Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Time for Etisalat to improve its airport presence

Although it is the major telecommunications service provider in the UAE, Etisalat still falls short when it comes to providing good customer service.

At Abu Dhabi Airport, the location of the only Etisalat payment machine is unknown even to many of the airport staff. The plight of a visitor can be imagined.

When I tried to deposit money in the machine recently, it would not accept any notes. When I called the Etisalat contact centre to report this error, I failed to convince the operator about the importance of this issue.

He wanted to have the machine's ID number, which was not displayed. I told him the machine's location - it is just in front of the Etihad and NBAD offices on the mezzanine floor - but he was adamant about getting this number so he could log the complaint.

I wonder whether the machine was finally repaired. Considering the value of Etisalat's reach and its prominence in this country, I think it should have a customer support and sales counter at the airport arrivals terminal.

This is especially significant as the airport will be the gateway for all the visitors arriving for the new season of international events, including the Formula One race.

Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi
To read it in original, please visit THE NATIONAL online

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Abandoned cars send a message

Abandoned cars send a message

I recently visited Abu Dhabi International Airport's short-term car park and was shocked to see many cars there completely covered in dust.
Some of them had punctured tyres and the dust was inscribed with graffiti, so I guessed that they had been there for a long time. This was confirmed when I visited 10 days later and the same vehicles were still there.
I am not sure whether these are cars parked in the wrong place by travellers who are on long holidays or they have been abandoned by people who have left the country for good.
Graffiti on one of them saying "Gone fishing" made me think the latter might be the case.
I hope the relevant authorities at the airport can remove these vehicles, as they provide an unpleasant sight for visitors.
With several key events scheduled to happen immediately after Ramadan, this is one thing the authorities should take into consideration in their efforts to continue to keep the city neat and clean.
Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi
To read it in original, please visit THE NATIONAL online.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sibal launches anti-ragging portal

Sibal launches anti-ragging portal

New Delhi, July 27, 2012: Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal Thursday launched a round-the-clock anti-ragging website and helpline for reporting cases of ragging. The portal has been created by the Aman Satya Kachroo Trust, under Rajendra Kachroo whose son Aman was ragged to death by four of his seniors in a medical college in Himachal Pradesh.

"The Supreme Court gave order in 2009 that we should create an anti-ragging portal. Ragging is a crime which destroys a student's confidence and even forces them to commit suicide," Sibal said after launching the portal. Kachroo, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the new portal will ensure a response to the complaints lodged by students within half an hour.

"We will respond to the complaints in half an hour. The college principals and authorities will be contacted immediately. If they are not reachable or do not respond appropriately, the local police will be contacted," Kachroo said. The complaints can be lodged at helpline number 18001805522, or on websites www.antiragging.in, andwww.amanmovement.org. One can also get the anti-ragging affidavits through email registering on the website and keep a track about the progress of their complaints.

Explaining the functioning of the portal, University Grants Commission's acting chairman Ved Prakash said: "The complaints would be examined. If they are of serious magnitude, they would be transferred immediately to the police, the magistrate and head of the institution". Kachroo added that the details of every development since registering the complaint will be taken in account and a file will be made to follow up every case.

"There are nearly 40,000 colleges across the country... we will create a database of all colleges," he said.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Highway facilities require attention

Highway facilities require attention

There is a serious lack of clean toilets at the highway petrol stations between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Even in the existing, limited number of toilets, hygiene needs seem to have been neglected.
Visit one on any given busy evening or morning, and it's obvious that these toilets are not as well-maintained or cleaned as they should be.
Bear in mind that these are international roads connecting to bordering countries, and that children will need to use them.
I hope the petrol stations and health authorities initiate measures to address this issue.
Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi
To read it in original, please visit The National online.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hungry Drivers

Hungry drivers
This year being one of the hottest and longest Ramadan days, it is a matter of concern for all who are on the road right before iftar. On the first day of Ramadan, I happened to witness and experience at least three near-accidents in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah roads. This is really dangerous and I hope that no one gets hurt. Could the relevant authorities come out with clear guidelines, stricter rules and fines to those who drive extremely fast?
From Mr Ramesh Menon
Abu Dhabi

To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS online.

You may please read the below article and actions which followed the above report:

Police warn motorists to drive safely — especially before iftar

Monday, July 23, 2012

Message of safety for Holy Month

Message of safety for Holy Month
The Holy Month of Ramadan is underway and with it comes renewed worries over road safety.
This year will be one of the hottest and longest Ramadan fasting periods in recent memory; it is a matter of concern for all who are on the road during the period just before breaking the fast.
On the first day of Ramadan, I happened to witness and experience at least three near misses on roads in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
Watching these dangerous driving habits made me think that it would be helpful for authorities to come out with stricter rules and fines for those who drive dangerously prior to iftar.
In addition, it would be a great move if warnings and messages about the dangers of speeding during this time were made at various iftar tents and prayer halls around the country. It would also be appropriate for religious scholars to offer messages about the dangers of careless driving.
Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi
To read it in original, please visit The National Online.

You may also read the below article and actions which followed the above article:

Dubai police report 3,605 traffic accidents since start of Ramadan

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sale and distribution of Mawaqif parking cards

It would be a good idea if Mawaqif could organise the distribution and sale of parking cards of various denominations through petrol stations and other handy outlets.

Currently, there are only one or two outlets selling these cards and it is inconvenient for the public to obtain them. Also, it is not easy to locate the parking meters in many places.

It would be helpful if the authorities put up some special signage pointing to the parking meters.

Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi

To read it in original, please visit The National online.

Monday, July 16, 2012

India’s frugal dynamism

Indians are natural leaders in innovation, imbued as they are with the ‘jugaad’ system of developing makeshift but workable solutions from limited resources
  • By Shashi Tharoor | Special to Gulf News
  • Published: July 16, 2012

India’s sliding economy has inspired gloom and doom far and wide, but increasingly bearish sentiment is misplaced. India still offers hope, but, to understand why, you have to leave macroeconomic indicators aside and go micro. To take one example: Google the phrase “frugal innovation,” and the first 20 search results all relate to India.

Indian companies have long recognised the opportunities in meeting previously overlooked demand at the “bottom of the pyramid.” Shampoo sachets originated in India more than two decades ago, creating a market for a product that the poor had never before been able to afford. Indians without the space or money to buy a whole bottle of shampoo for Rs100 (Dh6.66) could spend five for a sachet that they would use once or twice.

But India’s leadership in “frugal innovation” goes beyond downsizing: It involves starting with the needs of poor consumers — itself a novel term (who knew the poor could be consumers?) — and working backwards. Instead of complicating or refining their products, Indian innovators strip them down to their bare essentials, making them affordable, accessible, durable and effective.

Indians are natural leaders in frugal innovation, imbued as they are with the ‘jugaad’ system of developing makeshift but workable solutions from limited resources. ‘Jugaad’ essentially conveys a way of life, a world view that embodies the quality of making do with what you have to meet your needs.

But ‘jugaad’ is not about pirating products or making cheap imitations of global brands. It is about innovation — finding inexpensive solutions, often improvised on the fly, within the constraints of a resource-starved developing country full of poor people. An Indian villager constructs a makeshift vehicle to transport his livestock and goods by rigging a wooden cart with an irrigation hand pump that serves as an engine. That’s ‘jugaad’.

Common machines and household objects are reincarnated in ways that their original manufacturers never intended. Everything is reusable or reimaginable. If you cannot afford your mobile phone bills, you invent the concept of the “missed call” — a brief ring that is not answered, but that signals your need to speak to the recipient.

Indian ingenuity has produced a startling number of world-beating innovations, none more impressive than the Tata Nano, which, at $2,000 (Dh7,356), costs roughly the same as a high-end DVD player in a western luxury car. Of course, there’s no DVD player in the Nano (and no radio, either, in the basic model); but its innovations (which have garnered 34 patents) are not merely the result of doing away with frills (including power brakes, air conditioning and side-view mirrors). Reducing the use of steel by inventing an aluminium engine; increasing space by moving the wheels to the edge of the chassis and relying on a modular design that enables the car to be assembled from kits proved conclusively that you could do more with less.

Then there’s the GE MAC 400, a hand-held electrocardiogram (ECG) device that costs $800 (the cheapest alternative costs more than $2,000), and the Tata Swachh, a $24 water purifier (ten times cheaper than its nearest competitor). The GE MAC 400 uses just four buttons, rather than the usual dozen, and a tiny portable printer, making it small enough to fit into a satchel and even run on batteries; it has reduced the cost of an ECG to just $1 per patient. The Swachh uses rice husks (one of India’s most common waste products) to purify water. Given that some five million Indians die of cardiovascular diseases every year, more than a quarter of them under 65, and that about two million die from drinking contaminated water, the value of these innovations is apparent.

Many other examples of frugal innovation are already in the market, including a low-cost fuel-efficient mini-truck, an inexpensive mini-tractor being sold profitably in the US, a battery-powered refrigerator, a $100 electricity inverter and a $12 solar lamp.

Moreover, medical innovations are widespread. An Indian company has invented a cheaper Hepatitis B vaccine, bringing down the price from $15 per injection to less than $0.10. Insulin’s price has fallen by 40 per cent, thanks to India’s leading biotech firm. A Bangalore company’s diagnostic tool to test for tuberculosis and infectious diseases costs $200, compared to $10,000 for comparable equipment in the West.

Late last year, India’s government unveiled a hand-held computer that costs only Rs2,250 (about $40). Aakash has a resistive seven-inch touch screen, like Apple’s iPad. It comes in a rugged plastic casing, has two gigabytes of flash memory, two USB ports, headphone and video output jacks and Wi-Fi capability.
Aakash uses the Android 2.2 operating system and consumes a meagre two watts of power, which is supplied by an internal lithium-ion battery that can be charged using a solar-powered charger. And the government will subsidise 50 per cent of the cost to students, so a young Indian just has to pay $20 to have his own tablet. The initial reviews are good.

Even the financial sector has seen innovation. Just three years ago, there were only 15 million bank accounts in a country of 1.2 billion people. Indians concluded that if people won’t come to the banks, the banks should go to the people. The result has been the creation of brigades of travelling tellers with hand-held devices, who have converted the living rooms of village homes into makeshift branches, taking deposits as low as a dollar. More than 50 million new bank accounts have been established, bringing India’s rural poor into the modern financial system.

Frugal innovation pervades the Indian economy. It is one of the reasons why there is more dynamism in the Indian economy than those who look only at the macroeconomic data believe. Sometimes it is important to stop looking at the forest and focus on the trees.

Project Syndicate
Shashi Tharoor, a former Indian minister of state for external affairs and former UN under-secretary general, is a member of India’s parliament and the author of a dozen books, including India from Midnight to the Millennium and Nehru: the Invention of India.

My comments as follows:
An eye opener to all those who go for highly priced technological gadgets and  services, with several options one never uses. Hope this article by Mr. Tharoor serves as a catalyst to promote these micro economic items which normally serves all the required purpose of such knowhow. At times, they even come out with better versions at a limited budget as detailed extensively by him. The basic thought behind these innovation and invention takes us back to our ancestors way of frugal approach and burning their fingers only for what is necessary in their day to day life and future, thus saving for a better tomorrow. As we see this thought process is ridiculed by the new generation who run after gadgets and their upgrades after a very limited usage and with no value for money.
Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

To read this in original, please visit GULF NEWS online

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dh258 credit card fee that led to debt of Dh60,000

Dh258 credit card fee that led to debt of Dh60,000

/The National

ABU DHABI // When KB Muralee was offered his credit card, he was told it would be free for life.

Seven years after using it once, he had an accumulated debt of Dh60,000.
"I used the Standard Chartered credit card for some purchases in India amounting to Dh12,000. Of that, I paid back Dh10,000 on time and later deposited the remaining Dh2,000. My card's credit limit was Dh15,000."
A Dh288 late fee for the outstanding amount of Dh2,000 was combined with annual fees, insurance and interest charges to create the mammoth debt.
"I didn't even want the card, but they insisted that it was free and then said I had to purchase insurance on it," said Mr Muralee, who is the honorary president of Kerala Social Centre in Abu Dhabi.
After The National approached the bank for comment, Mr Muralee said he was contacted almost immediately with a settlement deal.
"They called and said, 'OK, pay Dh2,000 and end the matter'."
In another call, he was asked to pay just Dh500.
In an official statement, Standard Chartered explained: "Upon receiving the complaint, Standard Chartered's customer care unit contacted the customer and launched an investigation.
"Apparently, the customer had made a purchase on his card in 2005 and has not settled his outstanding balance since then.
"Despite the bank sending him his statement on a regular basis, the customer has ignored settling his credit card which has led to the automatic compilation of late-payment fees and interest on his outstanding balance.
"The bank has contacted the customer and has settled the issue with him."
Mr Muralee said he refused to pay a single fils on either his credit-card charges or on the settlement, because he believed the charges are baseless.
"I knew it could land me behind bars but I was not afraid of it because it's entirely the bank's fault," he said.
"It's been mental torture to me, as the bank kept sending me statements throughout these years that I couldn't get them to resolve.
"It's very hard for a layman to understand their schemes, paybacks, late fees and hidden charges that they add on without explanation. These banks play like hunters and they wait and watch when you are going to get trapped."
Other consumers could find themselves in the same situation as Mr Muralee if they don't read the fine print.
The websites of several local banks use the term "free for life" to refer to credit card products, including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Mashreq Bank, RAK Bank and Lloyd's TSB.
Standard Chartered is more cautious in its use of the term, but the bank does refer to a "free for life" credit card that is available with certain products, including their Home Suite Package.
"There is absolutely no such thing as a 'free' credit card," said an independent financial adviser from Dubai who did not wished to be identified.
"The banks might say they're giving you six months free, but that's as long as you pay back what you owe them before the due date every month.
"The thing is, they do cover themselves: there's that little asterisk next to 'free', which means you should be checking the fine print," he said.
"But let's get real: in today's financial climate? Nothing is for free.
"That's just a catch-phrase."
For more in our Consumer Watch series click here.

Whom to call for help

The Central Bank of the UAE regulates banks, exchange houses, and finance and investment companies. You can contact the consumer protection unit of the Central Bank to report problems on  02 691 5290/5453, or email your complaint to complaint@cbuae.gov.ae or log it online at www.centralbank.ae

* Anwar Ahmad

My comments as follows:

Showing 3 of 3 comments
  1. RameshMenonAbuDhabi

    It requires lot of boldness and courage for a highly social and community oriented person like KB Muralee to come out in open and openly discuss his harrowing financial experiences as a credit card holder with payment discrepancies. We can easily imagine the plight of those who cannot communicate or do not have any source to cry out. It easily open our eyes to many who affected silently suffering with no clue what so ever to come out the trap they are in. It may also give us answers to absconding of several and deaths here and back in their own home country due these type of debts. UAE Central Bank should conduct a comprehensive check of the credit allocation policy, basis of interest and interest on interest levied to customers and several hidden charges allocated. Banking regulatory authorities should also come out with appropriate rules to restrict the mandatory and explanatory clauses from smaller prints to bigger and bolder ones in all the banking application forms, and have a controlling officer to guide the applicant before approving any credit line to customers about various charges and consequences of payment anomalies. In this case, as they say, a child who cry only will get the milk and Muralee was bold enough to cry and he got his milk and waiver on excessive charges. There are thousands of unlucky others out there who are not so lucky or educated or have contacts.

    To read my comments in original, please visit THE NATIONAL online

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Road Safety Campaign - Measures to initiate safe transport of material on city roads

On a recent visit to Bangalore, I happened to notice trucks transporting sand and other construction materials without appropriate covering of the containers.

It is causing spill on the road, and also dangerous to vehicles following behind. 

A request was submitted to Bangalore Traffic Police to review, observe and consider appropriate guidelines and actions to restrict this.

In return, BTP, have come back informing that they have noted my request and will inform field staff to take necessary action, as appropriate.

Road Safety Campaign - Measures to initiate clear display of number plates

On a recent trip to Bangalore, I happened to notice that there are many trucks on the Bangalore city roads and highways connecting to it fitted with a Crash Guard at the back, which hide the number plate. Even from close distance, one can never find out the registration number of these vehicles. 

I was thinking of a scenario in which these trucks causing an accident. It will be impossible to track them easily. 

If not already in place, we should have clear guidelines to display the registration number of the vehicles in a clearly visible manner.

A request was submitted to Bangalore Traffic Police to review, observe and consider appropriate guidelines and actions to restrict this.

In return, BTP, have come back informing that they have noted my request and will inform field staff to take necessary action, as appropriate.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Historic landmarks need to be maintained

Historic Abu Dhabi landmarks not maintained

Authorities need to ensure that proper attention and respect is given to key sights
By Ramesh Menon, Gulf News Reader
Published: July 6, 2012
  • Image Credit: Ramesh Menon/Gulf News Reader
  • An iconic landmark in Abu Dhabi is covered in graffiti and dirt.

I was walking along the airport road of Abu Dhabi towards the corniche, where the historic canon and incense burner shaped landmarks are situated. It has been a prestigious piece for a long time.
The fountain along with its majestic positioning in the middle of high rise buildings on both sides gives a special feeling to whoever visits this central part of Abu Dhabi.
However, walking closer to the fountain and the canon shaped structure, I was astonished with the way it has been damaged and ignored for maintenance. The landmark had tiles missing, grills broken, waste thrown around, and graffiti on its wall.
  • Image Credit: Ramesh Menon/Gulf News Reader
  • The canon shaped structure appears to have been ignored for maintenance.

It gave me an unpleasant feeling of how people take care of these historic landmarks. Some years ago, the prestigious ‘Volcano Fountain’ was demolished, and it’s now history. We don’t know whether this is also an item marked to be demolished in the near future.
I request that the Abu Dhabi authorities give this historic landmark of Abu Dhabi a facelift and also take action against whoever spoils its beauty with graffiti or advertisements. Please take good care of Abu Dhabi’s historic landmarks.
This reader is based in Abu Dhabi
Be a community reporter. Tell us what is happening in your community. Send us your videos and pictures at readers@gulfnews.com

To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS online

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Once upon a time Money Kings

Do you remember these "Once upon a time Money Kings"

Art work - Paint on Water - Freedom to See and Not To Speak

Kerala Politician’s and common man’s status – 2012
Freedom to see everything as it happens, but not to speak. It WILL HURT.
Art work by Ramesh Menon

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mall shoppers left unprotected under the sun

Mall shoppers left unprotected under the sun

Busy bus stop at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi lacks bus shelter By Ramesh Menon, Gulf News Reader Published: June 29, 2012

Image Credit: Ramesh Menon
Shoppers leaving Marina Mall are often left waiting for the bus under the sun because no bus shelter is available at the popular bus stop.

Abu Dhabi’s public buses connect the Marina Mall shopping complex to various points in the city. The service and the buses are very useful for shoppers at the mall.

However, the bus stop in front of the mall doesn’t have a shelter for the passengers. The shades and benches provided are far away from the bus stop. Another issue is that the chain dividers for the taxi parking area act as a hindrance to passengers who have to rush between the taxis and the dividers when the bus arrives.

I urge the mall and other relevant authorities to kindly consider installing temporary sun shades for shoppers who use the bus during this summer period.

The reader is based in Abu Dhabi.

Be a community reporter. Tell us what is happening in your community. Send us your videos and pictures at readers@gulfnews.com

To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS online.