Context: On the 129th year of Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14, remembering the role he played in the Poona Pact and its imprints on India’s Constitution.
About the Poona Pact
- The background to the Poona Pact was the Communal Award of August 1932.
- This Communal Award of August 1932, among other things, had reserved 71 seats in the central legislature for the depressed classes.
- Gandhi’s opposition to Communal Award of August 1932: Gandhi was opposed to the award as he saw it as a British attempt to split Hindus, and began a fast unto death to have it repealed.
- Agreement between Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar,1932
- In line with the status of communal award, in late September 1932, B.R. Ambedkar negotiated the Poona Pact with Mahatma Gandhi.
- Provisions in Poona Pact,1932
- Joint Electorate for depressed classes: In a settlement negotiated with Gandhi, Ambedkar agreed for depressed class candidates to be elected by a joint electorate.
- Increased number of seats for depressed classes in legislature: Slightly over twice as many seats (147) were reserved for the depressed classes in the legislature than what had been allotted under the Communal Award.
- Fair representation in the public services: The Pact also assured a fair representation of the depressed classes in the public services while earmarking a portion of the educational grant for their uplift.
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.
- Realisation of the need of taking urgent steps:
- It was emphasized during the Poona pact that something concrete had to be done to give depressed classes a political voice as well as to lift them from a backwardness they could not otherwise overcome.
- Poona pact acted as precursors to many initiatives launched for depressed classes later on in independent India.
- New identity of depressed class as a political force:
- The Poona Pact had several positive outcomes for Ambedkar. It emphatically sealed Ambedkar’s leadership of the depressed classes across India.
- Ambedkar made the entire country, and not just the Congress Party, morally responsible for the uplift of the depressed classes.
- Ambedkar also became successful in making the depressed classes a formidable political force for the first time in history.