Indian Society is among the oldest in the world and varied and complex in its heritage. But about 200 years of colonial rule changed its socio-cultural process. India was turned into an appendage of the British empire. British colonial policy transformed its economy, society and polity.
The British colonial authority was responsible for the introduction of the modern state in India. They surveyed the land, settled land revenues, created a modern bureaucracy, army, police, instituted law courts and helped in the codification of laws. The colonial administration developed communications, the railways, the postal system, telegraph, roads and the canal system. It introduced English language and took steps for the establishment of universities.
The above changes set in motion a number of forces which had long-term and often adverse consequences for the Indian economy and society. These changes were not oriented towards causing balanced development and progress of the Indian society. They only served the imperial interests of the colonial authority.
India which had a glorious past, had become one of the poorest countries when it freed itself from colonial bondage. In 1948-49 India's national income was 86.5 thousand million rupees. Which meant a per capita income of only 264 (rupees). This was one of the lowest in the world. India had a predominant agrarian economy. 72 percent of its total workforce was dependant upon agriculture. Organised industries accounted for two percent of the workforce. The colonial authority pursued policies which led to pouperisation of the peasants, who had reduced to the position of share-croppers, marginal tenants and landless agricultural labourers. At the dawn of independence India was economically dependant upon advanced countries. Its exports consisted of primary products while its imports consisted of manufactures from industrialised countries. It also showed a marked deficit in the balance of trade. The economy was characterised by a pronounced economic dualism.
The economic structure was also intricately related to a society having features which seriously affected the growth and operation of new institutions. The country was typically characterised by a class structure in which power was highly concentrated in a small elite. This included, on the one hand, classes whose power was associated with the traditional sector and, on the other, newer classes whose power was associated with the growth of the modern sector. Their combined membership was very small in comparison to the mass of small cultivators, landless agricultural labourers, unskilled workers and unemployed or underemployed. Between the elite at the top and the masses at the bottom, there was a very small middle class consisting of pet businessmen, semi-skilled blue-collar workers and small property owners. These peculiarities had a bearing upon a new nation resharing itself in a post-colonial world.
Further, social interactions in India were based on considerations of race, religion caste, community, language and region. After independence India experienced a politics of scarcity on account of the above factors.
Political independence raised expectations of the masses. The nationalist elite, who had played in a key role in the freedom struggle, became the new power-elite They and their socio-cultural background set the goals of the new dispensation. Apart from economic development and social transformation achieving economic and political self-reliance was a new goal of the independent Indian state. The goal of integration of the country was also important to the ruling elite.
Independent India adopted the Westminister model for sharing its political institutions. The parliamentary form of government with a federal state structure was the only alternative before the constitution-making forum. The modern elite wanted to reconstruct the social structure on modern foundations of law, individual merit and secular education. They therefore, favoured a transition from traditional rural economy to one based on scientifically planned industry and agriculture. To achieve this objective Community Development project and Five-year Plans were introduced. India thus became a welfare state. The objective of the Indian State being to correct the distorted nature of the economy and society, which had been its colonial inhavitance, the newly goals were : self-sustained growth, high rate of growth, equality, equity and justice and state and nation-building.