The Labour Ministry has decided to amend rules for allowing women to work in underground coal mines during day time and in open cast mines round the clock, for the first time, in a bid to bring gender equity and generate job opportunities.

"The ministry has decided to extend the timing of women workers in coal mines initially and would be extended in other such mining sectors on the basis of the initiative. A notification in the regard has already been sent for publication and it would be enforced in next couple of days," a senior official said.

Present rules do not allow women to work in underground mines. This provision of allowing them to work in underground coal mines is expected to bring more employment opportunities for them.

At present, women are allowed to work in open cast mines for fixed hours during day time mainly. The new provision would allow them to work in any shift in open cast mine at any time of the day.

The official said, "At present the strength of Coal India is around 3 lakh, of which women strength ranges from 15-20%t. The relaxed timing for women in open cast mining operation and permission to enter underground coal mines would make them eligible for more jobs available in the public as well as private sector as there are some captive coal mines also."

The official further informed, "The new rules provide that there must be at least three consenting women for working in an underground coal mine. At present only some women officials have permission to enter an underground mine for inspection and other purposes."

A coal company official said, "Women are not participating in active coal mining in the country as their jobs are generally supportive in nature like working in workshops and drilling holes for blasting etc. Some women these day have learnt to drive dumper and other machines. They are doing these jobs also. But women workers are mainly those who have got job either on compassionate ground or land oustees (those who get job in lieu of their land as compensation)."

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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