A few things Modi could learn from UAE on women’s, religious and police issues

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Aug. 17 visit to the UAE was of historical significance. Not only because he was the first Indian PM to visit the UAE in 34 years, it is also because of the overwhelming response he got from 50,000 Indians, who came to hear him speak at the Dubai Cricket Stadium, braving the stifling August heat.

Modi in Dubai

Modi in Dubai

With Indian expat population standing at 2.6 million in the UAE, it is also the largest expat community in this country, where people from more than 150 nationalities live and work. So when Modi said he could see a mini India in front of his eyes he was quite right about it.

I have lived and worked in Dubai for eight years and I feel Indians living in UAE – right from the laborers working at the construction sites to the professionals – are more disciplined, tolerant and respectful, something that I miss once I am back home in India.

What I feel is ratified by what is written in the Indian Embassy Community Portal. It says: “The Indian community has played a major role in the economic development of the UAE over the last 35 years. The Indian community is respected for its technical competence, sense of discipline and its minimal involvement in criminal activities compared to other expatriate communities”

I think here are a few lessons for Modi to carry back home from UAE.

Women’s safety

Indian women feel extremely safe in Dubai

Indian women feel extremely safe in Dubai

In TripAdvisor’s Cities Survey 2012 Dubai was ranked the 7th safest city in the world and in the Safe Cities Index 2015 released by Economic Intelligence Unit Abu Dhabi occupies the 25th rank among 50 safest cities in the world.

The same Indians who indulge in eve-teasing and molesting women in public places in India are extremely civilized in the UAE. In fact, with so many nationalities living together it is amazing how UAE continues to have a low crime rate.

Ask any Indian woman how safe they feel in the UAE they would vouch for it that they feel hundred times more safe in this foreign country while working in an office, driving around the cities, shopping at a mall or a roadside grocery or just hanging out with friends, than they would feel in their home country.

That is why women live alone comfortably in UAE, and especially in Dubai, where I have lived all these years, a woman rarely has to watch over her shoulders whenever she steps out of her door and that might be at the oddest hour even.

I had written my views on safety of women in Dubai in my blog. Almost all who visited the post agreed with my views on safety of women in Dubai.

Religious Inclusiveness

Diwali festival in Dubai

Diwali festival in Dubai

Modi might have been gifted a piece of land in Abu Dhabi to build the first temple in the Emirate but our PM should also know that Dubai has temples, churches and gurudwaras. The most frequented temple complex in Bur Dubai which has a Shiva temple (all other deities are also present here) and a Krishna Temple in the same complex was built way back in 1958. The complex also has a gurdwara but another one was built in Jebel Ali in 2012 to accommodate more people. There are a number of churches where regular prayers, events and congregations are held. Christmas Onam and Diwali are celebrated with equal fervor in Dubai.

Most importantly although UAE is a Muslim country there is no discrimination in the name of religion and any kind of religious violence is unthinkable.

UAE is an example of how people from so many religions can live together in peace and harmony.

Commitment of the police force

Dubai Police patrol the city constantly

Dubai Police patrol the city constantly

The police force is extremely respected and that respect comes from their commitment to their duty. It is largely because of their constant and tireless vigil that the crime rate is kept under control.

There was a grocery store right below my apartment building, where police, patrolling the city would often drop in to pick up food. The first thing I always noticed was they would hand out the money through the car window and then take the goods. Back in India I am usually used to seeing the police just picking up stuff and rarely bothering to pay. It is assumed that the police would get anything for free.

Also the respect the police accords to women is also noteworthy. I got into a minor accident in March this year while returning from a friend’s home with my five-year-old son. The police came to the spot in seconds, gave me my clearance slip that said I was not at fault and the policeman was extremely helpful and co-operative, telling me to look after my child while he would take care of the paperwork.

I have come across extremely helpful policemen in India also but it is the general attitude, honesty and uprightness of Dubai Police that make them so feared and respected.

Discipline in public spaces

Parks and beaches in Dubai are extremely clean

Parks and beaches in Dubai are extremely clean

From following the lanes while driving cars, to not honking unnecessarily to dumping garbage in the right places to not urinating openly, Indians follow the rules in UAE. I guess it is the inevitability of heavy fines and punishment that keeps them in check.

Also government departments ensure that employees are doing their jobs. Indians who are employed in these departments are aware that they cannot get away by not doing their jobs. For instance Dubai Municipality works 24×7 to keep the city spic and span. The cleanliness of roads, public parks and beaches is exemplary.

Modi’s Swacch Bharat Project can definitely take a cue from them.

Another aspect that is getting lost in India but is diligently followed by Indians in UAE is respect for neighbors and fellow travelers. In a crowded metro aged people or mothers with infants will never have to look for a seat. There will be plenty of people ready to give up their own. Respect for women, children and elderly people is a culture encouraged and followed diligently in the UAE.

Amrita Mukherjee is a freelance journalist who writes on social issues in India with focus on women. She divides her time between Dubai and India and blogs at www.amritaspeaks.com

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