DU SOL BA 3rd Year Administration and Public Policy Notes Chapter 9 Functional and Fiscal Decentralization

DU SOL BA 3rd Year Administration and Public Policy Notes Chapter 9 Functional and Fiscal Decentralization

Question 1.
Discuss the growth, powers apd functions of Rural Government in India.
Discuss the organisation, powers and functions of Panchayati Raj institutions in India with special reference to the ‘Blawant Rai Mehta and Ashok Mehta Committees’ reports.
Examine the nature, powers and functions of village Panchayats in India.
Growth, Powers And Functions Of Rural Government In India

1. Introduction and Historical Development. In a vast country like India, the administration can not be carried out from the centre. Our Constitution has, therefore, established a federation consisting of the Union Government and the State Government. As it is, most of the States of the Indian Union are also too big. An idea about the size of the States can be had from the fact that Madhya Pradesh is spread over more than 4 lakh sq kms. In fact one of the districts of Madhya Pradesh is spread over an area of more than 30,000 kms., almost as big as Switzerland. It is therefore, very difficult to manage the administration of the entire State from the State Headquarters.

The need for decentralisation of the functions of the ‘ State to lower level of government is, therefore, imperative. Usually, the local governments develop to look after the civic affairs of the communities living together in compact areas. Their main functions are, therefore, to – provide for the civic amenities. Urban local Government in India has developed more or less on these lines. The development of “Rural Local Government” in our country has, however, taken a different turn. In this chapter, we propose to study the development of the rural local governments and some of their important problems. Later on, we will study the various aspects of the urban government as well.

2. Panchayats in Ancient India. It is now widely accepted that village communities, which were characteristic of agrarian economic, have existed in India as Panchayats from earlier times and have been pivots of administration, centre of social life, focal point of economic solidarity, instrument of political self-governments.

The onslaught of times did not altogether wipe out the existence of the village Panchayats. Coming nearer out times the concept of Panchayat was part of the philosophy of ‘Punia Swaraj’ and ‘Gram Swaraj’, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru infused patriotic impetus into these concepts during India’s struggle for independence. At the time of the framing of the Constitution the Concept of Panchayats formed part of the legacy of freedom straggle. Panchayats were Swadesi institutions which had inspired the people.

3. Constitutional Provision. The Constitution of India provides for parliamentary democracy at the national level in the form of a bicameral parliament and makes the Council of Ministers collectively responsible to the people through Lok Sabha. The same pattern of parliamentary institutions is replicated at the level of the States which form part of the Union of India.

In this quasi-federal framework of India’s Parliamentary democracy, the creation of Panchayati Raj institutions and their organisation was however, left to a general directive in the Constitution. The Part-lV of the Constitution deals with, the Directive Principles of State policy which give the general direction in which the country should move. The provisions of this part of the Constitution are not mandatory, although.it is stipulated that they should be the guiding principles in the governance of the country. Article to contained in this part of the Constitution lays down.

4. Organisation of Village Panchayats. The State shall take steps to organise village Panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government. While detailed provisions have been made in the Constitution laying down the principles of governance at the Central and the State levels, the village Panchayats have been provided a place in the Directive Principles. Even the debates of the Consignment Assembly on this question are rather brief. Dr. Rajandra Prasad observed that the constituent Assembly should have attempted to adopt village republic as the basis of the Constitution Obviously, inclusion of Art 40 as a Directive Principle just accommodated a conceptual view point.

It did not indicate a mandatory provision unequivocally projectin’ the concept of Village Panchayats. This was left to the legislation to be enacted by the State Governments. As could be seen later in this chapter, the result of this weak Constitutional provision was that different State Governments enacted different legislations to set up Panchayati Raj institutions. Most of these enactments did not confer adequate powers on these institutions as the State Governments did not want to part with their own powers. Releasing the inadequacy of Constitutional provisions and the unwillingness of the State Governments to empower Panchayati Raj institutions, the Government of India came forward with necessary Constitutional amendments.

The Seventy Third Constitutional Amendment has now made it obligatory on the part of the State Governments to enact legislation to set up three-tier Panchayati Raj institutions, transfer to them local development functions and adequate resources to perform these functions. In short the Panchayati Raj institutions have to be enabled to function effectively as local government institutions. Detailed discussion on the provisions of 73rd Amendment of the Constitution shall have to be deferred to the next question. In this question the development of Panchayati Raj institutions upto 73 Amendments shall be discussed. This will more or lests lead to the present position of these institutions, as the new institutions and the new constitutional provisions are still in the process of being set up.

5. Community Development Programme. The Community Development programme was launched in the country in the year 1952. Under this programme, the blocks came to be established as units of development administration. The national extension service was established soon thereafter with a view to reinforce the administrative network to tackle the problem of growth and development at different local and functional levels.

At this stage, there was relatively speaking only nominal public participation. The whole programme appeared to be officially sponsored and executed although some advisory committees of prominent citizens were associated with these programmes. It was soon observed that the programme not making much headway in the absence of participation from the people. The Second Plan document, therefore, recognised the need for speeding up the development of’democratic institutions.

The trust of the Second Five Year Plan was to establish statutory Panchayats in all the villages to push qp the national extension and community development projects. It appeared that the urge to set up Panchayati Raj Institutions came from the need to implement the above mentioned programmes efficiently ratUae from the concept of developing a local self government at rural level.

Belwan Thai Mehta Committee’s Recommendations :

The Balwantrai Mehta study team was appointed in January, 1957 to study and report on community development project and national extension services with a view to improve their efficiency. The specific point of reference was to asses the extent to which the movement has succeeded in utilising local initiative and in creating institutions to ensure continuity in the development process to improve economic and social conditions in rural areas. The Balwantrai Mehta team found that the development can not proceed without responsibility and power.

Community development can be real only when the community understands its problems, releases its responsibility, exercises the necessary powers through its chosen representatives and keeps constant and independent vigilance on local administration. The team, therefore, recommended that statutory elective local bodies should be established as early as possible and necessary power, authority and resources must be provided to them. The recommendations of the team were very far-provided the way for. a new era of Panchayati Raj institutions which was inaugurated on 2nd October, 1959 first by Rajasthan.

The recommendations of the Balwantrai Mehta Study team envisaged a 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj Institutions. According to its recommendations the viliage Panchaya should form the base of the Rural Local Government. At the block level, there should be a higher body which later came to be known by different names in different states. It was also proposed to have a Zila Parishad at toe district level.

After the presentation of the term’s report, tire different states enacted the necessary legislation setting up toe Panchayati Raj institutions. Only the States of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram and the Union Territory of Lakshwadeep did not enact any legislation for the purpose.

In the other States there was some further variation. The electoral system also differed from Stale. In term of structures, electoral procedures, powers and functions, there was a considerable variety in the Panchayati Raj institutions adopted by the States. For example, Maharashtra and Gujarat created a 3-tier structure with a strong Zila Parishad. In other States, the effective level was at the block level.

At present, there are 2,17,300 village Panchayats in the country covering 96% of about 5.79 lakh inhabited villages and 92% of the rural population of the country. There are 5011 Panchayat Samitis of different nomenclature at the Block, laluka or Tehsil level. There are 300 Zila Parishads covering about 76% of the districts in toe country. Each Zila Parishad has oh an average 13 to 14 Panchayat Samitis.

1. Power and Functions. Though, there were variations from State to State, it may be stated that the functions entrusted to Panchayats incluae .

  • Village Roads:
  • Community Wells;
  • Maintenance of Public Parks;
  • Construction and maintenance of tanks and small irrigation works, public hygiene, drainage and other civil amenities.

In some States, the Panchayati Raj Institutions has also been made responsible for :

  1. Primary Education;
  2. Rural Industries;
  3. Primary health care and medical relief;
  4. Women and Child Welfare;
  5. Maintenance of common grazing grounds and other community lands and properties;
  6. Provisions of inputs for agricultural production etc.

2. Financial Resources. The extent and tempo of the involvements of Panchayati Raj institution in basic planning and implementation of development projects varied from State to State. Most Panchayati Raj institutions suffered from inadequacy of resources. Their major sources of revenue were :

  • Devolution from land revenue and water rate;
  • Additional surcharge or cess on land revalue and water rates;
  • Various grants from the State Governments;
  • Assignment from forest revenue (rally in a few states).

Some of the Panchayati Raj institutions also derived income from taxes on :

  • Buildings;
  • Non-agricultural lands;
  • Surcharge on Stamp duty on transfer of immovable property, etc.

Besides there were local taxes fees ceases, tolls, licence fees and other similar levels on trades, industries, water supply, sanitation, lighting, markets, bazars pilgrimages, fairs and festivals, exhibitions, entertainment shows, rest houses, bus stands, car stands, camel parking, cattle ponds, animals, fish ponds, slaughter houses, terries, bridges, cattle grazing lands, commercial crops, etc.

The list of items appears to be too large, but the sum total of yield from all the sources was too small. The Panchayati Raj institutions were therefore, not able to executive the development programmes efficiently on account of shortage of financial resources.

3. Ashok Mehta Committee’s Report. The Centre appointed a Committee under the Chairmanship of Ashok Mehta in 1978 to enquire into the working of Panchayati Raj institutions and suggest measures to strengthen them.

The Ashok Mehta Committee recommended a 2-tier set up i.e., at District and a mandal levels covering a population of 15,000 to 20,000. It suggested that the block level Panchayat was redundant and only two levels would make for better coordination and efficiency in the implementation of the development programmes.

The Committee also recommended that the elections of tire Panchayati Raj institutions should be held regularly. Compulsory hems of taxation should be reserved for them and the land revenue collections should be fully transferred to them. The’committee also felt that a constitutional prevision was necessary to strengthen the Panchayati Raj institutions. The other important recommendations of the committee were :

  • All the development functions relating to the district which were performed by State Government should be placed under the Zila Parishad.
  • Political parties should be allowed to participate in the Panchayati Raj elections.
  • The Panchayati Raj institutions skould normally not be superseded. If the supersession is unavoidable. It should no extend beyond six moths.
  • A permanent annual gram of less than 2.5 per capita should be made to tire Mandal Panchayats.
  • Nyaya Panchayats should be kept separate from the development Panchayats. A qualified judge should preside over them and elected panchas should act as members of panchas of Nyaya Panchayat.

These recommendations of tire Ashok Mehta Committee were considered in a conference of Chief Minister in 1979, The Chief Ministers did not agree with most of tire recommendations of tire Committee and took the following decisions :

  • There is no need to set up Mandal Panchayats. The existing 3-tier system was found satisfactory by the Chief Ministers. In smaller states the Chief Ministers preferred a village level and block level Panchayati Raj set
  • The Chief Minister did not feel it proper for the political parties to contest election for Panchayati bodies.
  • Land revenue has been transferred to the Panchayats in some of the States. The others also thought of taking similar action.
  • The Chief Ministers also did not agree with the suggestion of tire Ashok Mehta Committee that tire Panchayati Raj institutions should be gjven a constitutional status. They, however, agreed that the Central Government may prepare a model Act which may provide the necessary guidelines to the State. The State may adopt the legislation subject to the need of making variations according to local conditions.
  • Nyaya Panchayats, as envisaged by Ashok Mehta Committee did not find favour with the Chief Ministers.

Question 2.
What are the problems being faced by the Pauchayati Raj Institutions in India ? What remedial measures for te have been taken in recent years.
Discuss the recent development issues In Panchayati Raj institutions in India.
Problems Before Panchayati Raj Institutions –

1. Introduction. The working of Panchayati Raj institutions set up as a result of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee recommendations did not show very encouraging result Maharashtra and Gujarat had evolved a slightly different pattern of very strong Zilla Panchayats. Even they did not find the working of these institutions upto their expectations. For example, Bongirwar Committee and Patil Committee found drat the working of Ziia Parishads in Maharashtra required a lot of improvements. Although different states evolved different patterns, their Panchayati Raj institutions faced some common problems. Some of the important ones will fee discussed here.

2. Rivalry of the State Government. The most important was that the State Governments did not want to part with their powers mid very peripheral functions were allotted to the Panchayats. The constitution had left this matter to the State Governments.

Naturally, the State Governments were rather miserly in transferring their functions to these institutions. Even in States like Maharashtra and Gujarat, where a strong Zila Panchayats were set up things did not work out well. The State Government tended to set up parallel machinery to take up several programmes which were transferred to the Zila Panchayats. Several functions were withdrawn from the Zilla Panchayats. District Planning and Development Councils were set up to reduce the importance of Zilla Panchayats in the planning process.

In fact, the State Governments started seeing them as rival mitres of power. This led to the de facto curtailment of functions of Zila Panchayats even though these functions were legally transferred to them. As already mentioned, in most of the states important functions were never transferred to them. Some traditional municipal functions like maintaince of village roads, parks, community wells, tanks, etc., were transferred. Hardly anywhere these institutions functioned as real local self governments.

3. Prolonged Supersession of Panchayats. Another consequence of this perceived rivalry of powers between the State Governments and the local governments was that the latter remained superseded over long periods. The Panchayat Acts were so drafted by the State Governments, that the Panchayats could be easily superseded and there were no time limits on such supersession.

To some extent it was due to the party politics entering the Panchayat elections which were supposed to be free from party politics. However, on deeper examination it can be seen that it were not only opposing political parties who kept the Panchayats superseded, but, these institutions were shabbily treated even by the State Government of the same political parties, atleast covertly. As already hinted above, the main reason was not so much party politics, as it was the inherent fear of the State Governments losing power to the Panchayati Raj institutions.

4. Legislators’ Hostile Attitude. At the local level, the Members of Parliament and Members of State Legislatures also left jealous of these emerging local governments. For the first time they found that someone at the district level or even at block level was wielding direct power. They found it very jarring to note that to get things done they had to approach someone whom, they so far thought, was a smaller or junior politician. In spite of their superior political standing they could not do anything directly.

Earlier they had to approach the Minister who was one of them, but now they had to approach some one at the district or block level. Since the laws governing the Panchayats were to be enacted by the MLAs, they naturally were not in favour of giving them too many functions. This problem was compounded in some states like Maharashtra by the fact that they MPs and MLAs were totally kept to’ of the Panchayat bodies.

Not only could they not hold any office, but, they were debarred from becoming a member of any Panchayat. They, therefore, adopted various methods to bypass the local bodies. They influenced the process of district planning through the District Planning and Development Council of which all of them were members and where the Zilla Panchayat ‘ President found himself overwhelmed by their presence and the presence of the Minister incharge of the district. Thus, the Panchayat bodies suffered neglect at the hands of higher political formation whose support was so essential for this healthy growth.

5. Domination of Higher Castes. The electoral process so operated that the Panchayat bodies came to be dominated by the higher castes. It was found that it had become difficult to see these institutions as agents of social change in the interest of the weaker sections of the society.

The benefits of the programmes for the rural poor could hardly percolate to them through the Panchayat bodies dominated by the rich and high caste. In fact some special institutions had to be established in the districts to make the benefit of the schemes reach the poor for whom it is meant. For example, Small Farmers’ Development Agencies and agencies for development of marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labour were set up in the district to implement the target group oriented programmes. These institutions were set up outside the Panchayat bodies. Later, District Rural Development Agencies were also set up to implement the Integrated Rural Development Programme to improve the lot of the people living below the poverty line. Even IRDA was kept outside the control of the Zila Panchayats.

All this became necessary to make sure that the benefits reach the correct beneficiaries. It is really strange that the popularly elected local bodies could not be depended upon to implement the programmes for the benefit of the underprivileged. Even the existing levels of reservations for the weaker sections in the Panchayat bodies were not found sufficient to make their voice heard in these bodies.

6. Indirect Elections except that of Gram Panchayats. Except the Gram Pancbayats, the other tiers of Panchayat bodies were constituted on the basis of indirect elections. The members of the Block and District Panchayats were therefore, cut off from the people whom they are supposed to represent and serve. Such indirect elections were also subject to other electoral malpractices like bribing of voters etc. Of course this system had the advantage of providing organic links between different tiers of the Panchayats, but, its other defects out-weigh its advantage. Direct elections keep the representatives responsive to the electorate and are preferable to any system of Indirect elections. Other methods can be devised to establish organic links between different tiers, if it found very necessary to do so.

7. Paucity’ of Resources. One of the important reasons for the failure of the Panchavati Raj institutions was that they did not have adequate resources to run the welfare programmes. In fact, they did not have adequate resources even to perform the functions entrusted to them by the Legislature. In this resppct they face the same problem as the State Government vis- α-vis the Central Government.

The higher yielding taxes have been reserved for the centre. The rates of their taxation are quite high and the State Governments find it quite difficult to raise enough revenue to perform their assigned functions. But, the States Governments have some constitutional safeguards for sharing the revenues. The Panchayat Raj bodies did not have any such safeguards. With the apathy of the State Governments and State Legislatures for reasons mentioned above, they did not have much of a chance to improve their financial resources.

There is not much scope for them to increase their revenues through increased rates of taxation as the items of taxation given to them just cannot yield enough revenues. Moreover, the representatives elected to these bodies are much closer to the people than the representatives in the State Assemblies and the National Parliament. It is very difficult for them to impose heavy taxes on the poor people who can not afford to pay them. For ai. these reasons the financial position of the Panchayat! Raj institutions has been very precarious. They have, therefore, not been able to perform all the functions entrusted to them.

8. Remedial Measures. Several studies were conducted by the State Governments and some remedial measures were taken. But the functioning of the Panchayati Raj institutions did not improve much. A few States like West Bengal, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh took some really effective measures to strengthen the Panchayats, and make them instruments of real local self- governance. Wide ranging powers were given to the Panchayati Raj bodies and their finance were improved.

The effect of these initiatives is still not clear, as the relationship between these bodies and the State Governments is still not very clearly defined. Probably some more time will be required to assess the real impact of these bold initiatives. In the meantime, the situation in other States did not show any marked improvement in spite of some half heard measures taken by the State Governments.

It was probably realized by the Union Government that the states will probably never do enough to strengthen the Panchayats. Situation demanded some drastic remedy which could come from outside the states. Such a remedy could also not depend entirely on the goodwill of the State Governments, as almost thirty years of experience showed that they were really not interested in seriously developing real power centres at local self¬government level.

The Central Government headed by Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi, therefore, brought the Constitution (Sixty fourth) Amendment Bill in the Parliament in October 1989. The amendment sought to give constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj bodies and to ensure some uniformity in the basic framework of Panchayati Raj system in different states. It also sought to provide adequate reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women not only as members of Panchayati Raj bodies, but also as Chairpersons. The Bill provided for strengthening the financial position of the Panchayats and giving them proper status as institutions of local self governance.

The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha, but was defeated in the Rajya Sabha. Attempted to get the Amendment passed were revived in 1992. In December, 1992 two Constitution Amendment Bills were passed by the Parliament. The Constitution (Seventy third Amendment) Act 1992 provides for restructuring and strengthening of Panchayati Raj institutions and the Constitution (Seventy fourth Amendment) Act 1992 makes similar provisions for restructuring and stengthening the urban local bodies. These amendments meet the basic need of providing Constitutional status to the Local Self Government institutions. The task of laying down the detailed guidelines for the functioning of these institutions has .still been left to the State Governments, who have to do it through their- own enactments.

But, the Constitutional framework is very different now than what it used to be before the Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Constitutional amendments. Earlier, the State Governments had full freedom to lay down the ground rules for the functioning of the Local Self Government institutions. But, now they have to do so within the basic framework provided by the Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Amendments.

Question 3.
Write an essay on the 73rd Constitution (Seventy-Third Amendment) Act 1992.
Examine in detail the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 and its implementation.
73rd Constitution ACT, 1992 :
As already mentioned above, this amendment provides a constitutional framework for setting up and running the Panchayati Raj Institution. It seeks to do so by including a new part in the Constitution, viz., Part IX with the title “The Panchayats”. The basic features of the Panchayati Raj introduced by the Seventy-third Amendment are discussed below :

1. An Element of Direct Democracy Gram Sabha. The Amendment defines Gram Sabha as a body of persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village (which means a village or group of village comprising the village level Panchayat). The Amendment provides that the Gram Sabha may exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level as the State Legislature may by law provide.

Thus, a Gram Sabha has now to be established has to be given powers and functions. The minimum that a State Legislature will have to provide is the power of overseeing the functioning of the Gram Panchayat and laying down the broad policy guidelines for the functioning of the Gram Panchyat. Depending upon the provision in State Act, the Gram Sabha will have an opportunity to assess the working of elected representative through reports presented in its annual, half-yearly or quarterly meetings. Important matters of public concern may also be discussed in these meetings. Gram Sabha will thus provide an opportunity to every member of the village to directly question the elected members and office bearers of the Gram Panchayats. With increasing level of awareness in the electorate, the Gram Sabha may prove to be a powerful instrument of direct democracy in times to come.

2. Three-Tier Structure was Provided. The Act provides for setting up Panchayati Raj institutions at the following three levels :
(i) Village level, (ii) Intermediate level, (iii) District level.

However, states having population of less than twenty lakhs may set up . only a two-tier structure. They need not go in for the intermediate level Panchayats. Earlier there was uniformity in this respect. Some states had opted for a two tier structure while other set up three tier Panchayat system. In fact, Ashok Mehta Committee had recommended a uniform two-tier structure, but, it did not find favour with the Parliament and it opted for a three-tier structure for bigger states.

3. Composition of Panchayats and Mode of Election. General scheme is that the Panchayats shall be divided into territorial constituencies. Members of the Panchayats shall be directly elected by the voters residing in the respective constituencies. Regarding the size of the constituencies the only guideline appears to be that a number of persons electing a representative should be roughly the same throughout the state in respect of village intermediate or district level Panchayats separately.

These provisions have probably been made to take care of the criticism that indirect elections tend to give rise to a number of malpractices and breed corruption. Another consideration appears to be that delimitation of constituencies must have some rationale. While the details have been left to the State Legislatures, the above mentioned guidelines are meant to avoid the pitfalls’ noticed during past working of these Panchayati Raj institutions.

4. Link between Legislators and Panchayat Bodies. As pointed out earlier in this chapter, one of the important reasons for the failure of Panchayati Raj institutions was the hostility of Members of Parliament and Members of State Legislatures. Tire positions was really alarming in states like Maharashtra where the members of the Central and State Legislatures were consciously kept out of the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

It was felt, while keeping them out, that their presence will fetter the working of the Panchayats and overwhelm them with national and provincial issues relegating the local issues (or primary concern to the Panchayats) to the background. However, the experience of Panchayats brought out that MPs and MLAs found other ways of influencing the Panchayats. On the other hand their exclusion created unnecessary hostility.

The Constitution Amendment Act, therefore, provides that the members of Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies should be represented in the Panchayats at the intermediate and district level. They should have representation in those intermediate and district level Panchayats in whose jurisdiction their constituency fells partly or fully. Similarly, Members of Rajya Sabha and the Members of Legislature Council should have representation in Panchayat on the basis of the place where they are registered as voters. This is meant to ensure an in-built linkage between the legislators and the Panchayati Raj bodies.

5. Linkages inside the Panchayati Raj Bodies. Similarly linkage is required at another level. While discussing earlier the merits and demerits of direct election and indirect election to the higher level Panchayati Raj bodies it was said that the direct elections are better as they help it keep a direct link between the electorate and the elected members of the Panchayat. At the same time, the disadvantage is that there remains no organic link between tire different tiers of Panchayati Raj bodies.

Such a link was there where the members of the higher body were elected from among the members of the lower body or where the chairpersons of lower body were members of the higher body. The Constitutional Amendment has tried to elections to all the tiers of the Panchayati Raj institutions. At the same time, the State Government have been advised to frame laws to provide for the representation of the chairpersons of lower bodies into the higher bodies.

This arrangement will have the advantage of direct elections to all the tiers of the Panchayati Raj bodies and while at the same time providing organic links between the different tiers. The advantages of inter linkages of legislators and Panchayati Raj bodies and between the different tiers of Pachayati Raj bodies should not be under-estimated. For their successful working the Panchayati Raj bodies need each others’ help and also from legislators. There is no better way to do this than to make institutional arrangements for their frequent contacts.

6. Reservation for Disadvantaged Groups. It may be remembered that one of the important reason for the failure of the Panchayati Raj bodies in implementing the programmes for the welfare of the poor was their control by dominant castes. The existing levels of reservations for the disadvantages groups like scheduled castes and scheduled tribes was not found enough to take care of their interests. It was felt reservations for these weaker sections as members of the Panchayati Raj bodies will not serve the purpose. There should be reservation in the positions of office bearers, spebially the chairpersons. The Constitutional Amendment, therefore, provides for the following schemes of reservations in the Panchayati Raj bodies :

(i) Seats shall be reserved for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in all the Panchayati Raj bodies. The number of seats so reserved in any Panchayat shall bear the same ratio to the total number of seats of the same Panchayats as thp population of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes bears to the total population of the Panchayat. Such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the Panchayat.

(ii) At least one third of the seats so reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes should be farther reserved for die women of the same communities.

(iii) At least one third of the seats to be filled by direct election-shall be reserved for women (including the seats reserved for die women : of scheduled castes an- scheduled tribes). Such seats may also allowed by rotation to the different constituencies of the Panchayat.

(iv) Reservation on exactly the same lines as mentioned above for the seats of Panchayats at all levels may also be made for chairpersons of these bodies. It means that chairpersonships of Panchayats at all levels should be reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the same ratio as the population of these castes bears to the total population of the state. Similarly at least one third of total chairmanship should be reserved for women.

(v) The State legislatures may in addition, make reservation for the backward class of persons in the seats of Panchayat bodies as well as chairpersons.

It would be seen that die constitutional amendment provide for reservation of seats and chairpersonships for another disadvantaged group viz. Women. This would go a long way In eliminating or atleast reducing the gender bias in Panchayati Raj institutions. It is expected that this pew scheme of reservations will be helpful in reducing the dominant caste bias in tire Panchayati Raj Institutions. More reservation of seats for STs/SCs was hot enough to achieve this objective arc the dominant castes used to comer most of the positions of power like chairpersonships by using money and muscle power, and traditional influence. Even women were not coming forward to contest, for offices like chairpersons in the male dominated institutions. When Chairpersonships themselves are reserved, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women shall occupy these positions. It is expected that this might bring a change in the power equations in the rural India

7. Devolution of Powers. The Constitutional Amendment enjoins the State Legislature to enact Legislation for real devolution of powers to Panchayats at different levels to enable them to function as Institutions of Self Government. Such devolution of powers must enable the Panchayats to prepare plans for economic development and social justice and implement schemes of economic development and social justice with reference to subjects entrusted to them including those given in Eleventh Schedule. This Schedule lists out 29 items including Agriculture, Land Reforms, Minor Irrigation, Roads, Rural Electrification, Primary and Secondary Education, Health and Family Welfare, Women and Child Welfare, Social Welfare.

Welfare of SCs/STs, Public Distribution System etc. The list contains almost all items of vital concern in rural areas. The State Government may add any to their subjects through appropriate legislation. The devolution of powers to the Panchayats, through legislation is subject to such conditions as the case may be imposed. It is expected that the State legislatures will impose only such conditions which do not take away the autonomy of the Panchayati Raj Institutions. They should be guided by the basic spirit of the amendment which is meant to the Pane’ yats to function as Institutions of Self-Government.

8. State Finance Commission. One of the most important reasons for the failure of Panchayati Raj Institutions of self Govt was lade of financial resources. Their own resources were very limited due to a very limited taxation base and the grants from the State Government were discretionary. Very often the grants were tied up with specific schemes, were grossly inadequate and carried stringent conditions for their utilisation. This made them dependent on the State Governments and took away their autonomy. To take care of these problems the Constitutional Amendment makes two significant provision:

(i) The State Government may by law authorise the Panchayats to levy and collect taxes on the certain specified items. This law may also provide for collection of certain taxes by the States and assigning them to Panchayats. The State Government may also give grants to the Panchayat to enable them to perform functions assigned to them. Some such provisions already exist in Panchayat Acts, but, they have not beet found adequate. It is hoped that in the changed context, the State Governments will be more generous and the nev laws enacted by the State Legislatures will provide to the Panchayats a sound financial base to enable them to function as institutions of Self Government. ‘

(ii) Suspecting that the State Government may not be that generous or that just the Constitutional Amendment provide for an independent Finance Commission to be Constituted by the Government every five years. The Finance Commission will make recommendations to be Governor on the following matter.

  • Principles that should govern the distribution between the State and the Panchayats of the net proceeds of taxes, leviable by State Government, which may be divided between them and the • allocation between the Panchayats at all levels.
  • Principles that should govern the determination of taxes arid fee which may be assigned to the Panchayats.
  • Principles that should govern the grants in aid to the Panchayats from the consolidated fend of the State.
  • Measures needed to improve the financial position of the Panchayats.
  • Any other matter referred to the Finance Commission by the Governor m the interest of sound finance of Panchayats.

The Governor will cause every recommendation of the Finance Commission along with the action,ti&sn thereon to be hid before, the legislature of the State. ’

The above description reveals that fire scheme of distribution of Finances between the State and the Panchayats is almost the same as that between the Central Government and theStateGovemncntTheCeritralFtnanccCommission recommends the distribution of income from taxes between the Central and State Governments. Action taken on the recommendations is place the Parliament. The system has functioned well and has been adopted at the State level to ensure fair distribution of income between the State and the Panchayats.

The system may function well at the State level also provided the Chairmen and members of the Finance Commission are persons of high stature and merit. They should have a good mix of knowledge and experience of public affairs and economics including public finance. If persons with requisite knowledge and standing are appointed on the Commission and if they are able to apportion the finances between the States and Panchayats fairly; the greatest bottleneck in the proper functioning of the T anchayats would have been removed.

9. State Election Commission. Free and fair conduct of elections is an important part of any democratic process. That is why a very high powered Election Commission had been constituted at the Central level to conduct free and fair Elections for Parliament and the State Assemblies. This commission take up the work of conducting elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. For these reasons  and drawing a parallel envisages setting up an Election Commission the Constitutional Amendment envisages setting up an Election Commission in each State to conduct free and fair elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

The State Election Commission will consist of a State Election Commission to be appointed by the Governor. The conditions of service, of the State Election Commissioner shall be decided by the State legislature by a law or by rules notified by the Governor. To give the Commission high status and independence of functioning the State flection Commission has been guaranteed security of tenure and service conditions. He cannot be removed from office except on the some grounds and in the same manner as a High Court Judge. The Amendment also provides that the State Government shall make all the necessary staff and resources to enable the commission to perform its function.

This applied to the permanent staff for running the Commission as well as to the Staff temporarily made available to the Commission for conducting the Panchayat elections smoothly and fairly. Earlier Panchayat Elections were conducted by State Director of Panchayats who was functioning directly under the State Government Although no large scale .. malpractices were reported in Panchayat elections earlier, but such possibilities could not be ruled out specially because of increased stakes in Panchayats due to enhancement of their powers and functions. Establishment of the State Election Commission under the Constitutional Amendment has * prompted any such possible.

10. Security of Tenure for the Panchayats. It has been pointed out earlier that the Panchayats were not treated well by the Stats Governments. They were often not allowed to complete their tenure after their election.

Many of them were superseded on flimsy grounds and were kept under ‘ suspension -over long periods without conducting fresh elections. This happened even in States like Maharashtra which started the Panchayati Raj with great fanfare and enthusiasm. In some States like Madhya Pradesh, the Zila Panchayats hardly ever functioned. Election to the district bodies were just not conducted for a long period. This was hardly the climate in which Panchayati Raj Institution could thrive. The present Constitutional Amendment has, therefore, provided that the Panchayati Raj bodies will function for a period of five years from the date of the first meeting and no more elections to these bodies will be conducted just before the expiry of their tenure, so that the newly elected bodies can start functioning as soon as the previous bodies complete their tenure.

If a Panchayat is superseded/dissolved, after proper opportunity of begin heard, elections shall be held within a period of six months such dissolution. The re-elected Panchayat body shall remain in office for the remainder of the term of the dissolved Panchayat. Obviously there should be no election if the unexpired term of the dissolved Panchayat is less than six months. This is very healthy provision which will go a long way in eliminating/reducing frivolous dissolution of Panchayats. For one thing the Panchayat bodies cannot be superseded/dissolved for indefinites periods, their would be little incentive to dissolve a Panchayat just for a period of six months, part of which will be used up in conducting elections.

An added disincentive for dissolution is that the newly elected Panchayat can remain in office only for the uhexpired term of the dissolved Panchayat. Even if there is same political advantage in dissolving a Panchayat, it may not be worthwhile to take all that risk for a short unexpired term. Apart from providing a built in disincentive for dissolution the other advantage of the provision as that the term of all the Panchayats will come to an end simultaneously. This will obviate the necessity of Holding of Elections for different Panchayats at different times.

The Constitutional Amendment has also been taken not of another uneventfully which usually went unnoticed, whenever, the amendpent to Panchayats Acts were earlier considered. Sometimes the State Governments tended to take over all the Panchayats by amending the law relating to Panchayats and providing therein that the term of present Panchayat will expire on a particular date. Since there was no Constitutional provision on this point, the State Governments were free to enact such a law.

Now, the present Constitutional Amendment provides that no amendment of any law, for the time being in force, shall have the effect of causing dissolution of a Panchayat functioning immediately before such amendment. Again this is – very healthy provision. This takes away the possibility of a general dissolution of Panchayat by amendment of Panchayat laws. This Government cannot do so now in view of clear constitutional , provision to the contrary introduced by the seventy third Constitutional Amendment.

11. Control of Panchayats. The Seventy-third amendment does not speak much about the control of the Panchayats by the States. This is probably so because the Amendment was mainly concerned with the problem of excessive control by the State Governments. However, the Amendment does not prohibit such control provided at is not contrary to the express provisions of the Constitution.

The various State Acts would certainly provide for the necessary controls consistent with the provisions of the Constitution. They will, however, have to be in the nature of controls exercised by one elected government on another, like the controls exercised by the Central Government over the State Governments. Obviously State Governments will have to exercise controls in case the Panchayats act contrary to the constitutional or legal provisions. But, the Constitutional Amendment has attempted to ensure that such control is not arbitrary and excessive.

However, the Constitutional amendment provides for control by audit. Here also, the provision is very bried. It only states that States Government may by law, make provision with respect to maintenance of accounts by Panchayats and the auditing of such accounts. In fact the work of conducting the audit of Panchayats is so stupendous that it may require a separate department. Even before the Constitutional Amendment the State Governments has made provisions for conducting the audit of the Panchayats. Director of Local Fund Audit was entrusted w ith this task. Now, with the increase in the functions of the Panchayats and increasing flow of funds to them the arrangements for audit shall have to be strengthened.

12. Implementation. The Constitution (Seventy-third Amendment) Act 1992 lays down that any state law relating .to Panchayats inconsistent with this amendment shall remain in force for one year after the commencement of the Amendment Act 1992 or until a new law is passed by the State legislature whichever is earlier. However, the existing Panchayats will continue until dissolved by a resolution of the state legislature. The state legislatures, therefore had just one year’s time to bring their legislation relating to Panchayats in line with the provisions of the Constitution (Seventy-third amendment) Act 1992. Most cf the State Governments have passed the necessary legislation and are in the process of implementing the new laws. Only two states have, however, elected their Panchayati Raj Institutions on the basis of the newly enacted legislation.

Besides enacting the new Panchayat legislation, the State Governments have to enact new laws to set up State Election Commission and the State Finance Commission. For the time being the State Election can be set up by a notification of rules by the government but it will require a new law to set up the State Finance Commission. Alter, passing such a law a notification will also he required under the new law’ actually setting up the State Finance Commission. Madhya Pradesh is probably the only state which had completed the entire process of enacting the necessary laws and issuing the necessary notifications. The elections to all the tiers of Panchayats have been completed by the newly created State Election Commission. Detailed guidelines have been given to the government departments to implement the new Panchayat Act.

The Panchayats have also started functioning at all levels, to start with, utilising the service of the employees of the different departments of the State Government. The State Finance Commission has beer set up by a notification issued under the new State Finance Commission Act. The Commission has already started functioning while M. P. has acted very fast other states are also following it. As already said Karnataka has just completed Panchayats elections and other states have enacted the necessary legislation. It is hoped that the entire process will soon be completed in all the states. How the system works can be seen only after it has been in operation for some time.

In some states like Bihar, etc. which have not passed the legislation nor have they held the election for new Panchayats the Spreme Court has passed the orders seizing all the powers of the old Panchayats and making them non existent.

Question 4.
Discuss the various forms of Urban Administration in India.
Forms Of Urban Administration In India –
1. Introduction The development of different urban centres does not take place to the same extent. Some of the centres grow very large in size and require much more sophisticated Urban Government Bodies to handle their urban civic affairs. Many other cities and towns remain small in size end do not require the same degree of intensity in the management of their civic functions. Different forms of Urban Government bodies have, therefore, developed in different towns and cities. By and large, they have taken the following forms :

(i) Municipal Corporations; (ii) Municipal Councils; (iii) Notified Area Committees; (iv) Town Area Committees; (v) Cantonment Boards; (vi) Townships.
Some of the important features of these urban bodies will be escribed here briefly :

(i) Municipal Corporation. The Municipal Corporation is the top most of the Urban Local Government, in the sense that it is made tor large cities. It has a wide scope of functions to perform and possesses much greater degree of autonomy. It has diverse sources of income and depends on the Central or the State Government finances to a much lesser extent.

The Mayor is the head of the Municipal Corporation, but generally his powers are ceremonial. The Municipal Commissioner, who is appointed by the State Government either from the Indian Administrative Service or the State Civil Service is the Chief Executive Officer and head of the Executive wing of the Corporation. Obviously, the separation of deliberative functions from the executive ones is one of the important features of the Municipal Corporation.

Corporation has a Standing Committee and a number of other committees to assist it in She performance of its tasks. Some of the important Municipal Corporation in the country are Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Delhi, Patna, Pune, etc. Of course, the position and functions of the Municipal Corporation differs from one another depending upon the provisions in the respective status under which they have been set up.

(ii) Municipal Council. The most characteristic form of the urban government body is a Municipal Council. Such Councils are set lip for medium sired towns in the States. The number of such cities being larger than the big cities, the number of Municipal Councils is correspondingly much larger than the number of Municipal Corporations. Unlike the corporation, a municipal council is founded on a fusion of deliberative and executive functions. The President of a Municipal Council is much more powerful then the mayor of a corporation, although the latter appears to have greater pomp and glory.

The Municipal Councils are set up under the Municipal Acts which also make provision for the conduct of their business. The Municipal Council can set up Standing Committee and other Committees to assist it in the performance of its functfons. The tenure of the Municipal Council varies from 3 to 5 years. Die Municipal Council performs a number of civic functions which are classified as obligatory and discretionary. The obligatory functions include, construction and maintenance of public roads, drinking water supply, sewerage disposal, street lighting, cleaning public roads and public places, establishment of primary schools, registration of births and death, etc.

Sources of Income. A Municipal Council derives its revenue form taxes, fees and rate, income form Municipal enterprises and property , grtne and loans from fee State Governments.

(iii) Notified Area Committees/Town Area Committees. The Urban Local Government takes fee form of either a Notified Area Committee or a Town Area Committee for newly developed small towns. A Notified Area Committee is set up for an area which does not yet fulfil all the conditions, considered to be necessary for the constitution of a Municipal Council but which otherwise is regarded important.

It is, in fact, meant for a newly developed town and its formation is notified by a notification in its official gazette. For this reason it is called a Notified, Area Committees. Only such provisions of the Municipal Act apply to it as are mentioned in the notification. It is an entirely nominated body. This type of local bodies hr e been set up in Bihar, Gujarat, MP, Himachal Pardesh, Jammu and Kashmir, etc.

Unlike a Notified Areas Committee, Town Area Committee is meant for small town and its functions are limited in number. These include lighting, drainage, conservancy, etc. Members of a Town Area Committee are partly elected partly nominate. This form of Urban Government exists in Assam, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengnl etc.

(iv) Cantonment Boards. These Boards are created for administering civic amenities in Cantonments with permanent military stations. They come directly under the control of the Ministry of Defence in the Central Government and consist of both nominated and elected members.

(v) Townships. A number of townships have been created by large public undertakings. They may be grouped into the following :

  1. Single industry townships, like Rourkela, Jamashedpur, etc.
  2. Township having an industrial complex like Durgapur.
  3. Small townships near largic cities, such as BHEL near Bhopal and Indian Telephone Industries near Bangalore.

The most distinguishing feature of the township form of urban government is the provision of civic amenities as well as administration by the public undertaking itself. In other words the public undertaking itself performs the function of a local government.

Question 5.
Critically examine the problems urban local governments are facing. What remedial measures have been taken in this regard?
Problems Before Urban Local Governments –
1. Growing Urban Population. The Urban Local Governments are facing more and more complex problems. The tasks of the Local Government have been increasing without the corresponding increase in their resources. While the problems faced by these bodies may be many, they ultimately boil down to three categories :

(i) Problems of Personal, (ii) Problems of Finance, (iii) Problems of State Control.

We propose to study in this section the first two problems and then pass m to the third problem in the next section.

2. Problems of Personnel. The performance of any organisation depends upon the quality and morale of its employees. In both these respects, the Urban Local Governments present a dismal picture. As it. is, the financial resources of the Urban Local Bodies are limited. Even these resources are not properly utilised because of the inadequacy and incompetence of the municipal personnel.

The system of separation prevails. The size of local bodies being small personnel do not have adequate opportunity of self development through promotional avenues, etc. Moreover, in the appointment promotion and disciplinary matters, the elected members of the municipalities do not act impartially and according to merits of each case. On the contrary, nepotism, favouritism and corruption are rampant.

Naturally, bright bound persons are not attracted towards these services. Only the leftovers from the Central and State Governments and public undertakings become available to the Urban Local Bridies. Even if some good persons join by chance, they either leave or work listlessly without adequate motivation. Various Committees set up by the Central and State Governments have gone into this question, of improving the quality of the personnel of the Urban Local Bodies.

We need not go into the, details of the deliberations of these questions. To complete the context here, we may state that the general opinion appears to veer around the view that for higher posts in the Local Urban Bodies, a unified or integrated system may be followed under which the various cadres for different categories of municipal employees may be formed. This may provide for large enough cadre to make adequate promotions possible. To lend further prestige to the personnel of the Local Urban Bodies, these cadres may also be integrated with the State cadres of corresponding services.

3. Problems of Finance. Unlike the Central and the State Governments, the local governments do not have a constitutionally earmarked sphere of taxation. It is empowered to levy taxes only on some such items as are provided in the statute enacted by the State Governments. Most of their sources of revenue are inelastic. The State Governments have not treated the local Governments very kindly. To be fair to the State Governments, it must be stated that have received a similar treatment from the Central Government Very little is left with the State Government. Naturally, the same process has worked in case of local Governments who have been allocated very few sources of income that too inelastic ones.

4. Problems of Legal Status. With regard to the legal status, the urban local bodies found no mention in the Constitution. Panchayats at least found mention in article 40 of Directive Principles of State Policy enjoining the state to organise the Panchayats and enable them to function as units of self- Government. Even this pious declaration of intentions was not there with respect to the urban local bodies. Probably the only place where they found mention in the Constitution, was the Seventh Schedule which included Local Government in the State list.

It meant that the Urban local bodies were to be set up by the State Government All laws in respect of such bodies were to be enacted by the State Governments. There were no guidelines in the constitution to guide the State Governments in framing such laws. The result is obvious. The laws framed by the State Governments are heavily weighted in their favour. They have made the urban local bodies responsible for performing all kinds of functions without caring to see whether they have adequate resources for the same. The State Governments have kept in their hands all kinds of control over these bodies.

They have, therefore, never been able to function as units of Self¬Government. For the first time, the Constitution (Seventy – fourth Amendment) Act 1992 has included the urban local bodies in the Constitution. This amendment gives detailed guidelines to the State legislature about the provisions to be made in the state laws concerning the local bodies. While the subject ‘Local Government still continues to be in the State list in the Seventh Schedule, they have to keep the new Constitutional provisions in raming laws relating to the urban local bodies. These bodies now have a Constitutional status more or less as a third tier of Government along with the rural local bodies, viz., Panchayats.

5. Paucity of Resources, Like the Panchayats, the urban local bodies are aiso beset with serious financial problems. There are no worthwhile sources of revenue with these bodies to enable them to perform then- functions efficiently. There is a move to abolish the octroi and replace it by additional exercise or entry tax. Many of the States have already done it. This has taken away the most important source of revenue completely out of control of the local bodies. These bodies have no control over the rate of tax or its collection.

Even the disbursement of tax collected by State Governments in lieu of the octroi, is very late. Satisfactory system of assessment of the share of this tax to be given to different Municipalities/ Corporations has not been worked out. In some States the Municipal bodies are given some Adhoc increase over collections in a base year, although collections by the State Governments are often much higher. Even to obtain their share of the tax the municipal bodies have to approach the State Government several times and they get this share after agonizing delays.

The only other substantial tax is property tax which is subject to great difficulties in assessment and collection. There are not many sources of non-tax revenue also. Any number of committees have gone into the question of augmenting the financial resources of the urban local bodies, but, their efforts have borne no fruits. The finances of the urban bodies have continued to remain in dire straits. It is difficult for popular local Governments, so close to the ground, to levy and collect heavy taxes.

6. Prolonged Supersession/Dissolution of Urban Bodies. Like their counterparts in rural areas the urban local bodies were also not treated well by the State Governments. Very often these bodies were superseded or dissolved and elections were not held for long periods. This happened mostly for political reasons and at times for the inherent desire of the State Governments to control these institutions directly.

The completely took away their representative character and reduced them to the level of subordinate offices of the State Governments. In this process, the State Governments were greatly helped by the laws framed by the State legislature. These laws provided for no time limit supersession or dissolution. Consequently elections were not held for years together and State appointed administrators continued to run these institutions on behalf of the State Government almost as their subordinate offices. This tendency cut across the party lines, as it suited every party running the State Government for the time being to run the local bodies through their appointees. Moreover, in many States the legislators were not associated with the urban local bodies.

They felt left out of the planning and decision-making process of local urban affairs. They were, therefore, not very sympathetic to the local urban bodies and felt more at home with the State Governments when they could influence more easily through the Ministers who were themselves legislators. Thus faced- with the apathy, if not the hostility, of the State Governments and the State legislatures, the- local urban bodies bound hardly function as institution of local self- governments.

7. Limited Jurisdiction. For the above mentioned reasons, the State Governments and State legislatures were never interested in alloting more subjects to the urban local bodies. This also had a historical background Establishment of the urban local bodies, viz., municipalities started way back during early British period. The British masters distrusted the Indians and very grudgingly conceded the establishment of democratic government at the local municipal level. Even while doing that, they were not really interested in giving them too many powers and functions. Very few functions which came to be known as local municipal functions, were transferred to them. These functions included maintenance of roads, hygiene, sanitation, etc.

All other important functions continued to be with State Governments who exercised all the powers to perform , such functions through their own employees. Even after, independence the same tendency has-continued-in spite of the lip service paid to Local Self-Government in rural and urban areas. Even rural local bodies have not-been treated very well, but this historical prejudice was not there in their case as hardly any rural local bodies existed during the British period. The historical tendency of giving limited powers urban local bodies were reinforced after independence by the factors mentioned in the previous paragraph. The urban local bodies, therefore, did not really function as institutions of self governance.

8. Remedial. Measures. It has been seen that in spite of several committees and commissions, the functioning of the urban local bodies has not improved. Given the apathy of State Governments and State legislatures, some drastic remedy was required. And such a remedy could be attempted by Government of India with the help of the State Governments.

Obviously a co-ordinated effort in all the States could not be initiated without the initiative of Government of India. Realising this, the Central Government brought the Constitution (Sixty-fourth Amendment) in Parliament in 1989. The Bill sought to give Constitutional status to the urban local bodies along with the Panchayati Raj Institutions. It also sought to improve their financial position and provide them sufficiently high status to enable them to function as institutions of self- Government. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha but was defeated in the Rajya Sabha. Attempts to get the Bill passed were revived in 1992. In December 1992 two Constitutional Amendment Bills were passed by the Parliament.

The Constitution (Seventy- third Amendment) A,ct. 1992 provides for restructuring and strengthening the Panchayati Raj Institution and the Constitution (Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act, 1992 makes similar provisions for restructuring and strengthening the urban local bodies. These Amendments provide the necessary constitutional status to the Local Self-Government Institutions. The task of enacting the detailed legislature to provide for the functioning of these institutions is still left to the State Governments, but, they have to do so now within the bread framework laid down by the Constitutional Amendment Acts.

Question 6.
Discuss the issue cf autonomy of Urban Local Government in India.
The most striking feature of the Urban Local Government in India is the extent of supervision and control which State Govt, exercises over it. It is true that the local Governments have been created by a statute of the State Government. They sre therefore, necessarily subordinate to the State Governments and cannot claim complete autonomy. However, for performance of the functions allotted to them under the statute, they do retire some amount of freedom of action. The concerned statutes appear to provide for too tight a control as would be evident from the forthcoming discussion.

1. Local Jurisdiction. The State Government constitutes a local area as a municipality, which have become a jdy corporate with a perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire, hold and dispose of property and enter into contracts, subject to the provisions of the statute setting up the municipality. The State Government delimits the jurisdiction of the municipal bodies and can change such jurisdiction at will without consulting it. The State Government can also abolish a municipality by distributing its area into other municipalities. This makes for complete subservience of the municipal bodies to the State Government.

2. Election Process. The State Government determines the number of territorial wards into which the Urban Local Body is to be divided for the purpose of election and the extent of each ward. The State Government at -any time can change the area included in a ward and the total number of wards in the municipality. In many States, the legislation merely specifies a minimum and maximum number Of councillors. In such cases, it is the State Government which determines the number. The State Government alsv, arrange for the election of the municipal bodies through their own officers.

3. Liabilities of Councillor. A councillor is personally liable f.,r the loss, waste or misappropriation of any property of the municipal council to which he has been a party of which has been caused or facilitated by his misconduct or gross neglect of his duties as a Councillor. This always keeps the sword of Democles hanging on the head of the Councillors. Even a bonafide action may at times be interpreted as a negligent act and the concerned Councillor penalized for it.

4. Approval of Bye-laws. Each and every bye-law passed by an Urban Local Body, including even a Municipal Corporation, is required to be approved by the State Government. It is only when a bye-law has been approved by the State Government and published in the official gazette that it acquires force of law. A modification or deletion of bye-law is also possible only with the approval of the Government. On the other hand, if the government itself wishes to modify or reaper any municipal bye-law, it is competent to do so after considering the views expressed by the affected Urban Government. *

5. Power to Suspend Taxes. The State Government has the power to suspend or prohibit the levy of a tax already passed by the Local Body, if it considers the tax or taxes to be objectionable or injurious to the interests of the public. On the other hand, the State Government is empowered to require a Local Government to impose such taxes as it may direct.

6. Approval of the Budget. The indebted Local Governments, including the indebted Municipal Corporations are required to submit their budgets to the State Government for approval. This is probably done with a view to safeguard the interest of the State Government loan. However, it constitutes and attack on the autonomy of the local bodies.

7. Power to Resolve Disputes. The State Government has the power to resolve the disputes between the local Governments. Its decision is binding on each of the local bodies concerned and may not be questioned in any court of law.

8. Dissolution and Supersession of Local Bodies. It is the most drastic powers enjoyed by the State Governments over the local bodies. A dissolution necessitates fresh election within a specified time whereas in the case of supersession the State Government is hot obliged even to do that. Very often this provision is used by the State Governments not in the interest of better performance of work but for partisan political purposes. In any case, it is a severe limitation on the autonomy of the local bodies.

9. Power to Order Enquiries. The State Government can order an enquiry in any matter relating to municipal administration.

10. Other Controls on Urban Bodies. Besides the powers of control mentioned above the State Government has several other powers mentioned below :

  • It can inspect any immovable property occupied by the Municipality.
  • It can inspect or call for any extract of the proceedings of the municipality or any of its committees or any book or document in their possession.
  • It can call for any return, statement or report.
  • It is empowered to suspend execution or prohibit doing anything which the Municipal Council is empowered to do, if it is necessary for the health of safety of public. If the Municipal body does not comply, the State Government can do it and direct the municipality to pay expenses of doing that work.
  • It can rescind any decision of the Municipal Council and even remove the elected members.
  • Many of the Municipal Acts provide that the programme and schemes requiring expenditure above a certain limit has to be approved by the State Government. Usually these monetary limits are very low, meaning thereby that almost all the significant schemes require the approval of the State Government.
  • Some of the Acts provide that the Chief Municipal Officer. Health Officer and Revenue Officer shall be appointed by or. with the approval of the Government. It means that the State Government controls all the key, appointments in the Municipal bodies.

11. Financial Dependency. One of the most important reasons for the loss of autonomy of the Urban Local Bodies is their financial dependency upon the State Governments and the Central Government. As already mentioned, the sources of revenue allotted to the local Municipal Bodies do not enable them to raise enough resources for meeting«their development needs.

They have, therefore, to depend upon the grants and loans from the State Governments and sometimes even the Central Governments. There are many conditions attached to these grants and loans. The schemes and proposals are subject to very detailed and repeated scrutiny at different levels. The Municipal Bodies have literally to beg the State Government and Central Government for the release of grants loans. This renders them absolutely subservient to the State Governments.

12. Conclusion. The list of the controls exercised by the State Government appears formidable. It has also been observed drat the State Government is quite liberal in using its powers of control. While it may be said that at times, the power of the State Government is utilised for correcting the misdemeanours of a Municipal Body. However, very often the power is used by the State Government for political considerations.

These drastic powers of control only emphasis the negative aspects of the relationship between the State Governments and the Municipal Bodies. It appears as if the State Government is always bent upon punishing the local bodies rather than helping them. To create a more constructive relationship between the two, the Central Council of Local Self-Government and the Conference of State Ministers of Town and Country Planning have emphasised the desirability of setting up a Directorate of Municipal Administration in the States.

These Directorates would be staffed with well trained officers of different expertise and would render necessary help and guidance to the local bodies. They would also bring the necessary uniformity and coordination in the functioning of the local bodies in a State. In many of the States, the Directorate of Municipal Local Bodies have been set up. But only future would say as to how far these municipal bodies would be helped and made self-reliant.

DU SOL BA 3rd Year Administration and Public Policy Notes

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