The British Crown and British Parliament officially took over India in 1858 after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Before that time, the British East India Company controlled much of the Indian Subcontinent, but India was not officially under the British government. On August 2, 1858, Parliament passed the Government of India Act, the East India Company was abolished, and power was passed to the Crown. This era became known as the British Raj, during which about 20,000 British officials and troops were tasked with subjugating about 300 million Indians.
The British formed alliances with Indian princes and local leaders to facilitate their rule. They also encouraged the divisions that already existed in Indian society as a means of keeping the masses in line.
Although some British saw the Indian incursion as a charitable endeavor (the writer Kipling referred to it as "taking up the white man's burden" to help the supposedly ignorant masses), in fact, the main concern of the British was profit, and policies were primarily put in place that would exploit the Indian people. Even the railroad infrastructure, which outsiders saw as a great British achievement, oppressed and impoverished the Indian people by easing the transportation of British goods, which people would have to buy instead of local products. Additionally, farmers were forced to plant crops that would benefit British landlords, such as tea, opium, and indigo, rather than food crops that the Indians needed to survive. This brought on numerous famines that ravaged India's poor.
The British influence on India's people was not entirely negative, however. For instance, the British authorities banned female infanticide, or the practice of killing baby girls. It discouraged child marriage and made educational opportunities more equal for men and women. The British also forbad the practice of the immolation of widows. It was the custom of some Hindu upper castes to burn widows alive along with the bodies of their dead husbands. The British put a stop to this horrible practice.
On the other hand, the court system in India under the British Raj was notoriously unfair. If a British person came up against an Indian in court, the British person would almost always win, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.
In conclusion, the British in India mainly treated the Indian people very badly—as people to be exploited rather than helped—but they did institute certain social reforms that helped the Indian people.