Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Safer roads - Letters to the Editor - Gulf News Dt 31 Jan 2013

Safer roads

I took a look at the newspaper recently and was horrified to see the photo of a totally burned car, resulting in the death of an Emirati – yet another victim of speeding on our roads. A search of news reports over the past two months showed me at least 12 other similar deaths due to speeding. What’s happening to our drivers?

There is clearly a crisis.

A closer look revealed the alarming fact that most of these vehicles are driven by educated men and women.

Does this show that there is a lack of willingness to acknowledge and respect safety initiatives in place?
If so, it has to be controlled by initiating stricter rules and regulations so that no life is lost due to dangerous driving.

I suggest the authorities bring in a fine system which is pro rata, based on the type and model of the vehicle and driver involved. In addition, all automobile dealers should be requested to give a 2-3 hour mandatory safety training to the new owner, with a certification issued after successful completion that he is well aware of the controls of the car he is going to own and fit and safe enough to drive it.

I wish to see zero tolerance on speeding on our roads and no fatalities in the future, as a result. 

From Mr Ramesh Menon Abu Dhabi
To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS online

The thoughts behind my letter were based on these news items published in the GULF NEWS:

Monday, January 21, 2013

How many more deaths we need before a pedestrian over bridge at Kadugodi?

How many more deaths we need before a pedestrian over bridge at Kadugodi?

Every morning and evening we witness very sad scenes at this major point of Whitefield.

The railway crossing connecting Kadugodi population, the Bus stand and Railway Station is causing lot of difficulties for all.

At any given time there will be a goods train with endless carriages, waiting for signal.

It makes life difficult for all age a difficult process to cross over. It is extremely difficult in the morning as one rush to the bus stand to reach office or school. Children and aged have to squeeze down or walk all the way till the end and then cross over.

At night time, there is absolutely no light making it all the more difficult.

Add to these the perils of no light and human and animal feces.

Last month, a series of deaths happened and authorities, as usual came out with interim measures like police posting, and offer of a pedestrian overbridge soon. But, it all died down, and now we do not see any police and the story of the long train blocking the smooth passage of the population continues once again.

All responsible authorities are aware of this, but they find it interesting to pass the blame from one responsible shoulder to another.

This is a serious safety issue that affects the normal movement general public in and around Kadugodi and Whitefield, irrespective of whether they are rich or poor, old or young, man or women. Thus, I request authorities to kindly stop having a callous approach to this citizen problem.

A senior railway official, who responded, informs that:

·        No provision was available in the old estimate of road over bridge, to construct foot over bridge at the above location. This might be due to the reason that the old estimate for the road over bridge was prepared long ago and at that time, there might not be so much development at Whitefield and so much requirement to cross the tracks so often by such a huge populace.
·        The role of Railways is only to the extent of providing an unhindered path for road vehicles in the interest of closing the level crossing.  Land at the level crossing belongs to railways. Providing a separate path for road vehicles is in fact the requirement of road users.
·        Railways, though not obliged, have agreed to execute the work as well as to share the cost of work with BBMP with the only interest of closing the level crossing to avoid the recurring expenditure of maintenance of level crossing once for all.
·        When there was public demand to construct foot over bridge, as Railways have already constructed road over bridge, it was expected that BBMP would come forward to fund the cost of the foot over bridge.
·        Finally, when BBMP has agreed for the same, Railways have invited tender for the same without any delay and opened the same on 27.12.2012, though the funds have not been deposited by BBMP.  Invitation of tender without availability of funds, which is normally not done, was done in the instant case only in the interest of expeditious completion of the work.
·        The tender, which would otherwise take 2-3 months for finalisation, has been finalised in a record time of 20 days.  This is a record of Indian Railways.
·        You will be happy to note that a joint inspection has been conducted by the undersigned on 17th Jan 2013 and the work of removal of obstructions has already been commenced.  This is also a record of Indian Railways where the work has been taken up on the very next day of award of the tender.
·        Two records have already been established as mentioned above and we look forward to establish a third record by completing the work in a record time.
·        It was reported by security authorities that either one or both of the deceased were talking over mobile phone during the time of the incident on 02nd Jan 2013.  Only God knows the truth.
·        I want you to understand that in the entire episode, there was no apathy, there were no petty egos and there was no inability to act on the part of Railways.  You are a better Judge to know where the delay took place. Please go into facts in detail before blaming any particular authority.
·        Railways have not received the funds for the above work from BBMP till date and we are  continuously chasing for the same.  At the same time, we are taking care to see that the agency does not stop the work, though it cannot get payment of a single rupee till the fund is deposited with Railways. 
·        As a concerned citizen, you may like to do something about this.

And we as citizen who are affected continue with our following plea to BBMP and Railway as below:

·        One helpful proactive action from Railways will be to move the parked goods wagons by 50 metres towards Chennai side of tracks by a suitable arrangement, thereby clearing the obstruction of path at the level crossing.  Wagons parked overnight/long hours hinders the crossing of tracks with view of both sides being blocked for pedestrians. Aged persons/children/women are often found to be crawling beneath the parked wagons to cross to the other sides and others climb over the wagons risking their lives. Also, the wagons parked beyond the crossing necessitates the people to walk on the tracks and there could be oversight/negligence when crossing resulting in loss of previous lives.
·        The two sides where one needs to cross are also not easy as there is hardly any space between the wagons and the bund, particularly for so many people who arrive by buses to move. Also there is gutter water/filth everywhere. There is no lighting too any where resulting in poor vision for any one. Considering the safety of women, which is attracting highest attention of Government, any proactive action to provide lights in the vicinity of crossing will be highly appreciated.
·        A concrete pathway which had existed earlier before the closure of the railway crossing enabled people to cross faster and also safely.
·     A concrete pathway which had existed earlier before the closure of the railway crossing enabled people to cross faster and also safely.
·        Please post security personal till the over-bridge is completed.
·        Lighting in that area.
·        Minor adjustments in parking of the long goods train so that people will get sufficient gap to cross.
·        We understand that many of the above things do not come under the responsibility of railways. However, the public who are forced to cross the tracks do not have any alternative. The narrow road over bridge is very scary especially for a women carrying small kids.
·        Could this be done by Railway authorities as an interim measure besides the above suggestion of moving the wagons a little beyond.

We are also surprised to know following things:

·        There are no specifications for the width of road over bridge.
·        There is no process for correction of old plan based on the present needs. The actual work of this over-bridge happened recently.
·        No pedestrian convenience required to be considered.
·        4. After the construction of this over bridge, seeing the practicality, railway engineers should have avoided digging the road between the tracks for pedestrians.
·        We all appreciate Railways good intention and any sort of help from Railways to minimise the problem, until BBMP acts in the matter.
·        At the same time, we urge BBMP to act without any delay in progressing the work before we hear of another tragedy.
 I also seek support of all resident associations, corporate organizations and their staff  and political parties, irrespective of any difference in ideologies to support in this cry for the need of a safe system to cross over.

Otherwise, for residents of Kadugodi, the way to bus stand is always going to be down and under.

Ramesh Menon
21 January 2013

Turning energy efficient

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tunnel speed limit should be uniform

Tunnel speed limit should be uniform

The new Sheihk Zayed Tunnel in Abu Dhabi looks beautiful and is a state-of-the-art structure that will serve the growth of Abu Dhabi for years to come.

However, when I use it, I am confused by the implementation of several different speed limits along the tunnel.

I am a cautious driver who likes to remain below the displayed speed limit, but I too often find cars speeding up to me, flashing their lights, despite clear signs saying that the limit is 60km/h or 80km/h.

The authorities must find a way to book those drivers who break the limits or there will be many accidents in the tunnel.

I also think they should establish just one speed limit for the entire length of the tunnel, obviating the need for people to speed up or slow down.

Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi

To read it in original, pleas visit THE NATIONAL online

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Abu Dhabi Police launch pedestrian safety drive

Abu Dhabi Police launch pedestrian safety drive 150 killed and almost 1000 run over last year By Nada Al Taher and Aghaddir Ali, Staff Reporters Published: 18:43 January 7, 2013

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Police launched the first road safety campaign for pedestrians in 2013 after reports that more than 150 people were killed and almost 1000 run over in accidents during the first 10 months of last year across the Emirates.

The number of deaths of pedestrians is almost double the 83 that were recorded in 2011.

According to Brigadier General Ghaith Hassan Al Zaabi, Director General of Traffic Coordination Department at the Ministry of Interior, people being run over constitutes 18.65 per cent of the total number of deaths and 15.35 per cent of traffic accidents in the UAE. Moreover, almost 30 per cent of injuries during the first 10 months of 2012 were caused by people being hit by vehicles, the official said in a statement.

So far, it is not clear whether or not pedestrian accidents have decreased from 2011 to 2012, but Dubai Police statements claim that being run over is the leading cause of road deaths in the Emirate. In 2012, Gulf News reported a 20.7 per cent reduction such incidents between January 1 and September 30, with 46 deaths reported compared to 58 over the same period in 2011.

The figures led many motorists to call for stricter penalties for jay-walkers.

“Frequently, pedestrians would jump from the side of the road on to a busy street and I would have to do my best to control my car and attempt to dodge them,” said Syrian driver and automobile valuation analyst Ahmad Zendaki. “The law in the UAE is strict on jay-walkers but is also harsh on the motorists who hit them until the pedestrian is proven guilty. Charging them heftier fines and building overpasses in areas where jay-walking is recurrent may help ease problems because they are endangering their own lives as well as others.”

Drivers travelling at 60km/h may not be able to stop in time if pedestrians appear a short distance (of a few metres) ahead, the director of the Dubai Police Traffic department told Gulf News.

Colonel Hamad Al Ameri, director of the Abu Dhabi Police Traffic and Patrol Directorate, said the reduction in people being run over in the capital was a result of the efforts of police officials in Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain and Al Gharbia (Western Region). Efforts in Dubai are also aiming to curb such accidents as the Dubai Police traffic department expressed its will to tighten penalties against offenders last year.

According to the Federal Traffic Law’s article 7, those who cross the street from undesignated areas will be fined Dh200. Similarly, motorists who do not give priority to pedestrians on zebra crossings will also be fined Dh500 and six black points, according to Al Zaabi. 

The official said that crossing the road from non-designated areas and drivers’ not giving pedestrians road priority are dangerous traffic offences, therefore it is vital, he said, that road users become more aware on topics relating to pedestrian-safety.

Al Zaabi also explained that there are basic rules that both motorists and pedestrians should abide by and that cooperation between both groups is essential in ensuring a safe road environment. The Ministry of Interior launched the awareness campaign titled Pedestrian Safety is Our Responsibility as an initiative to improve overall road safety. The campaign will continue until March.

My comments as follows:

Congratulations to Abu Dhabi authorities for initiating this campaign at the beginning of a new year. Indeed, “Pedestrian Safety is Our Responsibility” and each road user has to constantly remind themselfves of this. There are several heavy usage sectors like Abu Dhabi Mall, Hamdan Street and Airport Road where one will get to see violators at any given point of day or night. How many hours the authorities can man these roads by policing in uniform or not is a question once again to the general public. The rate of accidents have reduced due to strict laws. However, general awareness campaigns showing the consequences to undergo as an accident victim, either as a pedestrian or as a driver involved should be highlighted repeatedly. The recovery time, the legal proecss, etc are too long and harsh when compared to a few minutes of delay taken to follow the path at designated areas. Let us all support the authorities by following the road safety rules strictly. Community Organisations and companies should educate and remind members and staff on a regular basis the importance of road safety in tandem with Police support.

Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

Global retail chains cash in on grocery closures

Global retail chains cash in on grocery closures

Spinneys, Adnoc Oasis, Waitrose and other chains to open convenience outlets in Abu Dhabi By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter Published: 21:38 January 6, 2013 Abu Dhabi: Major retail chains, including global players, will open convenience outlets in Abu Dhabi in place of the closed grocery stores. The coming days will see the opening of a wide range of retail shops run by companies such as Spinneys, Snacks, Adnoc Oasis, Select Express, Waitrose and Spar among others in Abu Dhabi, a senior official announced on Sunday. “These new outlets will make up for the ones that are now closed,” Ahmad Abdul Karim Al Sharaf, acting director of communication and community service at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), said in a statement. But the authority did not disclose the number of stores that shut down and those under renovation after failing to meet the December 31 (Monday) deadline. However, salesmen who distribute supplies to these stores told Gulf News that out of the 1,300 grocery stores and small supermarkets in Abu Dhabi, they found a few were still open for business since January 1 (Tuesday). About 50 per cent of them were very small stores that shut down owing to space and financial constraints in implementing the new standards while the remaining are under renovation, they said. Some of the retail chains trying to cash in on the vacuum created by the closure of grocery stores said they would provide home delivery in residential neighbourhoods. Adnoc Oasis has opened ‘Grocery Stores’ that offer home delivery service on Al Salam Street, Al Falah Street and off Electra Street, a staff said. “Many more stores will be opened in the city soon,” the employee, who did not wish to be named, said.

Home delivery service Select Express has already opened a store on Airport Road and more small stores will be opened across the city soon with home delivery service, an executive said on Sunday. Spinneys has a made a submission to the ADFCA on a concept of small stores to be opened in Abu Dhabi, said CEO Johannes Holtzhauen. He said the company plans to open a number of small stores in Abu Dhabi. “We are waiting for the authority’s approval,” he said. Spar, a global retail chain, along with the Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society will open a number of convenience stores in the city soon, an executive said. Circle K, a convenience store chain with more than 10,000 stores across the world, said it plans to open 15 to 20 outlets in Abu Dhabi. “We will provide home delivery,” said Fahmi Al Shawa, managing director, Circle K UAE. The ADFCA said the groceries that had closed down did so on their own as they did not utilise 2011 for renovation work in their premises.

Fear of penal action Although the authority said it would only gradually close non-compliant groceries, owners of small stores said most such outlets had already shut down fearing penal action. The ADFCA said it had increased the number of approved contractors to over 80 in order to ensure that shopkeepers have enough to choose from. Contrary to speculation, the ADFCA has not fixed the price for renovation in grocery premises at Dh200,000. This choice is left to the shop owners, the authority clarified. It said the new regulations governing retail stores will guarantee food safety and address wide discrepancies in quality. “No new licence will be issued except as per the new regulations,” the ADFCA said.

My comments as follows: I consider the closure of small grocery stores in Abu Dhabi has two side effects to the economy and residents. On one hand, the age old and traditional easy access point to your daily home needs, from your phone is now extinct. One cannot lazily call the grocer on a Friday or any other morning and order him to bring to your doorstep a bottle of milk, eggs, a banana or the daily news. For the school going children, gone are the days where they get down from the school bus and run towards the grocer to buy an ice cream or chips packet or chocolate before they take the lift to their home. A move designed to bring in hygiene and quality to products will therefore show an effect on irregular eating desires, which will have to be discontinued as it is not easy to go in and pick these daily desires, buy and eat items, walking all the way to a mega grocer. Thus, I look forward to a bunch of healthier kids from now on, who will reduce automatically the consumption of fancy chips and chocolates. On the other hand, I foresee a huge decrease in consumer sales of daily saleable, over the counter FMCG products, which are sold purely on the basis of its easy availability from the grocer down than its necessity. Thus, small scale business will suffer. Time will tell whether the big giants could match up with the daily needs of the consumer to the level before or better. With the strict requirements to set up an establishment under the present regulations, the costs are bound hit a new time high, silently and indirectly thus consumer will suffer as a result.

Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS online

New shops should have been opened before closures

The closure of small grocery stores in Abu Dhabi will end the traditional easy access to daily home needs.
One cannot any more lazily call the grocer and order a bottle of milk, some eggs, some bananas and the newspaper.
And children can no longer get off the school bus and run to the grocer to buy ice cream or chips before take the lift to their upstairs homes. So I look forward to a healthier population.

But this move has been crushing for many of these grocers. Loss of their investments and difficulty in collecting on credit accounts given to some customers, plus the inability to return goods to vendors, will exact a big toll.
I hope that as many of them as possible find ways to re-establish themselves.

Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi

To read it in original, please visit THE NATIONAL The National online

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Driving on our highways, it is pure luck to reach your destination

There was no dearth for accidents this time too on the highway leading towards Bangalore. Traffic safety is a matter of concern. However, we drive safe, there is a danger of someone out there, who is driving dangerously and causing danger to all others out there. On the road photo - taken during during recent drive by Rajashree Menon. True, very true, we do not take a driver, because, he may continue using his mobile, however, we tell him not to use.

Therefore, I prefer to drive on my own. However, from the time we start from our home and reach our home in Kerala and then back at Bengaluru, it is sheer, good luck and god's grace. The driving habit and culture is too bad. God bless, those on our roads, each day and moment.