India likes to tout the fact that its experiments with local self-government and decentralisation have worked wonders over the years. Starting today, I will be putting out a series of posts on how precisely these Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) function.
Part I: Background
Since independence, the urban population of India has grown nearly five times. This has happened both because industrial development has led to parts of the country becoming more urbanized, and also because of a large number of people migrating from rural to urban areas in search of better opportunities. This has stretched the resources of cities and have caused massive problems in urban administration such as increasing urban poverty, provision of housing, sanitation, drinking water and health facilities for a rapidly increasing urban population.
The subject of local governance is a state subject. Local municipal bodies are creations of laws made by states, and state governments have the responsibility for providing adequate finances to them.[i] The state government till recently, also had wide powers to make appointments to these bodies, and also dictate their functions and responsibilities. These powers were however limited by the 74th Amendment to the Constitution in 1992.[ii]
The table below highlights the main changes the 74th Amendment made. Needless to say, since most of these provisions do not make it compulsory for states to give such powers to states, we do not really see our local municipal bodies discharging such functions.
|Changes in the organization, powers and functions of municipal bodies made by the 74th Amendment|
|Subject Area||Constitutional Provision|
|Powers of local municipal bodies||State governments may devolve powers relating to:
1. Preparation of plans for economic development and social justice.
2. Performance of functions and implementation of schemes, including those listed in the Twelfth Schedule of the Constitution.
3. Levy and collect taxes, tolls and duties.
|Composition of municipalities||States may provide for:
1. Election for all seats in a municipality from the territorial constituencies in the municipal area.
2. Representation of members of Parliament, and members of the state legislature who represent constituencies in that municipal area.
3. Reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every municipality on a proportional basis.
4. Persons having special knowledge or experience in municipal administration.
5. Representation of Chairpersons of Ward Committees in the municipal bodies.
[i]. “State-Local fiscal relations in India: Some Vital Issues”, by K.M. Raipuria, in Municipal and Urban India, Ed. By Abhijit Dutta, Indian Institute of Public Administration, 1980.
[ii]. The Constitution (Seventy-Fourth Amendment) Act, 1992.