Breaking Rural Bonds through Migration: The Failure of Development for Women in India

Article excerpt


In its tryst with destiny, India after independence, in order to develop economically and to eradicate poverty, adopted programs that focused both on industrial and rural development. My study tries to explore, first, the impact of development by comparing the lives and opportunities of women in two different villages, one developed and the other less developed, and second, explore the impact of migration, a consequence of development policies, on women by comparing the lives and opportunities of women in the urban slums to those of their rural counterparts.

For India, development programs have been geared toward economic growth (as measured by GNP or per capita income). Once economic growth occurs, the planners believe, it is followed subsequently by many other changes in the areas of demography, stratification, polity, education and family (Chandrasekhar 1972; Dandekar and Rath 1971). It is with these hopes that immediately after independence India, a young country and a large and promising democracy, moved in the direction of modernization. The first five year plans were totally geared to industrializing and developing the economy (Desai 1972; Davis 1968). Consequently, investment in economic growth has been biased toward the capital intensive urban centers, despite the fact that eighty percent of India resides in the rural areas. The poor from the rural areas have no other option but to seek a livelihood in the urban centres. The rural-urban imbalance in development provides an explanation for the unprecedented growth of urban centers and slums. This phenomenon was seen as a blight on the cities and problematic for planners and policy makers. They theorized that migrants to the city would increase crime, and create problems for housing and jobs. This of course subsequently, led to "cleaning up" of the cities like New Delhi in the early 1970's. In the 1970's, planners began to focus on rural development and provide an incentive for people to stay in the rural areas.

It has been forty-five years since India's independence, and despite all the development programs, eradication of poverty is still a, major goal. In my study I found that development policies in the rural areas have not altered the existing structures in socio favorably for the poor, albeit it is the process of migration with the breaking of bonds of caste and gender that has led to the process of conscientization(1). In a country like India, as in other Third World countries, exploitation of and discrimination against women are particularly tragic where poverty and the lack of basic necessities of life combine to aggravate the inequities, making women's existence a continuous battle for survival. The poor in India are still oppressed and the poor women in India doubly so.

For the purpose of this study the selection of the developed and less developed rural area is based on the type of land and amenities like electricity and irrigation facilities. To compare the differences in the lives and opportunities of women between rural and urban areas, I traced the migrants(2) from the taluk, Salem, in the rural area to the urban slum, Chand. In my study, Sitha is the developed rural area, and Palaya is the less developed rural area. The two villages are located in Salem Taluk, Tamil Nadu, a state in South India, and the slum, Chand, is located in Delhi.

I used two sets of respondents for the study. First, I interviewed the oldest member in each household in both the villages and the urban slum in order to obtain demographic and economic information, like land holding patterns, cropping patterns, irrigation facilities, income levels, education, number of children, and caste membership. I conducted a census of the villages and slum and visited all the 61 households in Sitha, the 163 households in Palaya and the 25 households in Chand. To collect information on the lives and opportunities of women, I randomly selected women in Sitha, Palaya and Chand and conducted extensive indepth interviews with eight women in Sitha, twelve in Palaya and eight in Chand. …