The Poona Pact was an agreement between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (on behalf of depressed classes) and upper-caste Hindu leaders. It was for the reservation of electoral seats for the depressed classes in the legislature of the British India government in 1930. It was made on 24 September 1932 at Yerwada Central Jail in Poona, India.
Ramsay MacDonald, the British Prime Minister, announced the Communal Award on August 16, 1932, providing separate electorates for the ‘Depressed Classes’, the Muslims, the Europeans, the Sikhs, the Anglo-Indians, and the Indian based Christians.
Under a separate electorates system, a number of seats were allotted to every community in the legislatures. Only members from these communities would be eligible to vote to elect a representative of the same community to legislative assemblies.
Mahatma Gandhi was bitterly opposed to the communal award. As it was an effort of British imperialists to divide Indian people into a number of groups and to weaken the national movement.
Ambedkar was in favor of the award as it would work for the upliftment of depressed classes. However, after a series of negotiations, they agreed to a solution called Poona Pact. It resulted in the withdrawal of a separate electorate for depressed classes.
What were the terms of the Poona Pact?
1.Electoral seats will be reserved for the depressed class from among the general electorate. The seats in the provincial legislatures were as follows:
|Bombay with Sindh||15|
|Bihar and Orissa||18|
These figures were based on the total strength of the provincial councils announced in Ramsay Macdonald’s decision.
2. These seats will be contested by the Joint Electoral Board, however, for the following procedure:
All members of the Depressed Classes registered in the general electoral list of the constituency shall constitute an electoral college which shall elect a panel of four candidates belonging to the Depressed Classes for each of such reserved seats by the method of a single vote and shall get four persons. The candidates with the highest number of votes in such primary elections will be the candidates for the election.
3. The representation of the Depressed Classes in the Central Legislature will likewise be for their representation in the Provincial Legislatures on the principle of joint electorates and reserved seats by the method of the primary election as given in the above clause.
4. In the Central Legislature, 18% of the seats allocated for a general election to British India in the said legislature will be reserved for reserved classes.
5. The system of the primary election for a panel of candidates for election to the Central and Provincial Assemblies shall, as mentioned earlier, be terminated after the first ten years, unless by mutual agreement under the provision of Clause 6 below.
6. The system of representation of depressed classes by reserved seats in the provincial and central legislatures provided in clauses (1) and (4) shall continue until determined by mutual agreement between the communities concerned in this settlement.
7. The report of the Lothian Committee will describe franchises of depressed classes to the Central and Provincial Legislatures.
8. There will be no disability associated with anyone on the basis of being a member of a depressed class in relation to any election or appointment to public services for local bodies. Every effort will be made to secure fair representation of depressed classes in these matters subject to the educational qualifications prescribed for appointment to public services.
9. In every province outside the educational grant, a sufficient amount shall be earmarked to provide educational facilities to members of the depressed class.
What was the significance of the Poona Pact, 1932?
- The Poona Pact assured a fair representation of the reserved classes in the legislature than what had been allotted under the Communal Award.
- The Poona Pact was a strong acceptance by upper-class Hindus, which depressed classes formed the most discriminatory sections of Indian society.
- It was the first step towards raising the voice of depressed classes in the political field.
- It increased the morale of the people of the depressed class.