The informal manufacturing sector (IMS) in India has been a major part of the economy. Whether its growth is due to entry of people in distress, or whether it is a vibrant and growth oriented sector is debatable. In this paper, the growth dynamics of IMS in India over the period 1984 to 2000 is explored with special reference to the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and plausible factors determining the growth pattern are sought to be identified. This growth is observed to be neither smooth nor uniform. The IMS cannot be labelled either a distress driven sink or a dynamic alternative economic avenue in blanket term as existence of both the segments are detected. While sustainability of the distress driven segment is questionable, the dynamic segment is likely to act as the engine of future growth. Distinctly different sets of policies are recommended for the two different segments of IMS.