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Indian Polity / Local Self Governments

Salient Features of Local Self Government

Article 40 incorporated in the Directive Principles of State Policy deals with establishment of Panchayati Raj institutions. In order to give power to the rural and urban population to participate in their development wellbeing, local self governments were established. The purpose of local self governments is for democratic decentralization.

Evolution of Local Self Government in India

  • The evolution of local self government in India got started when the Central Government introduced Community Development Programme in 1952. It is the first developmental programme in India. In 1953, the Central Government introduced another programme named National Extension Programme (NEP).

  • In 1957, Government constituted a study team under the chairmanship of Balwant Rai Mehta. This was appointed to take stock of the working of Community Development Programme and National Extension Programme. Its report was submitted in 1958.

    The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee recommended 3-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions, which facilitates the people's participation. Accordingly, 3-tier system was introduced in some states. The first state to introduce 3-tier Panchayati Raj System was Rajasthan.

  • In 1977, Janata Government appointed one more Committee under the chairmanship of Ashok Mehta. It examined and reported in 1978 regarding the working of 3-tier system. This report could not be implemented because of political problems.

    Ashok Mehta Committee recommended 2-tier system. It recommended for abolition of Gram Panchayat due to lot of politicization. It also recommended for strengthening of Mandal Panchayat System. Its recommendations were not given effect due to fall of Janata Government.

  • In 1985, Planning Commission constituted G.V.K. Rao Committee on Administrative Arrangement for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation Programmes. Its recommendations could not be implemented.

    It called for de-bureaucratization of rural development and increase the role for elected representatives in rural development.

  • In 1986, L.M. Singhvi Committee was appointed to revitalize the Panchayati Raj Institutions. He recommended for according Constitutional status to Local Self Governments.

    As a result, 64th Amendment Bill was introduced in 1989. It was approved by Lok Sabha but rejected by Rajya Sabha. Hence, the Bill was defeated.

  • In 1992, when Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao was the Prime minister, 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were approved and became Acts in 1993 and they came into force from 1993 onwards. Rural Local Bodies came into force from 24th April, 1993 and Urban Local Bodies came into force from 1st June, 1993.

    3-tier system at rural areas are, at village level - Gram Panchayats, at intermediate level - Block Panchayats or Mandal Parishads or Panchayat Samitis and at District level - Zilla Parishads or Zilla Panchayats.

    3-tier system at urban areas include 1st tier - Nagar Panchayats, 2nd tier - Municipal Councils and 3rd tier - Municipal Corporations.

Local Self Government in India

Important Features of Local Self Governments

  • One of the important features of local government is that a 3-tier system is to be there both at rural and urban levels. However, the 3-tier system is not applicable to the States having less than 20 lakh population.

  • The minimum age to contest elections at all levels is 21 years.

  • Reservations are provided to SCs and STs according to their population. Reservations are also extended to women. 33.33% of seats are reserved for women in all levels of Local Self Governments. Reservations can be provided to Backward Castes if a State decides so.

  • All representatives of local bodies are elected directly. However, the President of Gram Panchayat is elected by the procedure fixed by the State. The elections are not political elections.

    In intermediate and district levels, the heads are elected indirectly. However, the heads of Urban Local Governments are elected according to the procedure fixed by the State Government.

  • The Governor of the state appoints the State Election Commissioner, who conducts election for local bodies. He is appointed for the term of 5 years. He is removed like that of judges of the High Court. That is, the President removes him on passage of a resolution by the Parliament.

  • Elections could be conducted for all the levels of Local Governments for every 5 years. But, internal adjustments can be made by State Legislatures and also they can fix other qualifications and conditions for local bodies.

  • Elections are to be conducted within 6 months after vacation of a seat.