Karachi Resolution (1931)
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 in order to end the exploitation of the masses, political freedom must include real economic freedom of the starving millions. In order therefore, that the masses may 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. The Congress therefore declares that any constitution that may be agreed to on its behalf, should include the following items, or should give the ability to the Swaraj Government to provide for them.
1. Fundamental rights of the people such as
i. Freedom of association and combination.
ii. Freedom of speech and press,
iii. Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion, subject to public order and morality,
iv. No disability to attach to any person of religion, caste or creed In regard to public employment, office of power honour and the excercise of any trade or calling,
v. Equal rights and obligations of all citizens, No civic bar on account of sex.
vi. Equal rights to all citizens of access to and use of public roads, public wells and all other places of public resort.
vii. Right to keep and bear arms in accordance with regulations made in that behalf and such reservations as may be required- for public safety.
2. Religious neutrality on part of the state.
3. 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.
4. Labour to be freed from serfdom or conditions bordering on serfdom.
5. Protection of women workers, and specially adequate provisions for leave during maternity period.
6. Prohibition against employment of children of school going age in factories.
7. Right of labour to form unions to protect their interests with suitable machinery for settlement of disputes by arbitration.
8. Substantial reduction of land revenue and rent and in case of uneconomic holdings exemption from rent for such period as may be necessary.
9. Imposition of a progressive income-tax on agricultural income above a fixed income.
10. A graduate inheritance tax.
11. Adult suffrage
12. Free Primary education.
13. Military expenditure to be reduced by at least one-half of the present scale.
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,
18. State regulation of the exchange ratio so as to help to Indian industries and bring relief to the masses,
19. Control by the state or key industries and mineral resources.
20. Control of usury-direct or indirect. *It will be open to the All India Congress Committee 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.