UAE: Dubai Municipality's Cooking Ban Hurts Workers


Cooking ban hurts workers


DUBAI - SEP 30: Eating has become a struggle for many of the 7,000 men living and working at the Al Aweer Fruit and Vegetable Market in the days since Dubai Municipality began enforcing a ban on cooking in their living quarters.

One of the largest storage facilities in the emirate, with hundreds of cargo trucks arriving each day with fresh food stuff, Al Aweer also houses thousands of its workers.

The curb on cooking follows a fire earlier this month that burnt down several shops stocking onions and potatoes.

Although there were no casualties, tons of goods and 24 shops were destroyed in the blaze.

“This started last week when municipality officials instructed the security guards in our buildings not to allow gas cylinders into the building,” said Altasur Rahman, a worker who loads and unloads goods that arrive at market.

“The next day the officials checked every room and confiscated stoves and cylinders found in the room.”

The workers are mostly expatriates from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who earn Dh20 to Dh30 a day for loading and unloading cargo.

They rely on cooking for themselves, because it is cheaper.

The restrictions have left many queuing for food at the few restaurants in the area, with some reporting that their colleagues were running to get food parcels from delivery trucks and vans before they quickly sold out.

“This is the first time I am seeing anything like this happening,” Mr Rahman said. “There is no place to eat for us. We cannot afford to eat at restaurants every day.”

Amal Shehzad, another worker who lives at Al Aweer market, said there were further implications.

“Some people are diabetic and have to eat at home.

“Time is also a big problem as we cannot afford to spend an hour in a restaurant during lunchtime. We carry our food and get back to work once we eat.”

Dubai Municipality said yesterday that cooking was banned within the market premises for fire-safety reasons.

“There has always been a blanket ban on using gas cylinders for cooking in the market and its premises,” a spokesman said. “This is not a new rule.”

Shahjahan Haroon, a sales executive at City Home Foodstuff Trading, located in the market, said: “It’s a really bad situation, and thousands of people are affected by this.

“There are around 7,000 people who live in these accommodations. This is bound to reflect on their work because they can’t work without eating.” The sudden surge in the number of customers had also left restaurants and cafeterias short of food, workers said.

“I left home in the morning and could not have lunch as the food finished,” Mr Shehzad said.

“The restaurants are overcrowded, and only those who get there first are getting food.”


Police look at database for DNA of all residents

UAE - SEP. 30:Police and forensics experts from across the country will meet in Sharjah today to consider setting up a nationwide DNA database that could include every resident of the UAE. At present, DNA samples are taken only from convicted criminals or suspects.

“What we would like is to start thinking about taking samples from all of the UAE population, local and expatriate,” said Dr Ahmed Marzooqi, the chairman of the Emirates DNA Working Group, who acknowledged that the project could take a decade.

The group was launched in October 2008 under the direction of Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, and brought together the leading forensics experts from every emirate’s police force to discuss the project.

“At present we take [DNA] samples from suspected, incarcerated and convicted criminals,” Dr Marzooqi said. He is also the head of the forensic biology unit at Abu Dhabi Forensics Science Department (FSD) and is Interpol’s only Middle Eastern representative on the 12-person DNA Monitoring Expert group.

As of the beginning of the year, 4,000 samples had been collected since 2002 in the DNA bank of criminal suspects.

Similar databases of criminals’ DNA are in use around the world, but the scheme under discussion today would encompass the identities of every Emirati and foreign resident.

Setting up “legislative and legal parameters that protect people’s privacy” will be a key part of the effort, Dr Marzooqi said.

Unlike the Emirates Identity Authority programme, in which fingerprints and facial biometrics are collected, he hopes to build a database in which a DNA profile of UAE residents could be used for criminal cases.

The profiles could also be used during natural disasters. In cases where a person has gone missing, a method known as kinship DNA testing allows authorities to take a sample from the person’s relatives, who share similar genes.

The relative’s DNA is then cross-examined with that of any recovered remains, allowing authorities to confirm the identity.

“This effort will help us as a team immensely in cases of natural and man-made disasters,” Dr Marzooqi said.

The programme could take up to a decade to materialise, however.

“If we get the green light on this programme, we are going to be the first country in the world where we have DNA profiles,” he said.

Several reports have been submitted by the working group to the Ministry of Interior. If the ministry is in favour of the DNA database, the plan will require the regular legislative stamp through the Federal National Council, and the President’s signature.

“This could take at least two years to get this programme in its initial phase. We have to start thinking about the building, the equipment, the robotic systems and the staff. But I am very hopeful that this will happen because the outcome is significant,” Dr Marzooqi said.

If this project receives no objection, “it could still take a decade to be fully comprehensive, and we have to take into account the growing population, which could be as much as 10 million in 10 years,” Dr Marzooqi said.

Despite the effort, time and potential public criticism, he is certain the programme will be worthwhile.

“This will control crime drastically. It will reduce the number of unnecessary and innocent suspects and reveal the criminal much faster with scientific proof,” Dr Marzooqi said.

The eight-member working group is made up of three experts from Abu Dhabi, two from Dubai one each from Sharjah, Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah. According to Dr Marzooqi, Ajman and Umm al Qaiwain have yet to select experts to join the group.


Threat to 19 Dubai schools as new inspections near

DUBAI -SEP. 30: With a second round of annual inspections due to start next month, 19 schools remain in danger of being shut down.

Inspections, started last year by Dubai’s school regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, placed schools into four categories: outstanding, good, acceptable and unsatisfactory.

The survey of 189 schools was the first effort by a government agency to measure the quality of education in the UAE.

The inspections have been the subject of heated debate among operators and owners, particularly since tuition-fee increases were capped in accordance with the rankings determined by inspectors.

This year 24 Indian and Pakistani schools, which have not yet been evaluated, will be subject to inspections. Five Iranian schools may not be inspected because of difficulties finding Iranian inspectors. Two of Dubai’s Indian and Pakistani schools will not be inspected, as one is new and the other is temporarily closed.

In the first wave of inspections, to be done between October and December, 46 private establishments, including 24 Indian and Pakistani schools, and 36 public schools will receive visits from inspectors.

One in eight of the Dubai schools inspected last year was found to be offering an unacceptable level of education.

Those have since received follow-up visits from KHDA inspectors. Just three – the Star International School-Al Twar, the Oxford School and the Jumeirah branch of Al Shorouq Private School – have made enough progress to be eligible for new inspections next year, which could mean they change categories.

The other 19 “unsatisfactory” schools will receive visits next month to determine whether they are eligible for a full inspection. “If we find that they really did a good job then we will send the full team to inspect them,” said Jameela al Muhairi, the chief of the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau, the department within the KHDA in charge of inspections.

During yesterday’s press briefing, Dr Abdulla al Karam, the director general of the KHDA, reiterated that the authority would not hesitate to close schools. He did not put a time frame on closures, and said the authority would not close schools if no alternative for pupils existed.

Most schools, Dr al Karam said, would be given a full year between inspections, but he added that scheduling was difficult.

He said schools that failed to adopt KHDA recommendations would be penalised. A decision on fee increases has not yet been made by the KHDA, but Dr al Karam suggested yesterday that performance on inspections would continue to be linked to caps.

“We will link everything in KHDA to the inspections,” he said, adding that the agency was not looking at fee caps yet. He stressed that last year’s came within the parameters of federal caps set by the Ministry of Education.

As for next year, he said his agency would urge the ministry to change its caps “given the economic situation out there,” but said the KHDA would act within its decision.

But fees remain a bone of contention for schools with the UAE’s largest private operator, Global Education Management Systems.

“GEMS does not agree with the policy of aligning fee increases with the inspection results,” said Richard Forbes, its director of communications and marketing.

“Those schools that are rated ‘outstanding’ are able to increase fees by up to 15 per cent yet those schools rated ‘not acceptable’ can only increase fees by up to seven per cent. We believe this approach is counterproductive because lower-performing schools may need investment. If they disappear because they are not viable, who will take their place?”

Schools that took full fee increases will be looked at closely to determine whether those resources were put into use, Dr al Karam said.

There were also complaints last year that there were too few Arab inspectors, while some schools questioned their regional expertise.

“The biographical details provided by KHDA indicated that inspectors were experienced in a range of curricula,” Mr Forbes said, but added that “the biographies did not always highlight experience outside home country, and in some cases there appeared to be no experience of the region which concerns us”.

The KHDA, Dr Abdulla said, hoped to hire more Arabic-speaking inspectors, but he conceded that finding qualified people was difficult.

Abu Dhabi will launch its own school inspections next year.



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