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In a ground-breaking effort, the central government recently eased out policies of recruitment to allow women workers to work in underground coal mines. It also revoked the rule that prohibited women to work in surface mines during night shifts. This was a 60-year-old law that violated women’s right to work in mines because the government considers it a hazardous industry for women.

The Union labour ministry made the announcement through a notification, which said that the ministry has amended the Mines Act, 1952. An employer will need to obtain written consent from the female staffer and the underground deployment will be limited to roles that are “technical, supervisory and managerial”, the notification said.

“Several women employees’ groups, industry and students enrolled with various institutions pursuing mining engineering courses have requested the government at different forums that women should be provided equal employment opportunity for working in mines. Requests from mining companies were also received,” the ministry said on February 4.

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The amended rule also requires the employer to provide adequate facilities for women to work and safeguards regarding occupational safety, security and health.

While this is no less an achievement for India to allow women to work in underground coal mines and on surface mines in night shifts, what the government also needs to do is to ensure safety of women from workplace, sexual and mental harassment

While this is no less an achievement for India to allow women to work in underground coal mines and on surface mines in night shifts, what the government also needs to do is to ensure safety of women from workplace, sexual and mental harassment. Clearly, the unorganized sector is marred with violence against working women which pulls them down from realizing their true potential. There is also a greater need for the government to ensure that employers give adequate maternity leaves to women working in the vicinity. We need to provide these women with the basic rights that are mandatory for women working in any other sector.

Until we guarantee women complete safety and dignity at work, this might become another flawed amendment that did more harm to women than good. Because let’s face it, in night shifts and underground mines, women will have greater risk of getting molested and harassed than of dying.

Picture credit- Financial Express

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