Posted by Namrata Mishra

The current economic model of development that India is following is neo liberal, based on capitalism and macro in perspective. Such a model rests on the value of wealth accumulation, profit at any cost leading to widening gaps between the haves and the have-nots. Therefore, it is essential to question the validity of this development model.

Will such kind of model be helpful to a diverse nation like India which is marked by inequalities of caste, class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and many more? Cases of both past and present show that this model has failed, and drastically so. And whoever has been questioning this model of dominance perpetuated at the hands of the state, has faced the military might, as evident from the naxalite movements in India.

Though India is one of the largest growing economies today, where does India stand in terms of its Human Development Index? At the rank of 130 out of 189 countries, ‘better than Bangladesh and Pakistan’ as this phrase is used to show India as ‘the big brother’ of south Asia and to justify the nation’s failure to provide the basic necessities to the masses.

Inadequate employment generation and agrarian crises continue to plague most developing countries including India. These crises are evident from the farmer’s movements in India. One reason for the agrarian crisis can be WTO’s comprehensive changes in the economic policies and legal systems that have exposed domestic producers and workers to competition from abroad, from larger, more powerful, or more heavily subsidised players. All this is been done in the name of globalisation.

‘Better than Bangladesh and Pakistan’ is the phrase used to justify the nation’s failure to provide the basic necessities to the masses.

What is even more disheartening is the fact that despite the invasive changes laid down by developed countries, the developing country governments have typically preferred to join the multilateral grouping because being left out can have even more adverse consequences.

Also read: Remembering The Gendered Harms Of Demonetisation

Taking from Jayati Ghosh’s work in Never Done And Poorly Paid , USA , a “developed, first world nation”, being the “sole super power” and responsible for being a global economic ‘leader’ has been blindly followed by the ‘developing’, ‘other’ world countries like China, Brazil, Russia, and India, when in reality, it is the USA depending on large capital inflows from these depending nations and from the rest of the world.

This dependency has led to an economic instability which has both positive and negative implications for the developing economies. And in this instability is the possibility of mobility. However, this mobility is marked by magnified effects of threats by capital to control wages and workers leading to formation of “the poor working classes – the have-nots.”

Who forms this working class? It is the marginalised and excluded groups of women, LGBTQIA+ communities, Dalits, the tribal communities, the religious minorities, the economically poor masses, the migrant workers who are further exploited, and many more. They form the informal/unorganised sectors on whose back the formal/organised sector rests. And who forms the formal/organised sector on a larger basis? The upper/ middle classes (or castes) enjoying the privileges of ascribed status.

Amidst all this, a crucial feature of this development model (apparent across the globe) has been the increase in unpaid labour within households ( dominantly but not exclusively) performed by women. The care economy is devolved onto the unpaid sector. The peculiar combination of increased unemployment and increased requirement of unpaid labour is thus an attribute of labour markets globally. Hence, we see how workers and labourers are globally exploited.

The trend towards feminisation of employment in asian countries resulted from employer’s needs for cheaper and more ‘flexible’ sources of labour, which meant more casualisation of labour, shift to part time work or piece rate contracts, an insistence on greater freedom of hiring and firing. Women workers are preferred by employers in export activities primarily because of the inferior conditions of work and pay that they are usually willing to accept. They have lower reservation wages than their male counterparts, more willing to accept longer hours and unpleasant and often unhealthy or hazardous factory conditions, typically do not unionise or engage in other forms of collective bargaining to improve conditions and do not ask for permanent contracts. They are, thus, easier to hire and fire at will or according to external demand conditions.

A crucial feature of this development model has been the increase in unpaid labour within households (dominantly but not exclusively) performed by women.

The feminisation of such activities has had both positive and negative effects for the women concerned. On the one hand, it definitely meant greater recognition and remuneration of women’s work, and typically improved their relative status and bargaining power within households, as well as their own self-worth, thereby leading to some empowerment. On the other hand, since most women are rarely, if ever, actually ‘unemployed’ in their lives, as they are almost continuously involved in various forms of productive or reproductive activities (even if they are not recognised as ‘working’ or paid for such work). Paid employment for them may lead to an onerous double burden of work unless other social policies and institutions emerge to deal with the work traditionally assigned to (unpaid) women.

In the Indian context, Maitrayee Chaudhuri in her work Gender In The Making Of The Indian Nation State has critically analysed the period during which the foundations of this model were being laid upon. She brings out how women have been addressed both in the making and running of the Indian nation state. Both the national movement (first) and the Indian state (later) imagined the role of women. These are first – women as agents and recipients of development. Second, women’s equal participation as equal citizens of the state and third, women as “emblems” of “national culture”.

These factors of the national movement were germane to the making of the nation. Hence, it can be seen how women were and still are politically used first “for the nation” and later, were reduced to recipients of development, a male centered development whose face are the domesticated, traditional, home making, submissive, and sacrificing Indian women.

Further, taking from Development As Freedom by Amartya Sen, development can be seen as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy. Growth of GNP, personal income, social modernisation, technological advancements, and many more is a very narrow view of development. These can be means to development, they can contribute but freedom depends on many more factors, for example, liberty to participate in public discussion and scrutiny.

Also read: ‘Men-Streaming’ Is Important For Women’s Economic Empowerment And Here’s Why

Development requires the removal of major sources of ‘unfreedom’. Freedom is central to the process of development for two reasons – evaluative and effectiveness. Achievement of development is thoroughly dependent on the free agency of people. Individual freedom and achievement of social development are interconnected.


Namrata Mishra is someone who is fighting Brahmanical patriarchy. She is studying gender, culture and development at Pune University, women’s studies department. She can be reached at namratamishra221997@gmail.com.

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