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 −
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).
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.
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.