Here are some of my recent Editorials in The Gulf Today (Posted for my records)
pose deadly challenge
Startling statistics unveiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that more than 800,000 people commit suicide every year – around one person every 40 seconds – presents a grave challenge to humanity as a whole.
The launch of WHO’s first report on suicide comes just a week before World Suicide Prevention Day, observed on Sept.10 every year. The day provides an opportunity for joint action to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention around the world.
What is distressing is suicide kills more than conflicts, wars and natural catastrophes. There are 1.5 million violent deaths every year in the world, of which 800,000 are suicides. Men are almost twice as likely as women to take their own lives.
The most common methods of suicide globally are pesticide poisoning, hanging and firearms. Evidence from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and a number of European countries reveals that limiting access to these means can help prevent people dying by suicide.
In addition to limiting access to means of suicide, experts suggest that other effective measures to reduce deaths include responsible reporting of suicide in the media, such as avoiding language that sensationalises suicide and avoiding explicit description of methods used.
Another key to reducing deaths by suicide is a commitment by national governments to the establishment and implementation of a coordinated plan of action. Currently, only 28 countries are known to have national suicide prevention strategies.
Suicide and attempted suicide are considered a crime in 25 countries, mostly in Africa, in South America and in Asia.
India especially needs to take more proactive action as it accounted for the highest estimated number of suicides in the world in 2012. In the South-East Asia Region, the estimated suicide rate is the highest as compared to other WHO regions. Suicide rates show a peak among the young and the elderly.
The most suicide-prone countries were Guyana (44.2 per 100,000), followed by North and South Korea (38.5 and 28.9 respectively). Next came Sri Lanka (28.8), Lithuania (28.2), Suriname (27.8), Mozambique (27.4), Nepal and Tanzania (24.9 each), Burundi (23.1), India (21.1) and South Sudan (19.8).
WHO officials are absolutely right when they say that the report is a wake-up call for action to address a large public health problem that has been shrouded in taboo for far too long.
Early identification and management of mental and substance use disorders in communities and by health workers in particular will go a long way in tackling the serious problem.
India on Mars
Wednesday turned out to be a proud day for Indians and for right reasons. Scientists from the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) managed to succeed where the US, Europe and Russia failed, by becoming the first country in the world to enter Mars' orbit in its debut attempt.
And, amazingly, it has been achieved with a meagre budget. At just $74 million, the mission cost is less than the estimated $100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster "Gravity."
It also represents just a fraction of the cost of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s $671 million Maven spacecraft, which successfully began orbiting the fourth planet from the sun on Sunday.
Of all the planets in the solar system, Mars has sparked the greatest human interest. The conditions in Mars are believed to be hospitable since the planet is similar to Earth in many ways.
For ages, humans have been speculating about life on Mars. However, the question that is to be still answered is whether Mars has a biosphere or ever had an environment in which life could have evolved and sustained.
The spacecraft — also called Mangalyaan, meaning "Mars craft" in Hindi — is chiefly meant to showcase the country's ability to design, plan, manage and operate a deep-space mission.
India has already conducted dozens of successful satellite launches, including sending up the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, which discovered key evidence of water on the Moon in 2008.
The social media was abuzz with news of the triumph, with many declaring "Mission accomplished" on Facebook and Twitter.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) traversed over 650 million kilometres through deep space for over nine months to successfully reach the planet's orbit.
Radars at the earth stations of NASA at Goldstone in the US, Madrid in Spain, Canberra in Australia and India's own deep space network at Baylalu near Bangalore received the radio signals from the Orbiter, confirming its insertion into the Mars orbit.
Five solar-powered instruments will gather data that will help determine how Martian weather systems work and what happened to the water that is believed to have once existed on Mars in large quantities.
It also will search Mars for methane, a key chemical in life processes on earth that could also come from geological processes.
The success of the Indian scientists proves that sky is the limit for achievers who have visionary zeal and committed goal. The achievement will surely go down as a landmark in space history.
It was a historic day that could have changed geography. Good sense prevailed and unity scored over division. Scottish voters have rejected independence in an extraordinary referendum.
In the process, they have prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England.
Despite a surge in nationalist support in the final fortnight of the campaign, the "No" secured 55.30 per cent of the vote against 44.70 per cent for the pro-independence "Yes" camp.
The campaign remained intense and stoked political passions across the country prompting the highest ever turnout for an election in Britain at 84.6 per cent.
It became obvious that a majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond's impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.
A "delighted" British Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that a “Yes” vote would have broken his heart to see United Kingdom come to an end. A defeat in the referendum could well have cost him his job.
While the UK survived, it will soon look very different.
The British government must now deliver on promises made in the heat of the campaign to give more powers over tax, spending and welfare to the devolved government in Edinburgh.
Cameron has promised that he would offer all parts of the UK greater local control - heading off growing demands from right-wing Conservatives and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) for England to be given more powers.
Salmond has reminded Cameron of his promises: "Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course."
In that context, Cameron clearly has some more sleepless days ahead.
It is not that the Scots have been voiceless in London. Cameron's predecessor was a Scot: Gordon Brown of the Labour Party, who served at No. 10 Downing Street for nearly three years and, before that, was the powerful finance minister for 10 years under Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Several other Scots held senior positions in Blair's governments, prompting one TV presenter to quip in 2005 that Britain was living under a "Scottish Raj."
Whatever the outcome of the exercise, Britain can be proud that it has set a perfect example of how to roll a peaceful democratic process.
Also, what will be highly consoling for Britain is that it can avoid a prolonged period of financial insecurity that had been predicted by many if Scotland broke away.
wonder on a roll
The driverless wonder on wheels, Dubai Metro, has captured the hearts millions of Dubai travellers. No surprise, when it celebrated its fifth anniversary on Tuesday, accolades poured in from varied sections of society.
It was on 9-9-9 that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, opened the Red Line of the Dubai Metro, which stretches 52 km and covers 29 stations comprising 4 underground stations, 24 elevated stations, and one station at the grade.
Two years after the start of the operation of the Dubai Metro Red Line, namely on 9/9/2011, Sheikh Mohammed opened the Dubai Metro Green Line; which spans 23 km linking 18 stations including 6 underground stations, and 12 elevated stations.
Sheikh Mohammed, whose brainchild Dubai Metro is, envisaged the sophisticated facility to shape as the backbone of the transport system that connects various vital areas in the emirate and provide easy and safe mobility for passengers.
According to official statistics, the number of Dubai Metro Red Line users since the start of operation on 9/9/2009 until last August, soared to 333,661,032 riders. The number of riders has grown steadily, jumping from 38,887,718 riders in 2010 to 60,024,794 riders in 2011.
In 2013, it continued its upward trajectory to touch 88,886,539 riders, and in the first eight months of this year, the number of Red Line users climbed to 67,054,535 riders.
The total number of Green Line users, which was opened on 9/9/2011, until the end of last August, went up to the tune of 134,251,247 riders. The number of Green Line users in 2012 was about 37,577,000 riders, and shot even higher in 2013 to as many as 48,872,719 riders, whereas in the first eight months of this year the number has already touched 38,819,433 riders.
As Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Roads and Transport Authority, Mattar Al Tayer, rightly put it, Dubai Metro has added a beautiful new dimension to the landmarks and towering achievements of Dubai, especially as it uses the latest technology in the rail industry and is considered to be the longest driverless Metro line worldwide.
What is highly commendable is that over the past five years of operation, no single incident was reported about breaching the code or vandalising the facilities of the project. Besides, Dubai Metro has scored high marks on sticking to timetables and offering high-level safety standards.
Positive signals on Dubai
Expo 2020 preparations
The Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Committee meeting on Monday to discuss preparations for the first-of-its-kind mega event to be held in the Middle East North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region has made it abundantly clear that arrangements are impeccably on track.
Just a week ago, heads of three major business establishments that propel Dubai’s economy, along with others, had vouched in an exclusive chat with this newspaper that preparations for Expo 2020 were well on track and that Dubai was heading to become “a centre of the world.”
“When you talk of Dubai, it is going to become a much bigger and happening place,” the top officials of Emirates Group, Dubai Duty Free and the Jumeirah Group had remarked.
On Nov.22 last year, Dubai was declared host of the World Expo 2020 in an announcement that was made in Paris.
Running October 2020 through April 2021 under the theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” the Expo will launch the country’s Golden Jubilee celebration and serve as a springboard from which to inaugurate a progressive and sustainable vision for the coming decades.
A cursory look at the figures involved leaves one amazed at the size of the event. The total investment in the infrastructures related to Expo is estimated at AED25 billion. It will generate around 277,000 new job opportunities in Dubai over the next seven years. Each new job opportunity will sustain other 50 jobs in the region. The event is expected to attract over 25 million visitors, 70% of those are coming from abroad.
That is not all. The Expo will inject more than AED140 billion in Dubai's GDP. It will enhance Dubai's trade and support its tourism development strategy targeting 20 million tourists. Interestingly, some of the facilities are multipurpose and will be re-used.
There are other positive indications too. Online recruitment activity in the hospitality and tourism sector rose 34 per cent year on year in the UAE, as a spate of new hotel construction ahead of the Expo creates demand for new workers, according to data from recruitment website, Monster.As UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum himself remarked after winning the Expo bid, Dubai will astonish the world in 2020. There is absolutely no doubt that the Expo will breathe new life into the ancient role of the Middle East as a melting pot for cultures and creativity.