of civil aviation signed a new air services agreement with the UAE authorities last week, it was immediately lauded by the Indian community.

A staunch supporter of opening up Indian skies, KV Shamsudheen, chairman of Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust said it would hopefully bring down air fares and help the thousands of low-paid Indian blue collar workers living in the country.

The state-run carriers Indian, Air-India (A-I) and its low cost carrier Air-India Express (AIE) were subject to severe flak for alleged delays, that many expatriate organisations from that part of India interpreted as "step-motherly" treatment towards them. Some politically backed expatriates' organisations even staged sit-ins before the legislature in the Kerala capital, Thiruvananthapuram, seeking to end the "monopoly" of these carriers and usher in competition.

But the airlines have repeatedly refuted these charges and reminded their critics that Kerala airports were as important for them as any other. The pressure mounted my users' groups practically led to the launch of AIE, which replaced the full-service A-I flights to the price-sensitive Kerala airports besides digging its heels in other sectors as well.

The new deal allows Etihad to Chennai and Kozhikode in March, the newly floated RAK Airways will be allowed one of the three airports in Kerala. As against its pitch for nine Indian stations, Etihad was allowed to operate to Kolkata and Jaipur from its winter schedule set for October.

Emirates has also been trying for the Dubai-Kozhikode route, which now seems packed. With the India to Dubai and Sharjah routes fully utilised, sources said it was very unlikely that these would be opened up again to accommodate more carriers.

However, a study by Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation has indicated that the India-Gulf air traffic is set to surge. The report released in May 2007 had forecast double-digit growth for the sector that is witnessing one of the biggest booms in the international aviation market.

Sounding positive on the new air services agreement, Abhay Pathak, regional manager of Indian, told The Gulf Today that he would welcome any competition as the airline was well heeled. "We are not worried about competition, as we have been running these operations since 1992 when we started off with the Calicut (later renamed Kozhikode)-Sharjah flight."

Although the Kozhikode-Gulf sector was never under-utilised, he said the new carriers would add to the competition.

"The consumer would certainly gain in the bargain," he said indicating better services and lower fares.

Intensifying the competition are India's private carriers like Kingfisher, and Deccan Airways, who are also pitching for Gulf flights. Jet Airways that recently started services to Kuwait, Doha, Bahrain and Muscat is eyeing the UAE market.

Although officials from other carriers were unwilling to comment on the agreement, travel trade sources expressed confidence that it would lead to a price war.

While peak periods like the summer months, year-end season and festive seasons see the fares rocketing, tickets overall cost much less than a decade ago. "The fares are already down in comparison to the nineties when a return ticket to south Indian destinations was at least 35 per cent more than the present day peak fare," said an airline official, who did not want to be named.

With India's Open Sky Policy finally warming up to Gulf carriers, the travel trade is waiting to see if the new bilateral agreement would yield the desired results or just add on to the woes by crowding the skies.


Minimum wages under review

UAE - Feb. 13: It may take some time before the Indian government starts to implement minimum wages for all its workers in the UAE, officials have said. However the matter is currently under consider-ation at the Indian Embassy. The Indian Ambassador to the UAE, Talmiz Ahmed, told 7DAYS the embassy is studying the issue from various angles including the welfare of contractors and the workers.

“We have to hold discussions with the UAE authorities, Indian govern-ment and the various state governments from India that are supplying the labour force to the country before we reach a final agreement on the issue,” Ahmed said.
Minimum wages for unskilled Indian workers are already fixed at dhs600 to dhs650  and for skilled workers, the wage is fixed at dhs950 to dhs1,000. However the wage structure is not mandatory for contracting companies.


Toys and toddlers: A 'dangerous' attraction

Toys are considered the main source that formulate children's mental and physical capabilities; nevertheless they might pose a threat to their general health, especially if they are badly-manufactured or if they include some dangerous constituents.

Toys are often designed in a way to suit the age and capabilities of children, yet sometimes the child mishandles the toy and thus exposes himself/herself to unexpected risks, such as the swallowing of small parts.

Despite the huge benefits that toys could have, they might include even bigger negativity, especially that most toys are often used by children for comparatively long periods of time.

Health experts worldwide have warned that children might be exposed to grave risks in case they use computers and electronic games for long times.

They have warned that such risks might include a number of physical disabilities that might occur in the neck, the back and limbs.

Scientists have also revealed that the irregular flashing of the animated cartoons in the electronic games might cause some epileptic attacks in children.

Pediatricians, on their part, have cautioned that increased use of electronic games by the children might cause some other illnesses as the quavering of arms and hands.

Experts have advised parents never to buy cheap or badly-manufactured toys that might include any kind of dangerous elements or chemicals.

Besides, the ignorance of some parents of the toys that suit the age and potential of their children might pose risks for their children's health.

Dr Ahmed Falah Al Ammoush, head of Sociology Section at Sharjah University, said that all the international studies that tackled the "psychology of playing" mentioned that most children under 12 are very much attached to electronic games.

"Such link or attachment exposes them to the threat of the so-called 'electronic addiction,' which usually appears in the form of isolation from the rest of the family members. The responsibility here is laid on the parents. They have to save their children the troubles to which they might be exposed as a result of getting addicted to electronic games," he noted.

"Parents should be the ones to control the hours of playing every week. They should specify certain times, during which the child should sit and chat with the rest of the family members. They should enhance the child's sociable potentials."

Dr Ahmed Al Sabaa, orthopedics and joints surgeon, pointed out that the way the child sits while playing with electronic games for a long time can prove dangerous for his/her physical structure.

Most of the time, the child lies on his/her abdomen with the head and neck bent up, while he holds the joystick in his hands, placing all the weight on his elbows. The child might remain in this situation for hours, which has a very bad impact on the neck and spine, as well as the nerves of elbows and fingers.

"Furthermore, the games which usually include adventure and bloody fights cause disturbances to the child's muscles and nerves," he noted.

Dr Wafaa Al Shaer, ophthalmology consultant, stressed the importance of choosing the children's toys according to their ages.

"The toy should not include any kind of risk or danger to the child such as the pointed edges that might cause serious problems to the eyes. For example, the pens that might include laser rays are very harmful to the children's eyes, as they might cause burns to the retina and eventually cause blindness," she noted.

According to Eng. Reda Soliman, head of Environment Protection and Safety Department at the Dubai Municipality, very huge fines have been imposed on the companies that import banned toys that might contradict with the healthy and safety standards.

"There are a number of rules and specifications set by the municipality regulating the import of toys. Those rules should be followed by all the companies dealing in children's toys, for the sake of protecting children and avoiding any health risks that might come up through toys. Moreover, imported toys should cope with our conservative habits, religious traditions and eastern identity," he explained.

There are a large number of inspectors whose main responsibilities are to tour the toy stores and inspect all the toys dealt with in the market to reveal any violation.

Samples are often collected from the different markets and selling outlets for examination.

Those samples are usually analysed at the Dubai Central Laboratory, before deciding whether they were fit for the use of children or not.

In case of being proven unfit for the use of children, the importing company pays the fine and the toys are collected from the market and sent back to their places of origin.

"Inspectors have another duty, namely making the consumers aware of the dangers of buying risky toys that might expose their children to great dangers," noted Soliman.

The top official said that the safety measures applied by the Dubai Municipality regarding toys stress the importance that the toy should be designed in a way which would not pose any physical threat to the user, especially the skin, the eyes and the respiratory system.

"Chemical constituents such as barium, cadmium, zinc, lead, mercury and selenium should not exceed the limits specified by the municipality. The toys should not contain any kind of chemicals that might explode when mixed with other materials," he underlined.

"Moreover, every toy should contain a guide of instructions to show how it should be safely used by the child. The instructions should specify the suitable age of children using the toy and the risks that could possibly occur while playing with the toy."

No water transport between Dubai-Sharjah in near future

Dubai/Sharjah - Feb. 13: THE Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai is not likely to operate water transport services between Dubai and Sharjah in the near future, a senior official said.

CEO of RTA's Marine Agency and a member of RTA Board of Directors Mohammed Obaid Al Mulla on Tuesday categorically ruled out the possibility of RTA launching water transport facilities to link the two neighbouring emirates

He was speaking to The Gulf Today on the sidelines of a press conference held to announce the details of 7th international summit on Coastal and Port Engineering in Developing Countries to be held in Dubai later this month.

Interestingly, one of the issues to be discussed at the international conference is water transport as a viable alternative to Dubai's traffic bottleneck. Marine Agency under Mulla is the transport body that undertakes a series of major projects in the field of water transport inside the country and develops various modes of marine transport in the region.

However, when asked about the water transport facilities to avoid the road traffic snarls between Dubai and Sharjah, the official said that such an arrangement had not been included in the strategic planning of RTA. When asked if Dubai would hold discussions with Sharjah for exploring ways to launch water transport facilities, the official said it was not likely to happen in the near future.

He, however, said that the RTA would discuss challenges of water transport implementation in a paper to be presented at the upcoming conference. Another RTA paper would review marine environmental issues and their mitigation along Dubai Creek for the management of marine development projects.
Fast lane closed for bridge construction

Dubai - Feb. 13: THE fast lane of Sheikh Zayed Road will be closed in both directions from Thursday to Sunday as construction of a base for a pedestrian bridge in the median of the road goes underway, announced the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

According to the RTA, the road closure will start from 1am on Thursday and continue up to 5am on Sunday.

The CEO of RTA Traffic and Roads Agency, Engineer Maitha Bin Adai stated that the closure will only affect the fast track, extreme left lane, on both directions of Sheikh Zayed Road in the sector between Defence Interchange and Trade Center Round About while traffic flow on other lanes will continue as usual.

She called upon road users to exercise extreme caution while passing through the area. "This lane closure is dictated by the need to construct an overhead pedestrian bridge in the median of this vital road so as to enhance the safety of pedestrian and save them from run-over accidents. Such accidents, taking place at highways like Sheikh Zayed Road."

She added: "This is one of the areas where pedestrians tend to cross (roads) from places other than those specified for this purpose. RTA assigns paramount importance to safety of pedestrians and road users." 


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