- Poona Pact, (September 24, 1932) was an agreement between Hindu leaders in India granting new rights to Dalits, which resulted in the reservation of electoral seats for the depressed classes in the legislatureof British India in 1932
- The pact, signed at Poona, resulted from the Communal Award of August 4, 1932, a proposal by the British government which would allot seats in the various legislatures of India to the different communities in an effort to resolve the various tensions between communal interests
- It was signed by Ambedkar on behalf of the depressed classes and by Madan Mohan Malviyaon behalf of Hindus and Gandhi, as a means to end the fast that Gandhi was undertaking in jail
Terms of Poona Pact
- There shall be electoral seats reserved for the Depressed Classes out of general electorate
- Election to these seats shall be by joint electorates subject to following procedure:
- Where, all members of the Depressed Classes registered in the general electoral roll of a constituency were to form an electoral college, which would 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
- The representation of the Depressed Classes in the Central Legislature shall likewise be on the principle of joint electorates
- In the Central Legislature, 18% of the seats allotted to the general electorate for British India in the said legislature shall be reserved for the Depressed Classes
- The seats reserved for the depressed classes were increased from 71 to 147 in provincial legislatures
- There shall be no disabilities attached to anyone 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
- In every province out of the educational grant, an adequate sum shall be earmarked for providing educational facilities to the members of Depressed Classes.
Significance of the Poona Pact
- The Poona Pact was an emphatic acceptance by upper-class Hindus that the depressed classes constituted the most discriminated sections of Hindu society.
- It was also conceded that something concrete had to be done to give them a political voice as well as a leg-up to lift them from a backwardness they could not otherwise overcome
- The concessions agreed to in the Poona Pact were precursors to the world’s largest affirmative programme launched much later in independent India.
- A slew of measures were initiated later to uplift Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, post-independence
- It sealed Ambedkar as the official leader of depressed classes across India
- He made the entire country, and not just the Congress Party, morally responsible for the uplift of the depressed classes
- Most of all he succeeded in making the depressed classes a formidable political force for the first time in history
Downsides of Poona Pact
- The Pact made the depressed classes political tools which could be used by the majoritarian caste Hindu organisation
- This rallying of Depressed classes for Political Gains, making them a vote bank continues even today
- It also led the depressed classes to submit to the status quo in political, ideological and cultural fields and not being able to develop independent and genuine leadership to fight the Brahminical order
- It subordinated the depressed classes into being part of the Hindu social order by denying them a separate and distinct existence
- The Working Committee of the All India Scheduled Caste Federation alleged that in the last elections held under the Government of India Act, 1935, the system of joint electorates deprived the scheduled castes of the right to send true and effective representatives to the legislatures.
- The committee, further, said that the provisions of the joint electorate gave the Hindu majority the virtual right to nominate members of the scheduled castes who were prepared to be the tools of the Hindu majority
As a consequence, even after signing the Poona Pact, Dr B.R. Ambedkar continued to denounce the Poona Pact till 1947