Karachi Resolution 1931 (Mahatma Gandhi)
The Karachi Resolution was passed by the Indian National Congress at its 1931 Karachi session. The Session was conducted in the shadow of three major events. First, Mahatma Gandhi had just been released from prison following his Salt Satyagraha. Second, the Gandhi-Irwin pact had just been concluded which had brought the civil disobedience movement to an end. And third, the British government had, a week before the session, executed Bhagat Singh and two of his associates in connection with the Kakori Conspiracy case.
The Resolution is three pages long and is mostly written in a quasi-legal style. It reiterated the Congress Party’s commitment to ‘Purna Swaraj’ or ‘complete independence’. In addition to fundamental rights which protected civil liberties, the Resolution for the first time put forward a list of socio-economic principles/rights that the Indian state had to adhere to. These included: protections for industrial workers, abolishing of child labour, free primary education and protections for agricultural labour. The Resolution also, which seems to be a Gandhian influence, prohibited intoxicating drinks and drugs.
Kama Maclean, in A Revolutionary History of Inter-War India, argues that the Resolution on Fundamental Rights passed by the session – that consisted of many socialistic provisions – was the result of a heart to heart talk between the Gandhi and Nehru. Nehru’s acceptance of the Gandhi-Irwin pact and its ratification by the Congress was secured in return for the passing of the Resolution on Fundamental Rights. Judith Brown, in Gandhi and Civil Disobedience, contends that the passing of the Resolution had nothing to do with the Gandhi-Irwin Pact: it was the outcome of collaboration between Gandhi and Nehru, not negotiation or compromise. Subash Chandra Bose seems to be in line with Kama, he argued that the passing of the Resolution was meant to placate the leftist elements of the Congress Party.
The socio-economic provision in the Karachi Resolution went on to influence the Constituent Assembly in drawing up Part IV of the Indian Constitution – the Directive Principles of State Policy.
This Congress is of opinion that to enable the masses to appreciate what swaraj, as conceived by the Congress, will mean to them, it is desirable to state the position of the Congress in a manner easily understood by them. In order to end the exploitation of the masses, political freedom must include real economic freedom of the starving millions. The Congress, therefore, declare that any constitution which may be agreed to on its behalf should provide, or enable the Swaraj Government to provide, for the following:
1. Fundamental rights of the people, including:
(a) freedom of association and combination;
(b) freedom of speech and of the Press;
(c) freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion, subject to public order and morality;
(d) protection of the culture, language and scripts of the minorities;
(e) equal rights and obligations of all citizens, without any bar on account of sex;
(f) no disability to attach to any citizen by reason of his or her religion, caste or creed or sex in regard to public employment, office of power or honour and in the exercise of any trade or calling;
(g) equal rights to all citizens in regard to public roads, wells, schools and other places of public resort;
(h) right to keep and bear arms in accordance with regulations and reservations made in that behalf;
(i) no person shall be deprived of his liberty nor shall his dwelling or property be entered, sequestered or confiscated, save in accordance with law.
2. Religious neutrality on the part of the State.
3. Adult suffrage.
4. Free primary education.
5. A living wage for industrial workers, limited hours of labour, healthy conditions of work, protection against the economic consequences of old age, sickness and unemployment.
6. Labour to be freed from serfdom or conditions bordering on serfdom.
7. Protection of women workers, and specially adequate provisions for leave during maternity period.
8. Prohibition against employment of children of school going age in factories.
9. Rights of labour to form unions to protect their interests with suitable machinery for settlement of disputes by arbitration.
10. Substantial reduction in agricultural rent or revenue paid by the peasantry, and in case of uneconomic holdings exemption from rent for such period as may be necessary, relief being given to small zamindars wherever necessary by reason of such reduction.
11. Imposition of a progressive income tax on agricultural incomes above a fixed minimum.
12. A graduated inheritance tax.
14. Expenditure and salaries in civil departments to be largely reduced. No servant of the State, other than specially employed experts and the like, to be paid above a certain fixed figure which should not ordinarily exceed Rs. 500 per month.
15. Protection of indigenous cloth by exclusion of foreign cloth and foreign yarn from the country.
16. Total prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs.
17. No duty on salt manufactured in India.
18. Control over exchange and currency policy so as to help Indian industries and bring relief to the masses.
19. Control by the State of key industries and ownership of mineral resources.
20. Control of usury—direct or indirect.
It shall be open to the A.I.C.C. to revise, amend or add to the foregoing so far as such revision, amendment or addition is not inconsistent with the policy and principles thereof.