Social Scientist. v 13, no. 145 (June 1985) p. 57.


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MEERA VELAYUDHAN*

The Crisis and Women9 s Struggles in India {1970-1977)

RESEARCH into a neglected area in women's studies, i.e. the role and participation of women in various movements in both the pre-indcpendcnce and post-independence eras, in India has just begun to emerge. Giv^n this limitation, the reconstruction of a significant part of women's collective experiences, is a difficult task. However, even on the basis of this limited data base (a few research papers and newspaper reports), we find that a ferment existed in the 1970s among broad sections of women—agricultural workers, poor peasants, working class, middle class housewives, NGOs, students. Women participated in agrarian struggles, working class agitations, the anti-price rise movement, the food movement, the struggles for civil liberties, and against atrocities inflicted on women. These struggles and movements covered Kerala, Andhra and Tamil Nadu in the south;

Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat in the West; Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh» Delhi in the North; and West Bengal, Assam in the eastern part of India.

The role and participation of women in struggles in the 70s could be placed within the context of the crisis—both economic and political— towards which India was moving. Development planning since independence was leading to the poor becoming poorer, price rise and widespread unemployment Official statistics reveal that the crisis was reflected in the trends of heavier tax burdens, low share of direct tax, growth of external debt and increasing expenditure on non-development sectors like the military, police and bureaucracy.1 The economy of the country was also characterised by its uneven regional development and this was indicated by the statistics on per capita income of the states.^ That women's low economic and social status made them more vulnerable to the crisis can be seen from the CSWI Report itself.3 The Report had highlighted the declining position of women particularly since independence. This decline manifested itself in the trends of: excessive mortality among^ women and female children, disparity between men and women among ^Sse poorer sections in access to health care and medical services, contmumis decline in the sex ratio of proportion of women in the population, increasing gap between men and women in literacy, education and training for

^CeAtwIbr ^6i&^n^ DewlepfflreiA Stt»3fcs, Delhi



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