Local Self Government in India
This article is written based on Samacheer’s Book for the TNPSC exams.
This aim is to understand the local government nature, function, and uses of Local Municipal Government.
This topic comes under the Indian Polity syllabus of Tnpsc under the ” Local Governments, Panchayat Raj“.
Importance of local self-government in India
The local Municipal Government is a part of the Union Government that manages services and governance in villages, towns, cities and focuses on the local issues. The function of the Local Municipal Government is to provide a basic connection with the local people of the city, town, and village with the government.
The local problems include road works, water stagnation, street light repair, construction of small water bodies, etc, and also has the responsibility to take care of emergencies such as birth or death in the village or town.
The local municipal government is responsible for local needs, the local problems of the local people and it is the lowest unit of administration of the government.
The local government has a council and its members are normally elected by village or town peoples of its respective region. The election for these councils takes place once in five or four years, which depends on the law in the nation.
The members of the local government or councils are provided with the freedom to discuss and take decisions within the framework of the law called the Constitution of India. The importance of local government is its ability to solve a local problem that is local in nature.
If incase the Union or state government handles such local problems in a generalized approach, the problem might not be solved or the complexity of the problem may increase. As a result, there will be a wastage of resources and taxes, which will even increase the burden on the people.
Due to this local government plays an important role in the governance in solving the local-level problems. The institution of the local government is good in solving the local issues as it consists of members from local communities in villages, towns, etc.
The local municipal government acts as the main channel of the flow of resources and government schemes to reach the lowest levels of people or reach the grass-root level.
Forms of local government
The local government is classified as Rural and Urban Local Governments. This division is made based on the nature of the occupation of its people such as Non-agriculture and agriculture-based jobs. In India, the Local Government is called Panchayati Raj.
The Urban government is classified as Cantonment Boards, Area Planning Committees, Municipal Corporation, Townships.
In India, the Urban Government are classified into Municipal Corporation in Metro Cities, Municipalities in Smalltown, Townships in industrial towns (Kalpakkam, Anupuram), etc and Cantonment Boards in Army areas.
Types of Local Government
- Municipal Corporation
- Municipal Township
- Cantonment Boards
Municipal Corporation in India
The municipal corporation is established in metro cities where the population is above one million. It provides governance to metropolitan people.
In India, Municipalities are established in small and medium cities where the population is below One Million. The Municipalities are classified based on Population and revenue collection as Class-I, Class-II, etc.
The grades such as Class-I, Class-II are reviewed by the government periodically.
Notified Area Committees and Townships
Townships and Notified Area Committees are emerging urban areas where industries are established by mostly Public sector companies, Central government, state governments, etc.
It is established by the Military, where the army or defense establishment such as defense training institutes, military industry, etc.
The Local Governments of Rural and Urban are the lowest tier of governance. The local government is created for locals with the revenue from the locals. The Union government supervises and monitors these local bodies.
Nagar Panchayat or Town Panchayat
A Nagar Panchayat or Town Panchayat is constituted for a transitional area, ie. , an area in transition from a rural area to an urban area.
The population of such an area is 5000 or more but less than 15,000 and the revenue generated from tax and sources exceeds such amount per capita per annum as may be specified by the government from time to time.
Every Nagar Panchayat is a body corporate and has a perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire and hold, or dispose of properties and may sue and sued.
A Town panchayat shall consist of a number of elected members not less than 9 or not more than 15, as the state government may determine by rules.
The members of the legislative assembly representing the constituencies comprising transitional area or any part of thereof, and two members nominated by the state government from amongst persons having special knowledge or experience in municipal administration.
The nominated members shall not have the right to vote in the Town panchayat meetings. The term of a Town Panchayat shall be 5 years.
The government shall divide a transitional area (town panchayat area) into a number of territorial constituencies known as wards and each ward shall elect only one member.
Out of the total number of seats in Town Panchayat to be filled by direct election, seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the same proportion of the population of SCs and STs to the total population of that town panchayat area.
In addition, one-third of the total number of seats in that area is reserved for women, including the seats reserved for SCs and STs. The town panchayat members shall be elected from amongst its members, One President and one Vice President in a meeting convened by the Deputy commissioner.
Every Town Panchayat shall perform obligatory functions such as water supply, drainage, clearing the streets, etc.
Every town panchayat shall have an executive officer appointed by the state government.
A Municipal Council or municipality is constituted for a small urban area with a population of 15,000 or more but is less than 3 lakhs and the revenue generated from the tax and other sources exceeds such amount per capita per annum as may be specified by the state government from time to time.
Municipality Grade Population
Class A -1 Lakh or more
Class –B -50,000 – less than one lakh
Class – C -Less than 50,000
A Municipal Council or Municipality for example in Class-A, not less than 20 and not more than 50 elected members; Class-B 15-30, and Class-C, 10-15.
The members of the State Legislative Assembly representing the constituencies lying within the municipal area are “Ex-Officio” members of the Municipal Council. No more than 3 members are nominated by the state government.
The nominated members do not have the right to vote in the elections of the chairpersons and vice-chairpersons. The members are elected through a secret ballot.
The whole municipal area is divided into wards, as per the number of councilors to be elected, say 15 or 30 or 10. The electoral rolls of the legislative assembly in relation to the municipal area are generally taken as the voter’s list.
The candidates contesting in the elections are allotted symbols. The symbols of the recognized political parties are allotted only to the candidates sponsored or adopted by them.
The Deputy Commissioner has to call the meeting of the elected members within 14 days of the notification of the election results to administer the Oath of office and to hold the election of the President and Vice-President.
As that of Town Panchayats, seats are reserved for the SCs and STs according to the proportion of the population of SCs and STs to the total population of the municipal area.
In addition, 30 percent of total seats are reserved for women including the SCs and STs seats. The 74th Amendment provides the constitution of ward committees consisting of one or more wards within the territorial area of a Municipality, having a population of 3 lakhs or more.
A member of a Municipality representing a ward within the territorial area of the ward committee shall be a member of the ward committee.
The term of office of Municipality is five years. The elected municipality can be dissolved if it is not performing as per the provisions of law. The Municipal Council meets at least once a month presided over by the President or in his/her absence Vice-President.
The Municipal Council with the increasing load of work elects subcommittees comprising councilors from amongst itself to study a problem in-depth and make a recommendation for its solution.
The sub-committees are of two types statutory committees and, non-statutory committees. Municipal bodies also appoint special sub-committees for certain specific purposes and follow the same procedure for their election as it adopts the constitution of standing subcommittees.
A Municipal Council elects its President from amongst members within one month of the constitution of Municipal Council. The Municipal Council is constituted after elections are held.
The President is elected for a period of 5 years. The Municipal Council also elects one or two Vice- Presidents. The Presidents of the municipalities in various states draw monthly salaries in addition to traveling allowance.
The President convenes and presides over the meeting of the Municipal Council. He / She is empowered to take disciplinary action against offending councilors. The President is the chief spokesperson of the Municipal Council and represents it at official functions and also with regard to correspondence with the government.
The state government in every municipality appoints an Executive Officer. The Executive Officer is the principal executive authority and all municipal staff is sub-ordinate to him/ her.
He/ She is the important officer to execute, supervise monitor and report the activities of the Municipalities to the council. The Municipal Council is the governing body of the Municipality, responsible for Municipal Administration.
It makes by-laws the governing place and time of council meetings, the manner of giving notices, the conduct of meetings.
The councilors are expected to keep themselves in touch with the citizens and enquire about their grievances against municipal staff, and bringing to the notice of the appropriate administrative head, or raise the matter in the council meetings.
The powers and responsibilities of municipalities are enshrined in the Twelfth Schedule of the Constitution. The 74th Constitutional Amendment provided the constitution of a committee for district planning, to prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole.
The Committee shall consolidate the plans prepared by the panchayats and municipalities in the district. The composition of the District Planning Committee as provided in the Act of 1992, consists of that not less than 4/5th of the total members of the committee.
They shall be elected by and from amongst the elected members of the Panchayats at the district level and of the municipalities in the district, in proportion to the ratio between the population of the rural areas and of the urban areas in the district.
The Municipalities have been provided with the power to raise revenue for discharging its duties and performing its functions such as the taxes, duties, and fees which could be levied and collected by the Municipalities (For example tax on lands and buildings, scavenging tax on octroi, a tax on advertisements, a fire tax, toll on roads and bridges, etc) the 74th Amendment Act made it obligatory for the state governments to Constitute State Finance Commission within one year from the commencement of Act.
The State Finance Commission shall make recommendations regarding:
- The distribution between the state government and municipalities of the net proceeds of taxes, duties, tolls, and fees to be assigned or appropriated by the state;
- Allocation of share of such proceeds between the municipalities at all levels in the states;
- Determination of taxes, duties tolls and fees to be assigned or appropriated by the municipalities;
Grants-in-aid to fund the state; Measures needed to improve the financial position of the municipalities.
- However, in practice, the Municipalities in our country undertake only such functions which have been specifically assigned to them by respective state legislative enactments.
- This restrictive approach to municipal functions no longer and holds good in the changed political context and needs of the country.
- There has been an increasing tendency on the part of the state government to take over more and more local functions either directly or by creating special-purpose agencies.
The Municipal Corporations constitute the highest or the topmost form of urban local government in India. They are created for big cities by the enactments of the State Legislatures or of the Parliament in the case of Union Territory.
The various categories of the cities are determined by their population, area, or revenues. Municipal Corporations in the early period were established in three Presidency towns viz; Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta.
A Municipal Corporation is based on the democratic principle of management of local affairs by the representatives of the people of the city concerned, who is to be elected periodically on the basis of the universal adult franchise with reservation of seats for SCs and STs in proportion to their population and also for women.
The Municipal Corporation is marked by the statutory separation of deliberative and executive wings. The Corporation Council and the Standing Committees Constituted the deliberative wing and the executive wing.
The Council, consisting of elected representatives and a few nominated members, is responsible for the exercise of legislative powers. The Standing Committees function as an auxiliary of the Corporations.
All the matters to be passed by the council pass through it after it considers the proposals and recommendations made by the Municipal Commissioner. The Municipal Commissioner is the chief executive and implements the decisions taken by the council.
Municipal Corporations in India are generally structured on the pattern of Bombay Municipal Corporation. The tenure of the Municipal Corporation is 5 years.
The 74th Amendment provides wards committees, which shall be considered for one or more wards within the territorial areas of the Corporation.
The chairperson shall be elected for one year and shall be eligible for re-election.
A ward committee supervises the provision of water supply, pipes, and sewage, drainage connections to premises removal of accumulated water on streets or public places due to rain or other, collection and removal of solid waste, provision of health immunization, services for the civic services in slum and lighting, repair of roads, maintenance parks drains and etc..
A Municipal Corporation shall have a Standing Committee constituted by it, consisting of Mayor, the senior deputy Mayor, and other councillors elected by the councillors of the Corporation from amongst the members.
The Mayor shall be the chairperson of the Standing Committee. The Municipal Corporation also constitutes committees to deal with subject matters such as water supply, sewage, etc..
Each subject committee shall consist of not less than three and not more than five members.
The term of the subject committees is one year. The Municipal Corporations have been provided with financial resources to carry out their duties assigned to them by the 74th Amendment.
A list of 18 functions to be performed by Municipal Corporations has been given in the 12th Schedule of the Constitution. Like the 73rd Amendment Act, the 74th Amendment Act also provided for a committee planning metropolitan areas.
The Committee consists of not less than 2/3rd of the members who shall be elected by and from the elected members of the Municipalities and chairpersons of the panchayats in the metropolitan area in proportion to the ratio between the population of Municipalities and of the Panchayats in that area.
All Municipal Corporations are provided with the office of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Mayor in some states is directly elected by all the voters within the metro city. In some states, Mayor is elected from amongst the elected councillors.
The Mayor presides over council meetings, guides its deliberations to maintain decorum, and excludes any objectionable portion from the record of the proceedings of the council.
He/She is also empowered to expel and even suspend members for gross misconduct or disorderly behavior. In case of a tie, he/she exercises his /her casting vote.
The Municipal Commissioner is the chief executive officer of the Corporation. Normally the commissioner is being appointed by officers in I.A.S (Indian Administrative Service) cadre.
The commissioner’s appointment vested in the state government has been a subject of great controversy. The term of the commissioner is three years, which can be extended by the state government. He/she is one of the statutory municipal authorities to carry out the provisions of the Corporation Act.
The case of Tamilnadu
- The Tamilnadu state Election Commission established under the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments gives a brief account of the status of local government in the state of Tamilnadu.
- As stated by the Tamilnadu state Election Commission, under the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (Rural Local Bodies) the government of Tamilnadu as a constitutional obligation has taken into account important points including the formation of Gram Sabha in every village with powers of general supervision over the elected village Panchayat and the power to grant approval to the annual plans of the Panchayats; formation of three-tier Panchayats i.e., District Panchayats, Panchayat Unions and Village Panchayats made obligatorily; reservation of seats for weaker sections of society like SCs, STs and Women; powers to impose taxes and provision for grants, assignments etc., from government funds through the constitution of a State Finance Commission.
- The State of Tamilnadu has 12,564 village panchayats, 388 panchayat unions and 31 district panchayats.
- Under the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, devolution of more functions and taxing powers; revenue sharing with state governments; regular conduct of elections; reservation of seats for SCs and STs and for women; uniform composition of the urban bodies throughout the country were provided.
- Following the 73rd constitutional amendment, the Tamilnadu Panchayats Act was passed in 1994, which replaced the earlier Tamilnadu Panchayats Act, 1958.
- The Tamilnadu Panchayats Act, 1994 was amended in 1996.
- The Act of 1996 provided as far as Panchayats are concerned: to plan for their developmental needs, the constitution of District Planning Committee; constitution of State Election Commission and constitution of State Finance Commission. In the first elections under the 1994 Act, 1,17,000 representatives were elected for the three different tiers of local government across Tamilnadu.
- Urban Local Governments– As far as urban local bodies are concerned, the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, paved the way for setting up urban local bodies in various states. Elections were held to the rural and urban local bodies in Tamilnadu in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011.
Challenges of local self-government in India – Contemporary Issues
- There are many issues that are highlighted by the experts in the field of local governance from time to time.
- The main issues brought out by the experts are provided in the following section.
- First, there is a considerable expansion in responsibilities of local governments, which were previously state government responsibilities.
- Taking into account the capacities of the levels of government and the line of control, throughout government apparatus should be considered and reclassification of the list is needed.
- Second, maintenance of village courts is also an important issue, where the policing is state-wise centralized, which can not be entrusted practically to the local governments.
- Third, urban local bodies are entrusted with many functions out of which many of which are connected with the state government departments.
- In sum, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts brought reforms in local government in India.
- The rural and urban local bodies prior to the reforms were the creation of the British. Many new and innovative changes were brought in the amendments.
- So far only 18 states in India have ratified or approved the amendments in their legislative assemblies, which is required as per the law.
- In addition, many state government even after enacting the amendments and ratified them, have not put into operation many provisions, because of the issues mentioned above.
- Unless these issues are resolved, the objectives for which the 73rd and 74th amendments were made, could not realize.
Panchayati Raj (1959 – 2009)
- The Tamilnadu Municipal Laws (Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Tamilnadu Panchayats (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 – for extending the tenure of the special officers of the urban and rural local bodies for a period of six more months.
- There are 12 Municipal Corporations, 148 Municipalities and 561 Town Panchayats in Tamilnadu as urban local bodies.