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Needs of the people's sector

Over 93 per cent people work in the informal sector, but a matching GNP does not come from that source.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2003 09:59 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

The SEWA Movement and Rural Development
Daniel W Crowell
Sage Publications
Price: Rs 280
Pages: 236

Over 93 per cent of the Indian population works in the informal or the 'people's' sector, but a matching gross national product does not come from that source.

This imbalance is not a reflection of the inactivity of the large majority of the population, but lack of infrastructure, skills, capital, information and independence plaguing the 'people's' sector, says a new book.

The book "The SEWA Movement and Rural Development" says there is an urgent need to improve on this situation and correct the paucity of employment related resources.

Authored by Daniel W Crowell, a graduate student in Economics at the London School of Economics, the book writes about the work of SEWA (Self Employed Women's Association) to show that there are ways to bring increased infrastructure, capital and skills to the people's sector in a way that is in complete harmony with the liberalisation process.

"Through organisation and capacity building, local communities are capable of expanding and managing their own resources," says Crowell, citing the SEWA model.

Elaborating on his plan of action, Crowell notes that through cooperatives, mandals and unions, the people's sector can keep pace with broadening markets... It can thus be incorporated into the global economy.

However, the global economy has to make an effort to incorporate the people's sector, the book says.

But if that does not happen, the result would be: ever widening societal gaps in income and information, excluding the majority of world's population, it says.

In the long run, this would make the reach of the economy anything but global. The people's sector is not part of the problem. It is part of the solution, it says.

Discussing the Indian scenario, Crowell says that as India enters an era of deregulation, much of the national and international focus is on softtware, information technology an other large large industries.

"The voices for change come mostly from large domestic producers and even larger multinationals. The voice for change comes mostly from large domestic produers and even larger multinationals," he notes.

The only certainty is that the poor are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of any changes. The reasons for their vulnerability are several, but chief among them is the fact that there has traditionally been little room for the voice of the poor in the economic liberalisation dialogue, he says.

Institutions like the World Bank and other developmental agencies have made an effort to reform their own policies to minimise the negative impact of economic restructuring on the poor. However, their voice for the poor should not be mistaken for the voice of the poor, the book says.

What needs to be understood is that though poor do not have any academic degrees, they can neither read or write, but they still have something to offer to tthe development debate. SEWA's experience is an illustration of the value of their potential contribution, the book says.

First Published: Apr 27, 2003 09:00 IST