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Local Government System in India- NCERT Notes UPSC

Apr 26, 2022

Local Government System in India NCERT Notes UPSC

In a democracy, it is not sufficient to have an elected government at the centre and at the State level. It is necessary that even at the local level, there should be an elected government to look after the local affairs. 

Give an extra edge to your UPSC exam preparation with this detailed article on Local Government System in India

Local Government

  • Local government is government at the village and district level. It is about the government closest to the common people.
  • It is about the government that involves the day-to-day life and problems of ordinary citizens. 
  • Advantage: It is convenient for the people to approach the local government for solving their problems both quickly and with minimum cost. 

Local government and Democracy

  • Democracy is about meaningful participation and accountability. Strong and vibrant local governments ensure both active participation and purposeful accountability
  • At the level of local government: Common citizens can be involved in decision making concerning their lives, their needs and above all their development.
  • The local Government believes that local knowledge and local interest are essential ingredients for democratic decision making. They are also necessary for efficient and people-friendly administration. 
  • Strengthening local government means strengthening democratic processes: As the effect of local government, work has a direct bearing and impact on people’s day-to-day life. 

Growth of Local Government in India

  • In Earliest times:
    • It is believed that self-governing village communities existed in the form of ‘Sabhas’ (village assemblies). 
    • In the course of time, these village bodies took the shape of Panchayats (an assembly of five persons) and these Panchayats resolved issues at the village level. 
  • During India’s freedom movement:
  • Instrument of decentralization and participatory democracy: Mahatma Gandhi believed that strengthening village panchayats was a means of effective decentralisation. 
  • Need for decentralization of decision making: Leaders were concerned about the enormous concentration of powers in the hands of the Governor-General sitting at Delhi. 
  • In Modern times:
    • Elected local government bodies: They were created after 1882 when Lord Ripon was the Viceroy of India. They were called the local boards, but their growth was slow.
    • The Indian National Congress urged the government to take necessary steps to make all local bodies more effective. 
    • Following the Government of India Act 1919, village panchayats were established in a number of provinces. This trend continued after the Government of India Act of 1935.

The Subject of Local Government in the Constitution

  • It was assigned to the States and mentioned in the Directive Principles. 
  • It is felt that the subject of local government including panchayats did not receive adequate importance in the Constitution because of the following reasons: 
  • Firstly, the turmoil due to the Partition resulted in a strong unitary inclination in the Constitution. Nehru himself looked upon extreme localism as a threat to the unity and integration of the nation.
  • Secondly, there was a powerful voice in the Constituent Assembly led by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who felt that the faction and caste-ridden nature of rural society would defeat the noble purpose of local government at the rural level.

Local Governments in Independent India:

Earlier efforts to develop local government bodies: 

  • Community Development Programme (1952): It sought to promote people’s participation in local development in a range of activities. A three-tier Panchayati Raj system of local government was recommended for the rural areas. 
  • Some States (like Gujarat, Maharashtra) adopted the system of elected local bodies around 1960 but in many States, those local bodies did not have enough powers.

Issues with earlier Local Government

  • They were very much dependent on the State and central governments for financial assistance.
  • Many States did not think it necessary to establish elected local bodies. 
  • Local bodies were dissolved and the local government was handed over to government officers. 
  • Many States had indirect elections for most local bodies. 
  • In many states, elections to the local bodies were postponed from time to time.

In the late 1980s

  • In 1989, the P.K.Thungon Committee recommended constitutional recognition for the local government bodies. 
  • A constitutional amendment to provide for periodic elections to local government institutions, and enlistment of appropriate functions to them, along with funds, was recommended.

73rd and 74th Amendments

  • In 1989, the central government introduced two constitutional amendments aimed at strengthening local governments and ensuring an element of uniformity in their structure.
  • Later in 1992, the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments were passed by the Parliament.
  • The 73rd Amendment is about rural local governments (which are also known as Panchayati Raj Institutions or PRIs) and the 74th amendment is about urban local government (Nagarpalikas). 
  • The 73rd and 74th Amendments came into force in 1993. 
  • Local government is a ‘State subject ‘and States are free to make their own laws on this subject. 
  • But once the Constitution was amended, the States had to change their laws about local bodies in order to bring these in conformity with the amended Constitution. 
  • They were given one year’s time for making necessary changes in their respective State laws in the light of these amendments. 

73rd Amendment 

Three Tier Structure

  • All States have a uniform three-tier Panchayati Raj structure.
    • At the base is the ‘Gram Panchayat’ which covers a village or group of villages
    • The intermediary level is the Mandal (also referred to as Block or Taluka). These bodies are called Mandal or Taluka Panchayats. They need not be constituted in smaller States
    • At the apex is the Zila Panchayat covering the entire rural area of the District
  • It also made a provision for the mandatory creation of the Gram Sabha which would comprise all the adult members registered as voters in the Panchayat area. 
  • The role and functions of Gram Sabha are decided by State legislation. 


  • All the three levels of Panchayati Raj institutions are elected directly by the people
  • The term of each Panchayat body is five years
  • If the State government dissolves the Panchayat before the end of its five-year term, fresh elections must be held within six months of such dissolution. 

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  • For women: One-third of the positions in all panchayat institutions are reserved. 
  • For SC and ST: Reservations are provided at all three levels, in proportion to their population. 
  • For OBCs: They can be provided if the States find it necessary.
  • Reservations apply not merely to ordinary members in Panchayats but also to the positions of Chairpersons or ‘Adhyakshas’ at all three levels. 
  • Reservation of one-third of the seats for women is not merely in the general category of seats but also within the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and backward castes. 
  • A seat may be reserved simultaneously for a woman candidate and one belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes. Thus, that would have to be a Dalit woman or an Adivasi woman. 

Transfer of Subjects

  • Twenty-nine subjects, which were earlier in the State list of subjects, are identified and listed in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution. These subjects are to be transferred to the Panchayati Raj institutions. 
  • Actual transfer depends upon the State legislation: Each State decides how many of these twenty-nine subjects would be transferred to the local bodies.
  • The provisions of the 73rd amendment were not made applicable to the areas inhabited by the Adivasi populations in the many states of India. In 1996, a separate Act was passed extending the provisions of the Panchayat system to these areas. 
  • More powers to Gram Sabhas: The new Act protect the rights of these communities to manage their resources in ways acceptable to them. The elected village panchayats have to get the consent of the Gram Sabha in many respects. 
Local Government

State Election Commissioners

  • The State government is required to appoint a State Election Commissioner who would be responsible for conducting elections to the Panchayati Raj institutions. 
  • Earlier, this was performed by the State administration under the control of the State government. 
  • Autonomous office: The State Election Commissioner is an independent officer and is not linked to nor is this officer under the control of the Election Commission of India. 

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State Finance Commission 

  • The State government is required to appoint a State Finance Commission once in five years.
  • It would examine the financial position of the local governments in the State. 
  • It would also review the distribution of revenues between the State and local governments on the one hand and between rural and urban local governments on the other. This innovation ensures that the allocation of funds to the rural local governments will not be a political matter.

74th Amendment

  • Urban area: The Census of India defines an urban area as having: 
    • A minimum population of 5,000.
    • At least 75 per cent of the male working population engaged in non-agricultural occupations.
    • A density of population of at least 400 persons per sq. km
    • As per the 2011 Census, about 31% of India’s population lives in urban areas
  • All the provisions of the 73rd amendment relating to direct elections, reservations, State Election Commission and State Finance Commission are included in the 74th amendment. 
  • The Constitution also mandated the transfer of a list of functions from the State government to the urban local bodies in the Twelfth Schedule of the Constitution.

Implementation of 73rd and 74th Amendments

  • All States have now passed legislation to implement the provisions of the 73rd and 74th amendments. 
  • Today there are more than 600 Zilla Panchayats, about 6,000 block or intermediary Panchayats, and 2,40,000 Gram Panchayats in rural India and over 100 city Corporations, 1400 town Municipalities and over 2000 Nagar Panchayats in urban India. 
  • Representatives: More than 32 lakh members are elected to these bodies every five years. Of these, at least 13 lakhs are women. 
  • Position of Women: 
    • Reservation for women at the Panchayats and Nagarpalikas has ensured the presence of a significant number of women in local bodies.
    • They even occupy the positions of Sarpanch and Adhyaksha.
    • There are at least 200 women Adhyakshas in Zilla Panchayats, another 2000 women who are Presidents of the block or taluka panchayats and more than 80,000 women Sarpanchas in Gram Panchayats.
    • There are more than 30 women Mayors in Corporations, over 500 women Adhyakshas of Town Municipalities and nearly 650 Nagar Panchayats headed by women. 
  • Position of OBCs: Most States have also made a provision to reserve seats for Backward Castes.
  • Position of SC and ST: There are about 6.6 lakh elected members in the urban and local bodies. 

Issues with local governments

  • Struggle for power: The dominant social groups earlier controlling the village do not wish to give up their power. 
  • In many cases, women were unable to assert their presence or were mere proxies for the male members of their family who sponsored their election. 
  • Limited autonomy: Many States have not transferred most of the subjects to the local bodies which means that the local bodies cannot really function in an effective manner.
  • Some people criticize the formation of the local bodies because this has not changed the way in which decisions are taken at the central and the State level. 
  • Very little funds of their own: The dependence of local bodies on the State and central governments for financial support has greatly eroded their capacity to operate effectively. While rural local bodies raise 0.24% of the total revenues collected, they account for 4% of the total expenditure made by the government.

Interesting Points

  • “The independence of India should mean the independence of the whole of India…Independence must begin at the bottom” - Mahatma Gandhi.
  • The Indian population has 16.2 per cent Scheduled Castes and 8.2 per cent Scheduled Tribes.
  • The Brazil Constitution has created States, Federal Districts and Municipal Councils and states are prohibited from interfering in the affairs of the municipal councils.
  • Democratic decentralization in Bolivia: It is cited as one of the most successful cases of democratic decentralisation in Latin America. 
    • In 1994, the Popular Participation Law decentralised power to the local level, allowing for the popular election of mayors, dividing the country into municipalities, and crafting a system of automatic fiscal transfers to the new municipalities. 
    • Bolivian local governments have been entrusted with building local health and education facilities, as well as maintenance of this infrastructure. 
    • In Bolivia, 20% of nationwide tax collections are distributed among municipalities on a per capita basis. 

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