Indian economy on eve of independence notes


Britishers changed structure of Indian economy — India end up being net supplier of raw materials and consumer of finished industrial products from UK. India was feeder of UK's Industrial base.

Agriculture: Mainly Agrarian economy. 85% of population lived in villages & derived livelihood directly or indirectly from agri. Stagnant growth, bad land/ revenue settlement system - zamindari system.

Industrial sector: declining handicraft industries in India resulted in high unemployment, and demand was meet by cheap UK goods. From 1850s cotton & jute textile mills come up in Maharashtra, Gujrat. Jute mills in Bengal. 1900s- Iron/steel, TISCO(Tata Iron & Steel Co 1907) were set up.

However no Capital goods industry. {Capital goods industry means industries which can produce machine tools which are, in turn, used for producing articles for current consumption.}

Another drawback of colonial rule was Public sector was confining its activities only to the railways, power generation, communications, ports and some other departmental undertakings.

Foreign Trade: more than 50% of foreign trade was with UK. India was basically exporting raw goods (raw silk, cotton, wool, sugar, indigo, jute etc.) and importing finished consumers goods (cotton, silk and woollen clothes and capital goods like light machinery).

Most Importantly throughout the colonial period there was a generation of a large export surplus. This means that several essential commodities - food grains, clothes, kerosene etc were scarcely available here. The surplus was used to pay off British Government's war efforts.

Demographic condition: 1st modern census of 1881. Before 1921, India was in the first stage of demographic transition. The second stage of transition began after 1921.

{Demographic Transition : It is a concept developed by demographer Frank Notestein in 1945 to describe the typical pattern of falling death and birth rates in response to better living conditions associated with economic development. Notestein identified three phases of demographic transition, pre-industrial, developing and modern industrialised societies. Later another phase, post-industrial was also included.}


Social Development indicators was not good. Overall literacy level - 16%, for women: 7%. Life expectancy just 32yrs.

Occupational Structure:


Infrastructure: Real motive behind development of infra was to sub-serve colonial interest. Social benefits of railways outweighed huge economic losses.

Read MCQs to complete your understanding of this part.