Emergence of Class System in rural India
1. Class system during British rule
The Zamindari system in which a single influential person got the right to collect land revenue from farmers, and then deposit a big portion of it with the British administration had been in operation for a long time in India’s history. It worked fine for the colonial government, but resulted in ruthless exploitation of poor farmers. The Zamindrs or land lords became rich and influential, where as the poor farmers struggled to make revenue payments, especially in the years affected by drought or flood. The society was divided broadly into two classes – the rich land lords, and the poor peasants.
After India got its freedom in 1947, the government headed by Prime Minister Nehru moved quickly to abolish the Zamindari system and entrusted revenue collection to government officials. The Zamindars lost their clout overnight. Some of them were driven to penury as their income dried up. The government took some aggressive steps to increase farm productivity, and bring in a certain degree of commercialization to agriculture. As these measures began to bear fruit, farmers’ incomes increased. Their voice was heard by authorities more sincerely.
Industrialization proceeded apace boosting the number of industrial workers. Education became accessible to vast number of students in the rural areas. These changes created a new class of people who were relatively more affluent, and assertive.
2. Trade and Commerce during the Colonial rule:
Colonial Britain sourced all major commodities from India to feed its industries during normal times. During the WW2 period, India became a crucial source to meet war needs of the British army. Both agriculture and trade thrived, so did commerce. However, rural industries like toy-making, weaving, carpentry etc. suffered a setback s their goods were out-priced by imports from Britain. Poverty, and unemployment returned to the villages causing mass distress.
3. Development of Railways and Industry:
The British brought railways to India giving transportation infrastructure a massive boost. Some Indian entrepreneurs set up factories to produce steel, textiles, and leather goods. These changes impacted the social structure in a positive way as new avenues for earning a living opened up.
4. State and Administrative System:
Lord Macaulay brought English education to India. The intent was to create vast numbers of clerks and subordinate staff who could run the official machinery under British officers. A new class of white-colored workers were created who didn’t toil in the fields or factories to earn their living.
Thus, the colonial rule created a churn in the tradition-bound Indian society. The effect was not uniform throughout the country. In places like Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the new class structure created political awakening, and sowed the seeds of resistance against colonial rule.