Class System in India

Last Updated: May 2023 (Class System in India)

Class System in India

This article deals with Class System in India’ . This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


  • Class is an economic concept which is decided by economic factors like income, wealth, and occupation of a person.
  • Before the arrival of the British, there were no vivid classes, as the caste system was the basis of social structure. The caste system was synonymous with the class system.

British rule & emergence of Class System

Class System in India

After the arrival of the British class system developed in India due to 

  1. Agricultural reforms
  2. Urbanization
  3. Industrialization
  4. Education

Agricultural Reform: After the arrival of the Britishers, the Indian revenue system was overhauled into Ryotwari, Mahalwari and Permanent system, which divided rural society into two classes

  1. Zamindars & Mahajans
  2. Farmers, Ryot, Small Animal Husbands and Landless Labourers

Industrialization and urbanization divided society into

  1. Industrialists and investors
  2. Labour class


After independence, the class system further developed in India due to reasons like 

  1. Green revolution
  2. IT revolution
  3. LPG Reforms
  4. Vocational education 

After 1990 , even three classes were subdivided thrice each  into lower, middle and upper.

  • Upper class(upper, middle and lower),
  • Lower class (upper, middle and lower
  • Middle class(upper, middle and lower)

Generally, three classes broadly identified in India have the following characteristics

  1. Upper Class: Those people who control and regulate wealth & investment and gain profit from wealth & investment.
  2. Middle Class: Those people who do white collared jobs or are in technical or administrative sectors.
  3. Lower Class: These people do unskilled or semi-skilled work.

Middle Class

The middle class in India is decided mainly by three factors.

  • Income: Income ranges from Rs. 15,000 to 1.5 lakh/month. Income is such that basic requirements of life like food, housing, clothing, education and even entertainment are easily met.
  • OccupationMiddle class generally do white collared, technological or administrative jobs.
  • Education: They are well-educated and ambitious.

The reasons for the expansion of the middle class in India are

  1. Macaulay’s education policy 
  2. Industrialisation and urbanisation 
  3. Green revolution: Middle class created in OBC
  4. Reservation and education: middle class in SC and STs
  5. LPG reforms: middle class in women as a separate identity
  6. Globalization: Middle class in states like Kerala, Punjab etc., with the help of remittances sent from abroad.

The structure of the middle class in India is quite complex, and around 35 crore people come under it, double the US population.

Importance of Middle Class

  • Initiator of Reforms: Historically, Middle Class has always been the initiator of reforms. French Revolution was the result of the Middle Class. Middle class acts as the opinion makers in the society and challenge the status quo.
  • Economic Development: Demands of the Middle Class are highest. Apart from that, they are the main tax contributors in the economy. 
  • Political Accountability: Middle Class demands accountability, making government responsive and transparent.
  • Promotes the formation of human capital (as they spend on their children’s education).

But Indian Middle Class is criticized because

  • Self-Centric: The middle class is always interested in preserving and promoting their interests.
  • Self-Exclusivism: Instead of demanding accountability from the political system, they have started living in gated communities.
  • Not paying back to society: This is due to the fact that the middle class doesn’t accept that they have benefited from the highly subsidized education system.
  • Excessive indulgence: Middle class has indulged in excessive indulgence as consumerism has plagued it.

But even after that, most social movements are led by the Middle Class.

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