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Women in Nightshifts

Companies and government must guarantee women safety

The state government has approved an amendment to the Factories Act that will allow industries to employ women during night shifts. This amendment was long overdue and the government must be complimented for having finally taken a decision which will open avenues for women to work beyond dusk and remove the gender inequality that existed till now. However, the industries and women will have to wait till the amendment is finally approved by the Assembly later this month. According to Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Sardessai, who is minister in-charge of Factories and Boilers department, the approval for employment of women during night shift would not be across the board but granted on case to case basis. However, the government wants to make industries “competitive” and end the existing bias against women vis-à-vis employment in industries during night shift.

The Factories Act prohibits women from working between 7 pm and 6 am. Though the whole of country and industrial set- up has undergone many changes since the enactment of the law the authorities continued with the law that prohibits women from working during night shift. The Karnataka government, however, tweaked the law in 2016 to permit women to work during night shifts and other states, like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh followed suit. However, Goa, a progressive state took time to decide on the issue. The government has also proposed to increase weekly working hours in the factories from 60 hours to 72 hours and overtime hours in any quarter from 75 to 125 hours. Increased working hours as well as overtime hours would help the industries to increase their production and become more competitive and earn more revenues. This change would go a long way toward making a success of “Make in India” initiative.

While the government has proposed to change the law to permit women to work during night shifts, it also has to ensure that safety of women working in factories was not compromised, either at work place or on the way to and from their homes. Though Goa is a liberal state with less pronounced bias and violence against women, the women need to be guarded from unscrupulous and criminal elements in the society. In the state given there were scores of cases of assault on women. Every company employing women during night shifts must be made to offer them transportation from their houses to the place of work and back and also provide all the facilities and ensure good working conditions. Only those factories that can ensure safety and provide adequate and necessary facilities should be given permission to employ women. Besides, to ensure safe and harmonious work environment, the government has to explore the possibility whether factories can deploy all- women workforce. Stringent provisions have to be made to prevent harassment of women.

The decision to permit employment of women during night shifts will help the state government fight growing unemployment problem. This will also mark the end of male preponderance that prevailed in factories during night shift. Nearly half of those unemployed in the state are women and the new decision will help them get jobs. Though the government has decided to allow women to work during night shift, has any study been made in what types of jobs they could be deployed? How many industries in the state have vacancies where women could be absorbed? The government would need to come up with clear-cut guidelines at work places in factories that employ women. The government would have to carry out a study how employment of women during night would help in establishing a healthy balance in work place.  All efforts should be made to guarantee that harmony prevails in the state after enforcement of the amendment. Both men and women must contribute equally and richly to production in the factories so there is a change in the work culture to take Goa to greater heights. 

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