New Delhi: In an effort to improve working conditions of people employed in mining activities, the government proposes to amend the Mines Act, which will make
the law more stringent for mine owners by enhancing penalties by 100 times.
Besides this, the proposed amendments also says that in case of accidents, the onus would lie with the company or owner possessing the mines, until proven innocent.
"The meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, today approved amending the Mines Act, 1952, which envisages greater safety and welfare measures for the workers," an official spokesperson said.
The bill is likely to be introduced in the Budget Session of Parliament, Labour Secretary Prabhat Chaturvedi told a news agency.
"The proposed amendments will help the victim to get immediate relief as the onus will be on the company to prove itself innocent," Chaturvedi said.
He said that the government has also proposed to increase penalties by about 100 times, in case of accidents.
"The present penalties were fixed in 1952 and are very token in nature. They are in the range of Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000. So we proposed to increase it by 100 times, so that the
offender is not let off with a token penalty," Chaturvedi said.
The government has also proposed to increase the jurisdiction of the Act to all Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zones and other Maritime Zones.
"This will ensure safety and welfare of all those who work in exploration activities in deep sea as the jurisdiction will now be extended to 200 nautical miles in the Continental
Waters," the Secretary said.
Currently, the jurisdiction was till 12 nautical miles only as the Act was passed way back in 1952.
Besides this, the government feels that several developments in the area of technology, scale of operations and working environment in coal and other mining activities have taken place and the Act needs to be realigned to the present realities, he said.
Last time the Act was amended in 1983.
The proposed amendments will also broaden and specify the definition of mine owner, whereas the `foreign companies` engaged in the business will be treated as per the Companies Act, 1956.
The spokesperson said the amendments were required, as present mining operations have become more mechanised with the usage of heavy machines and better technology.
The Act will also regulate the working conditions and environment in mines with a view to making work more humane, the spokesperson said.
The proposed Act also prescribes a system of inspection of mines for enforcement of the legislation.