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Occupational Structure and Infrastructure on the Eve of Independence

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  • Last Updated : 30 Jun, 2022
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At the time of independence, the Government of India announced agriculture to be the economy’s prime moving force. Even before and during the colonial rule, India has always seen a predominance of the agricultural sector in the economy, since 85% of its population resides in the village and is dependent directly or indirectly on agriculture. Nonetheless, the manufacturing industry was also a prominent source of livelihood for the Indian economy, like the handicraft industry, precious metal and stone manufacturing, and silk and textiles industry. Indian handicraft and manufacturing industry enjoyed global recognition and market, even before independence. It was during the British era, that the status of the Indian manufacturing industry was merely reduced to a raw material exporting country and consumers of finished goods produced by the market of Britain. 

Occupational Structure 

Occupational structure is the distribution of working professionals in the different sectors across the region. Every economy is segregated based on its occupational structure namely, the agriculture sector, industrial or manufacturing sector, and service sector. The United States, China, and Japan are often called industry or manufacturing-based economies on the other hand India is known as an agricultural-based economy.  

Features of Occupational Structure on the eve of Independence

The main features of occupational structure on the eve of Independence were as follows:

1. Agriculture as the Primary Source of Income

Indian agricultural and allied sector provided livelihood to around 75 percent of the population of India, directly or indirectly at the time of colonial rule and even today it employs nearly half the workforce. This simply implies the predominance of the agriculture sector in India. Even so, there was a state of stagnation and deterioration because of agricultural low productivity, land settlement, and revenue settlement leaving India in a state of backwardness.

2. Poor state of the Industrial and Service sector

The manufacturing and service sectors, at that time, accounted for merely 10-15% and 20% of the workforce respectively. The industrial sector couldn’t flourish during the colonial rule, as Britain reduced Indian handicrafts, textile, and other manufacturing industries to mere exporters of raw materials to Britain and other countries; and in turn, used these raw materials to produce finished goods and created a market for them in India.

3. Stagnant and Imbalanced Growth in both Sectors

Neither of the sectors was fully established or flourishing and thus their growth in the economy was also imbalanced. The agricultural sector faced serious challenges in regards to, the orthodox Zamindari system, commercialization of agriculture, low productivity issues, and lack of irrigational facilities. This also had a huge impact on the self-sufficiency concept of agriculture prevalent in the Indian villages. The industrial sector was exploited by the Britishers, to redirect its manufacturing industries into just exporting raw materials to Britain, lack of encouragement to set up heavy industries and capital goods industries, and confining industrialists on only setting up silk and jute textile mills.

4. Regional Variations in the workforce 

There were regional shifting trends observed in all three sectors.  Regions of Gujarat, Karnataka, Bengal, and Tamil Nadu showed a shift in the workforce from agriculture to manufacturing and service sectors whereas the states like Rajasthan, Orissa, and Punjab showed an opposite trend.

5. Monopoly of Britain in Trade

Trade was not a foreign concept for India and it maintained good trade relations with all other great nations, but after the onset of the Britishers, more than half of its trade was confined only to Britain. India became the exporter of primary products like raw cotton, jute, butter, etc., and an importer of finished goods like clothes, cotton, etc. Although it did give India an export surplus, it was at the cost of draining the economy’s wealth and making India more reliable on foreign markets which ultimately affected the domestic market and people badly. Additionally, the building of the Suez canal increased the hold of Britain on Indian markets manyfold. 


Infrastructure is the set of fundamentally necessary systems or facilities that helps a country sustain itself and function properly. This includes physical, social, and economical infrastructures. During the colonial regime, India undoubtedly saw development in its physical infrastructure namely, roads, ports, water transport, railways, ports, and telegraph; but the social and economical infrastructure remained highly untouched. However, in this case, the motive of the British Government was to fulfill its interest rather than to focus on providing amenities to Indians.


To serve its interests, in the British era roads were developed but there was a lack of all-weather roads to penetrate the rural areas and build connectivity for them. Therefore, the public suffered drastically during rainy seasons and at the time of natural calamities. The main aim of building roads was to make it easier for them to transport raw materials or intermediate goods to the nearest railway station or port and export them to Britain, and for the mobilization of the British army within the country. 

Water Transport, Electric Telegraph, and Postal Services

The agenda of the British government to develop sea lanes and promote inland trade proved to be very expensive and inefficient in comparison to the railways. It was highly uneconomical and was developed at the cost of huge economic losses to the country. The system of electric telegraph developed during this era was also an expensive affair that only served the purpose of maintaining law and order for British officials. On the contrary, postal services remained inadequate even though they served the public interest.


In the 1850s, when the railways were introduced, it was considered Britain’s most prominent contribution to India. Even so, it came with its own sets of pros and cons, but the two big impacts it left on the country were:

  • It enabled inter-state mobility and helped break geographical and cultural barriers in the nation. People covered long-distance journeys easily at cheap rates and discovered different cultural and employment pursuits. 
  • Inter-state mobility fostered the commercialization of agriculture thereby affecting the self-sufficiency regime of an ideal Indian village. Even though it increased Indian exports to many folds, the benefit was reaped by Britain.

Main Motive Behind the Beginning of Railways in India

The main motive of British rulers behind the beginning of railways in India was to serve their colonial interest. It was to create a channel of transportation to export the raw materials or primary goods to England and other foreign countries; and on the other hand, import finished goods and penetrate the interiors of the Indian market through railways. Another reason was, that the Indian market faced a huge scarcity in its domestic market due to its export surplus; and Britain saw this as an opportunity to widen its market size to reap maximum benefits for itself. Thus, the infrastructure built during the colonial rule was hardly for the improvement of public amenities, but was for the benefit of England. 

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