HC Deb 11 May 1925 vol 183 cc1421-3

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether women and children are employed on underground work in the coal mines of British India and, if so, will he state the numbers of such persons so employed?


Under the Indian Mines Act of 1923, which came into force on 1st July, 1924, children, that is persons under 13 years of age, may not be employed in mines. The Government of India are empowered by the Act to make regulations prohibiting the underground employment of women, and have consulted local governments on the question whether such regulations should be made. In 1923, the last year for which figures are available the number of women so employed in coal mines was about 40,000 —mostly in two provinces

Colonel APPLIN

Is it not a fact that married men in India will not go down the coal mines unless accompanied by their wives, and that their wives refuse to stay above ground when their husbands go down the mine?


That is a matter which no doubt the Government of India will discuss with the local Governments who are responsible for legislation on this question. The matter does present certain difficulties


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the women have to take their young children, quite babies. into the mines with them because there are no means whatever of having them cared for and in view of the very high mortality among infants in India, will the right hon. Gentlemen make arrangements for some welfare work to be established so that these babies need not be taken down. the mines?


I can assure the hon. Lady that that question is receiving the very sympathetic attention of the Provincial Governments and the Government of India whose duty it is to deal with this question. I know that several eneches have been established in recent years, and there is reason to believe that partly by voluntary organisation and partly by the assistance of Government aid there will be more ereches established in the future

Captain GEE

Is it not a fact that, owing to the interference with the Custo.ns of India, we are now arriving at the conclusion that many women who are children under the Factory Acts in India, are mothers of children themselves?


I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is right. I can only add that this matter was discussed in the various Legislative Assemblies before legislation was passed, and it was only passed after full consultation. I do not think there has been any undue interference

Captain GEE

May I ask for an answer to the last part of my question?


We must not discuss here matters affecting India, with which it is the duty of other AF5iemblies to deal


Are there any official measures taken to register the ages of children? Who determines whether a child is under the age of 13 or not?


I should like to have notice of that question, but I presume it would be the duty of the inspector who examines the children


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India if he can state the hours per normal working day in the coal mines of British India; the average number of hours worked weekly; and the total number of accidents, fatal and nun-fatal, for the years 1921, 1922, 1923 and 1924: and whether he can state the average weekly wage of a surface worker and underground worker, giving its equivalent in English money?


The information asked for in the first part of the question is not available. As the reply to the remainder of the question contains a large number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT


Why is it not possible to get; this information. Surely, we can obtain the number of hours per normal working day?


The reason is that India is a very large sub-Continent, with 250,000,000 inhabitants, and it is governed by many different Governments. While information on all these question is becoming more available than in the past, it is not yet fully available, and it would be unfair to ask the

Average number of hours worked per week and average, weekly wages earned in one large representative mine in an important coalfield in each of six provinces of British India in 1923
Class of worker Average based on one coal mine in each of Hours *Wages
Rs. a. p. s. d.
Miners 6 provinces 45 5 14 3 8 10
Other underground workers —males 6 provinces 51 1 15 8 7 5
Other underground workers —females 3 provinces 48 2 5 7 3 6
Surface workers —males 6 provinces 54 4 2 6 6 3
Surface workers —females 4 provinces 53 2 2 0 3 2
*Converted at the present rate of exchange—approximately Is. 6d to the rupee.