Local Self Governments in India

                       LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENTS


History of Local Self Governments in India


Panchayats have been existing in our country from the time immemorial. The concept of panchayats is not new to our country and there is mention of community assemblies in the Vedic texts. Around 600 B.C., the territory north of the river Ganga comprising modern day north Bihar and eastern U.P. was under the suzerainty of small republics called Janapadas. The Greek Ambassador, Megasthenes, who visited the court of Chandragupta Maurya in 303 B.C. described the City Council which governed Pataliputra – comprising six committees with 30 members. In the Chola Kingdoms, the village council played an important part in administration, arbitrated disputes and managed social affairs. The present structure of Local Self Government institutions took shape in 1688 when the British established a Municipal Corporation at Madras which was followed by creation of similar bodies at Bombay in 1726 and Calcutta in 1872. In 1872, Lord Mayo introduced elected representatives for these municipalities and this was further developed by his successor, Lord Ripon, in 1882. By the 1880s, these urban municipal bodies had a pre-dominance of elected representatives in a number of cities and towns, including Calcutta and Bombay. A corresponding effective structure for rural areas came up with the enactment of the Bengal Local Self Government Act, 1885 which led to the establishment of district local boards across the entire territory of the then Bengal province. Within a span of five years, a large number of district boards came into existence in other parts of the country, notably Bihar, Orissa, Assam and North West Province. The Minto-Morley Reforms, 1909 and the Montague Chelmsford Reforms, 1919, when Local Self Government became a transferred subject, widened the participation of people in the governing process and, by 1924-25, district boards had


were formed. This arrangement continued till the country’s Independence in 1947 and thereafter till the late 1950s. At the time of  Second Five Year Plan it recommended that the Village Panchayats should be organically linked with popular organisations and  Government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Shri Balwantrai Mehta in 1957. The Balwantrai Mehta Committee recommended two broad directional thrusts; first that there should be administrative decentralisation for effective implementation of the development programmes and the decentralised administrative system should be placed under the control of local bodies. Second, it recommended that the CD/NES blocks

should be designed as administrative democratic units with an elected Panchayat Samiti  and  Panchayat Samiti was also to be equipped with sources of income.



The recommendations of the Committee were generally welcomed and Panchayati Raj legislations were enacted in a number of States to give effect to these recommendations. By the 1960s, Gram Panchayats covered 90% of the rural population in the country. Out of 4974 Blocks, Prakhand2  Samities were formed in 4033 blocks. Out of 399 districts in existence, 262 Zila Parishads were also constituted . By the 1970s, these bodies remained in existence without adequate functions and authority. Beginning with Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh in 1959, the Panchayati Raj system was at work in some form in all the States of the Indian Union, although the higher tier had not been set up in Kerala and Jammu & Kashmir. By end 1980s, except Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, all other States and UTs had enacted legislation for the creation of PRIs. In 14 States/ UTs, there was a three-tier system, in 4 States/UTs it was a two-tier structure and in 9 States/ UTs only one tier functioned.


In 1969, the first Administrative Reforms Commission in its report on State Administration recommended that the main executive organ of the Panchayati Raj system should be located at the district level in the form of “Zila Parishad” and not at the Block level as Panchayat Samiti. In 1977, Government formed a committee under the chairmanship of Shri Asoka Mehta to go into the working of Panchayati Raj Institutions and to suggest measures to strengthen them into effective local apparatus for decentralised planning and development of the rural areas. The committee recommended committees be formed at district level, mandal level and at village level.


Following the  recommendations of the Asoka Mehta Committee many of the States to introduce appropriate amendments in their Panchayati Raj Acts. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat adopted the new arrangement, but U.P., Bihar, Orissa, Punjab and Haryana held back.

Various committees were formed between 1978 and 1986 study the local self government institutions such as the committees under Shri C.H. Hanumantha Rao, Shri G.V.K. Rao and Shri L.M. Singhvi The next landmark in decentralised governance occurred with the 64th  and 65th  Constitutional Amendment Bills introduced in July 1989 by the Government of Shri Rajiv Gandhi.


The Bill could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha. In 1990, a combined Constitution Amendment Bill, covering both PRIs & ULBs was tabled in Parliament. With the dissolution of the Government, this Bill too lapsed. In  1992 Government introduced the 73rd  and 74th  Amendments Bill in Parliament which were passed in 1993. These introduced new Parts IX and IXA in the Indian Constitution containing Articles 243 to 243ZG. Post the 73rd  Constitutional Amendment, Panchayats have been established at three levels, the district, block and cluster of villages (Village Panchayat). The number of Village Panchayats in the country as on 1st  December, 2006 was 2,32,913; of the Intermediate Panchayats 6,094 and of the District Panchayats 537. Government had also introduced 50 percent reservation for women in the elected representatives in the local Self Governments.











Rural Local Self Governments/ Panchayats






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