HC Deb 15 April 1929 vol 227 cc2-3

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India, if he will give the latest figures showing the total number of women employed underground in coal, salt, and other mines in India; whether the mine owners have yet consented to the entire elimination of female employment underground within a certain period; if so, what is the period agreed upon; and are there any owners who still stand out?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Earl Winterton)

The average number of females employed daily underground in mines under the Indian Mines Act for the year 1927 was 31,850. As regards the second part of the question, the matter has not been left to the voluntary action of the owners, but the Government of India have made statutory regulations under the Act prohibiting, with effect from 1st July, 1929, the employment of women underground in mines other than coal mines in Bengal, Bihar and the Central Provinces, and in salt mines in the Punjab. In the exempted mines the percentage of women among those employed underground, both men and women, is to be reduced progressively from 29 per cent. for coal and 40 per cent. for salt mines in 1929–30 to nil on 1st July, 1939.


Is my right hon. Friend able to say whether the Government of India has fully considered and allowed for the well-known reluctance of many of the male colliery workers in Bengal to go underground unless accompanied by the female members of their families?


I am well aware of the existence of the custom and the circumstances have all been taken into consideration.


Cannot the Government put an end more quickly to the employment of women underground, in view of the fact that in all other industries millions of men are employed without their wives insisting on going with them?


The whole matter has been considered, and legislation has been passed. My answer shows that in a very large number of cases the employment of women will be forbidden altogether from 1st July this year. It is not possible to go into it in answer to a question, but the reduction can only be made progressively in this way.


How many women will be working underground after this new Act comes into operation?


I can give the percentage, but not the actual figures. That would be a matter of estimate. I doubt if it would be possible to obtain them, but, if the hon. Member will put a question down, I will see what can be done.

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