Poona Pact Was Signed - [September 24, 1932] This Day in History

On 24 September 1932, the Poona Pact was sealed between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr B R Ambedkar in the Yerwada Central Jail, Pune. Gandhiji was undertaking a fast against the British government’s decision to grant separate electorates for the ‘Depressed classes’. This Pact ended the fast. In this edition of This Day in History,  you can read all about the Poona Pact for the IAS exam modern history segment.

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Poona Pact Facts

  • In the First Round Table Conference held in 1930, Dr Ambedkar had demanded a separate electorate for the ‘Depressed classes’ whom he was representing.
  • Gandhi and the Congress Party were against the idea of separate electorates for any class as it was seen as a means to weaken and divide Indian society.
  • Mahatma Gandhi was also not in favour of viewing the ‘Depressed classes’ as outside the purview of Hindu society. He thought that separate electorates for them implied that they were outside the Hindu fold.
  • The then British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonaldgranted the ‘Communal Award’ to minority communities including the ‘Depressed classes’.
  • Gandhi protested against this award (also known as the MacDonald Award) by undertaking a fast unto death whilst in jail in Poona.
  • Separate electorate for Dalits was a topic on which Gandhi and Ambedkar could not agree upon.
  • When Gandhi started his fast, there was public pressure on Ambedkar to step in and stop the fast. This resulted in the Poona Pact.

Provisions of Poona Pact

  • Seats would be reserved for the ‘Depressed classes’ in the Provincial Councils.
  • The number of seats reserved for the provinces depended on the strength of the provinces:
    • Madras: 30; Punjab: 8; Bombay and Sindh: 15; Central Provinces: 20; Bihar and Orissa: 18; Bengal: 30; United Provinces: 20; and Assam: 7 (Total reserved: 148)
  • In the Central Legislature, 19% of the seats would be reserved for the Depressed Classes.
  • The members of the depressed classes who were eligible to vote would form an electoral college. This College would elect four candidates among the depressed classes on the basis of single vote. (That is, the candidates with the four highest numbers of votes would form the panel of four).
  • Then, these four candidates would stand for election with the general candidates for election to the assembly. This time, the general electorate would vote. Thus, in effect, the depressed classes got a ‘double vote’ since they formed part of the general electorate also.
  • This principle of ‘Joint electorate and reserved seats’ was to be followed in the Central Assembly too.
  • It was agreed that this system would continue for ten years unless it was ended by mutual consent sooner.
  • It was also agreed upon to allocate a certain portion of money from the educational grant for the education of the depressed classes in all the provinces.
  • Nobody would be discriminated against because they belonged to the depressed classes in the matter of election to the local bodies or appointment to government service.

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