This was originally posted as an answer to the question What major issues did India have at the time of its independence that are now resolved? on Quora.
To describe a few that come to mind:
Resettlement of refugees
When it became clear that Indian independence would come at the cost of partition, people who wished to be part of the Indian dominion migrated in heavy numbers from across the border, leaving their land and property behind in what was to become Pakistan. Much of this migration happened post-independence, and the new government was immediately faced with the challenge of resettling them. Along with a lot of hard work on the part of the administration, a couple of very innovative methods were employed to redistribute land among the refugees in a just and efficient manner (read about the ‘standard acre’ and the ‘graded cut’). Many of the thriving Punjabi-populated colonies in Delhi (Patel Nagar, Lajpat Nagar,…) were set up during this time, as was the city of Faridabad.
Integration of the Princely states
It would be a massive understatement to say that the British left behind just 2 states, India and Pakistan, because in effect they were leaving the new government the mammoth task of integrating over 500 princely states into the union. Chiefly owing to the efforts of Sardar Patel and his secretary VP Menon, many of these states acceded without much need for persuasion, though a few are infamous for having given us trouble. One of these, Kashmir, continues to be a bone of contention to this day.
Framing a Constitution
I have often heard people say that the three years that it took to frame the Indian constitution is a mark of inefficiency on the part of the Constituent Assembly, when similar operations in other countries (e.g., Japan) were completed within months. What is overlooked here are two important facts. First, the constitution was drafted entirely by Indians, and was not dictated or handed down to us by another nation (e.g., again, Japan). This in itself should be considered an achievement. And then there’s the fact that the sheer diversity among the members of the Constituent Assembly naturally led to near-incessant debates. Looking back, it is hard to believe we managed to do it in just three years!
In fact, India achieved more in those first few years following independence, than some of the recent coalitions have managed in their five-year terms in office. And to think, all of this was accomplished against the backdrop of rioting, the Kashmir problem, and the task of conducting the first election in independent India.
There are a few other major examples that are to be found in the pages of our early post-independence history, chief among them being the Green Revolution. This period of history however, remains largely ignored and un-chronicled even by our own historians. Ramachandra Guha’s “India After Gandhi” would be a good starting point for anybody who’s interested.