Poona Pact - September 24, 1932

Poona Pact, (Sept. 24, 1932), agreement between Hindu leaders in India granting new rights to untouchables (low-caste Hindu groups). The pact, signed at Poona (now Pune, Maharashtra), resulted from the communal award of Aug. 4, 1932, made by the British government on the failure of the India parties to agree, which allotted seats in the various legislatures of India to the different communities. Mahatma Gandhi objected to the provision of separate electorates for the Scheduled (formerly “untouchable”) Castes, which in his view separated them from the whole Hindu community. Though in prison, Gandhi announced a fast unto death, which he began on September 18.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the untouchable leader, who felt that his group’s special interests might be advanced by the government’s system, resisted concessions until Gandhi was near death. He and the Hindu leaders then agreed to the pact, which withdrew separate electorates but gave increased representation to the Scheduled Castes for a 10-year period. The pact marked the start of movement against untouchability within the Indian nationalist movement.

The following is the text of the agreement arrived at between leaders acting on behalf of the Depressed Classes and of the rest of the community, regarding the representation of the Depressed Classes in the legislatures and certain other matters affecting their welfare

  1. There shall be seats reserved for the Depressed Classes out of general electorate seats in the provincial legislatures as follows: -

    Madras 30; Bombay with Sind 25; Punjab 8; Bihar and Orissa 18; Central Provinces 20; Assam 7; Bengal 30; United Provinces 20. Total 148. These figures are based on the Prime Minister's (British) 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 tour 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.

    CENTRAL LEGISLATURE

  4. In the Central Legislature 18 per cent of the seats allotted to the general electorate for British India in the said legislature shall he 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 i 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.