The Poona Pact refers to an agreement between Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi signed on 24 September 1932 at Yerwada Central Jail in Pune, India. It was signed by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and some other leaders to break the fast unto death undertaken by Gandhi in Yerwada prison to annul the Macdonald Award giving separate electorates to Dalits for electing members of state legislative assemblies in British India.
History of the Poona Pact
The British invited leaders of different parties in the Round Table Conferences in 1930-32 to draft a new law involving self-rule for the Indians. Mahatma Gandhi did not attend the first and the last but attended the second of the Conferences. The concept of separate electorates for the Untouchables was raised by Ambedkar. Similar provisions were already available for other minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Anglo-Indians and Sikhs. The British government agreed with Ambedkar's contention and British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald's Communal Award to the depressed classes was to be incorporated into the constitution in the governance of British India. Gandhi strongly opposed the Communal Award on the grounds that it would disintegrate Hindu society. Ambedkar vehemently criticised the way of handling the problems of the Harijans by Gandhiji. Gandhi took up a fast unto death in his prison cell in Poona, protesting that separate electorates were a device which would separate the untouchables from the Hindu society forever. He began an indefinite hunger strike at Yerwada Central Jail from 20 September 1932 to protest against this Award. A compromise was reached on 24 September 1932.
The text uses the term "Depressed Classes" to denote Untouchables who were later called Scheduled Castes under India Act 1935, and the later Indian Constitution of 1950.
Terms of the Pact
The Terms of the Poona Pact were as follows.
1. There shall be seats reserved for the Depressed Classes out of general electorate. Seats in the Provincial Legislatures were as follows: -
These figures are based on the total strength of the Provincial Councils announced in the (British)Prime Minister's decision.
2. Election to these seats shall be by joint electorates subject, however, to the following procedure –
All members of the Depressed Classes registered in the general electoral roll of a constituency will form an electoral college which will elect a panel of four candidates belonging to the Depressed Classes for each of such reserved seats by the method of the single vote and four persons getting the highest number of votes in such primary elections shall be the candidates for election by the general electorate.
3. The representation of the Depressed Classes in the Central Legislature shall likewise be on the principle of joint electorates and reserved seats by the method of primary election in the manner provided for in clause above for their representation in the provincial legislatures.
4. In the Central Legislature 19% of the seats allotted to the general electorate for British India in the said legislature shall be reserved for the Depressed Classes.
5. The system of primary election to a panel of candidates for election to the Central and Provincial Legislatures as herein-before mentioned shall come to an end after the first ten years, unless terminated sooner 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 as provided for in clauses (1) and (4) shall continue until determined otherwise by mutual agreement between the communities concerned in this settlement.
7. The Franchise for the Central and Provincial Legislatures of the Depressed Classes shall be as indicated, in the Lothian Committee Report.
8. There shall be no disabilities attached to any one on the ground of his being a member of the Depressed Classes in regard to any election to local bodies or appointment to the public services. Every endeavour shall be made to secure a fair representation of the Depressed Classes in these respects, subject to such educational qualifications as may be laid down for appointment to the Public Services.
9. In every province out of the educational grant an adequate sum shall be ear-marked for providing educational facilities to the members of Depressed Classes.