Women and Structural Adjustment in India
In response to the mounting burden of debt leading to balance of payment crisis, the Government of India (GOD adopted the structural adjustment programme (SAP) in 1990. It included reduction in public investment, devaluation, slashing of subsidies on food and fertilizers, reduction of budgetary provision of developmental planning, capital intensive and 'high-tech* productive activities, economy in government expenditure, increase in the bank rate, insurance charges and rail tariffs. In a nutshell, this policy aimed at capital, energy and import-intensive growth with the help of 4-'d's—devaluation, deregulation, deflation and denationalisation.
This policy has intensified the processes which have been pursued in the last one and half decade (mainly in the post-Emergency period) as a result of new international division of labour that took place between the advanced capitalist economies and the post-colonial economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Around 1977, national and multinational corporations in the USA and Europe realized that the best way of reduction in the wage-bill and enhancement in the rate of profit was to shift the industrial plants to the poorer countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc. In this model, cheap labour of 'docile', 'nimble fingered' and 'flexible' Asian women came handy. It was given an attractive nomenclature—'Integration of women in Development.'
It was during the Emergency rule in India (1975), that a major policy-shift took place where a slogan of 'import substitution' was replaced by the slogan of 'export promotion'. The 'Emergency rule' provided politico-repressive instruments to push through the new economic strategy to restructure its industrial sector by introducing a higher degree of mechanisation and rationalisation on the one hand and on the other hand, expansion of an extremely exploitative informal sector (Desai and Patel, 1990). A 14-country Alternative Asian Report on the impact of the UN Decade for women (1975-19&5)
Visiting Fellow at Development Studies Institute/ London School of Economic and Political Science.
Social Scientist, Vol. 22, Nos. 3-4, March-April 1994