Hilton Rock M. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai

I have come into this a bit late - the world of Serial, a free podcast of 12 episodes, that looks at a real crime in Baltimore, USA, and investigates it in great detail, finding holes in the State’s case because a member of the community felt strongly enough for a young man convicted of murdering a fellow female student. She believed that he might be innocent. It sets a journalist off on the trail of an old murder and reveals enough for the case to be re-opened. Justice is getting another opportunity.

To me, this is a strong case for civil consciousness, which is what we try and promote through our community reports. We do not presume to have succeeded a 100 per cent but we have managed to bring about change and impact within the community, evident through the daily reader investigative articles published in the Your Say section of Gulf News. It is especially rewarding when we see authorities respond to these reports and take action.

So, I would like to send a call-out to all our readers who want to be the difference and not just bystanders - be heard through our Your Say section. Send in letters, comment through our social media channels and file community reports.

For the month of April we have three winners. First place goes to Hilton Rock M. from Abu Dhabi for ‘Stricter penalties for littering’, published on April 1. It talks about how a reader complaint had seen Abu Dhabi Municipality clean up a highly littered part of Mussafah. Wonderful. But, within a few days, people had thrown garbage, again, creating dirty, stinking piles of it. How perfectly awful! Makes you stop and wonder.

Everybody talks about what the local civic body should and should not do, but what about our common civic sense? Why would people litter, again? Why would you knowingly pollute your environment? Because, either they do not care or feel that they can get away, despite the fines for littering being place.

It is a sad day when fear is the only way forward to change people’s terrible conduct. The reader brings this forth and urges the need to have tougher punishments in place, including extended community service, especially for repeat offenders. A very powerful piece of community journalism, indeed.

Second place goes to ‘Pick and drop used books to help yourself go green’ by Sharjah-based Rohan Kapur, published on April 30. It covered an excellent initiative by a student to recycle school books and prevent wastage. And the manner in which he did it was simple and effective. Waste not, want not. Young people like him are an asset to society and the community.

Third place goes to Kamal Velappakkam for ‘Accident-prone spot near divider needs signs with reflective material’, published on April 16. The Sharjah-based resident explains about a tricky spot in Al Quoz area, in his report, with detailed insight into a probable solution. The matter was raised with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, who agreed with the reader and informed that they are taking necessary action.

It was a good start to the summer. We hope to continue in this positive manner. Keep reading, keep talking to us.

 

PROFILES:

First: Hilton Rock M.

Published on April 1, 2015

Hilton Rock M., a Canadian-Indian national based in Abu Dhabi, raised his concern over the recurring issue of people littering around the different emirates and requested the authorities for stricter penalties.

He said: “Community reports is a medium where we can express our concerns and voice, voice what is on our minds and help this wonderful place get better. People around me now know what I am doing to improve my surroundings.

“Abu Dhabi is like my home. This land has blessed me with everything I have today and I always found success here in whatever I have done. Therefore, I feel I owe it to them and always like to do my bit to help this great nation.”

 

Second: Rohan Kapur

Published on April 30, 2015

Rohan Kapur, a student based in Sharjah, wrote about an initiative to reuse and recycle school books.

He said: “I think the community reports is an excellent platform to share my opinions with the residents of the UAE. Whenever I wield my pen to talk about an issue that is affecting the entire community and needs to be resolved immediately by the authorities, I have noticed that most of the time, the problem is resolved. I have become more vigilant of issues that may need resolution and my writing skills have increased manifold. I cannot exhaust my gratitude to Gulf News for this state-of-the-art platform.”

After his report was published, Kapur says the response was great.

He said: “It is amazing how people are contributing all forms of paper, from parking slips to newspapers in the Green Box.”

 

Third: Kamal Velappakkam

Published on April 16, 2015

Kamal Velappakkam raised concern over a road divider in Dubai’s Al Quoz area, which is a potential hazard for oncoming traffic.

He said: “My colleagues and friends have appreciated my initiative to raise awareness regarding an important issue, which could avoid accidents and in turn, save the lives of many people, or avoid serious injuries. I believe that saving a life is saving a family.

“After my report was published, I saw a yellow refractor pasted on the body of the new barrier, which was the first positive outcome. And now, a red cone with reflector installed has been placed there by the authorities. These are the positive effects of the report, but concrete steps are yet to be taken by them to avoid accidents.”

 

— Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor