NEW DELHI: India on Monday allowed women to work in mines, both underground as well as opencast, during the day and at night with some riders.
The union labour ministry, however, said written permission from women is a must before employing them and they have to be deployed in a group of not less than three in a shift.
“In the case of women employed in any mine above ground, the owner of a mine may deploy women between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m," the labour ministry said in a notification.
“The deployment of women shall be after obtaining the written consent...and the women so deployed shall be provided with adequate facilities and safeguards regarding occupational safety, security and health," the notification added.
The ministry said if women are deployed in any mine below ground, the mine’s authority can only do so between 6 a.m and 7.p.m, in “technical, supervisory and managerial work". It means, for underground work women still can not be deployed in the night shift and for types of jobs which require their constant presence.
Though there is no ready data on the number of women working and aspiring to work in mines, the night shift for women employees has been the matter of debate for the last few years. Industries have been claiming that the night shift for women will enhance the women labour force participation rate.
The women labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India is a dismal 27%, against 51% in Indonesia, 58% in Bangladesh, 64% in China and 73% in Vietnam.
The Mines Act, 1952, has so far restricted the employment of women workers in underground mines and also in opencast or above ground workings of the mine during night hours.
“Several women employees groups, industry and students enrolled with various institutions...have been representing to the government that women should be provided equal employment opportunity for working in mines," the ministry said on Monday, adding that it has consulted all stakeholders, including central ministries like home, mines, and women and child development, before deciding on the working hours.
Before the notification, the Union government had written in May 2016 requesting states to allow women to work the night shift in factories. The letter written by the Union labour secretary then had emphasized that the changed “socio-economic scenario" prompts revisiting the existing provisions of the Act, so as to align it with the “new realities"