Karnataka withdraws ban on nightshift for women


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Bangalore : The Karnataka government Monday decided to withdraw the controversial ban on nightshift for women in shops and commercial establishments.

Labour Minister Iqbal Ansari told reporters here the state cabinet had decided to issue an ordinance soon to withdraw the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 2007, that prohibited allowing women from working after 8 p.m. in shops, private offices, the hospitality sector and business establishments.

The 1961 act was amended by the state legislature last month to check rising crimes against working women in the state, especially in cities such as Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore and Hubli.

After securing the governor's assent to the amendment bill April 27, the state government issued a gazette notification April 30 barring nightshift for women in the non-IT/BT sectors.

The revocation comes in the wake of vociferous protests by women's organisations, state women's commission and Governor T.N. Chaturvedi who expressed concern over the retrograde step and advised the government to reconsider it.

"An ordinance will be issued soon to lift the ban. Women will be allowed to work in shops and business establishments after 8 p.m. or in the nightshift. Women working in IT services and biotech (BT) firms, hospitals and essential services are already exempted from such a provision," Ansari affirmed.

"The law department has been directed to prepare a draft to annul section 30, sub-sec (3) and column 25 of the 1961 Act in order to promulgate an ordinance to permit women to work in nightshifts," he pointed out.

At the same time, Ansari sought to justify the ban order citing such a provision in the 1961 act and clarified the government had only intended to enforce the provision with higher penalty on employers for any violation.

"We have not imposed fresh ban on night shifts for women but only sought to implement the existing provision in the act. Though the amended act has been notified, the rules and the date of enforcement have been put on hold," Ansari said.

Admitting that it was the duty of the state administration to protect women employees, Home Minister M.P. Prakash said measures would be taken to enhance their security and ensure their safety.

"Rising crimes against working women and concerns over their welfare cannot be reasons enough to ban them from working after 8 p.m. or in nightshift. The state security machinery will be beefed to provide protection and employers will be made responsible for their safety and security, including providing transport and escort after nightshift," Prakash said.