Indian Polity - Local Government



  • Local government is the government of the village and district level. It is the government closest to the common people that involves in day-to-day life and attempt to resolve problems of ordinary citizens.

  • Democracy is in fact about meaningful participation and also about accountability. Hence, strong and vibrant local governments ensure both active participation and purposeful accountability.

  • The hierarchy of different levels of Governments (of India) is shown in the following image −

Local Government

Evolution of Local Government

  • In 1882, Lord Rippon, the-then Viceroy of India, took the initiative to form elected local government body.

  • Following the Government of India Act 1919, village Panchayats were established in many provinces and the trend continued after the Government of India Act of 1935.

  • When the Constitution was prepared, the subject of local government was assigned to the States and it was one of the provisions of the Directive Principles of State Policy.

  • After the independence, a three-tier Panchayati Raj system of local government was recommended for the rural areas; resultantly, some of the states including Gujarat and Maharashtra adopted the system of elected local bodies (1960).

  • After 1987, a thorough review of the functioning of local government institutions was initiated and in 1989, the P. K. Thungon Committee recommended constitutional recognition to the local government bodies.

  • Finally, in 1992, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were passed by the Parliament.

  • The 73rd Amendment is about the rural local governments, which are also known as Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).

  • The 74th Amendment made the provisions relating to the urban local government (also known as Nagarpalikas).

Panchayati Raj

  • Following the 73rd Amendment, all states now have a uniform three tier Panchayati Raj structure as −

    • Gram Panchayat − At the bottom level;

    • Mandal (also known as Block or Taluka) − Intermediary level; and

    • Zilla Panchayat − At the top level.

  • A Gram Panchayat covers a village or group of villages.

  • The intermediary level is the Mandal covers Block (i.e. a group of gram panchayat).

  • The Zilla Panchayat covers the entire rural area of the District.

  • All the three levels of Panchayati Raj Institutions are elected directly by the people for five years term.

  • One-third of the positions in all panchayat institutions are reserved for the women.

  • Twenty-nine subjects (of 11th Schedule of the Constitution), which were earlier in the State list, are transferred to the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

Panchayati Raj
  • The 73rd Amendment was not made applicable to the areas inhabited by the Adivasi populations in many states of India; however, a separate provision was passed in 1996 for these areas.

  • The State government is required to appoint a State Election Commissioner (independent of Election Commission of India) who would be responsible for conducting elections in the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

  • The state government is required to appoint a State Finance Commission once in five years.


  • The 74th Amendment dealt with urban local bodies (Nagarpalikas or Municipality).

  • The Census of India defines an urban area as −

    • A minimum population of 5,000;

    • At least 75% of male working population engaged in non-agricultural occupations, and

    • A density of population is at least 400 persons per sq. km.

  • As per the 2011 census (provisional data), about 31 percent of India’s population lives in urban areas.

  • Many provisions of 74th Amendment are similar to 73rd Amendment.

  • The functions of Nagarpalika have been listed in the Twelfth Schedule of the Constitution.

  • The Indian population has 16.2 percent Scheduled Castes (SC) and 8.2 per cent Scheduled Tribes (ST) and accordingly, the seats for both SC and ST are reserved in local government.