Local Self-Government in India

Local self-government is a form of government introduced at the village or local level to decentralise power. As India is a big country with several states, the law-making power cannot stay only with a few people sitting at the centre.

This is because in a centralized system of power concentration, the sole authority is not aware of the happenings at the local and divisional levels, and to ascertain and resolve the problems taking place at the local or rural level, a local-self government was required to take care of a particular section of the society.

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In this law note, you will learn about the meaning and evolution of local self-government in India.

Meaning of Local Self-government

As we know, for a better working government, everyone, whether rich or poor, must have an equal say or democratic right to elect their representative. In the same way, for a country to function properly, every sector of the society must have equal participation, and therefore, participation of the people from the grassroots level is also very important.

Thus, the concept of local self-government evolved, representing the people of local or rural areas. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 entrusted local self-government in India.

Furthermore, a person sitting at the centre in New Delhi does not know the problems existing in a small village in Karnataka. Therefore, to solve a problem in a particular area, a person from that area must be elected as the representative of the whole area. This is known as the local self-government.

History of Local Self-Government

In response to pleas for local autonomy during British rule, the village Panchayat was created as a local self-government. The control was given to the citizens at the lower level. (The Government of India Act of 1935 also empowered the states to pass laws.)

Even after the enactment of local self-government, the makers of the Constitution weren’t happy with the current legal framework. In addition, they included Article 40, allowing states to establish autonomous organisations in the form of local Panchayats.

Evolution of Local Self-Government

The concept of local self-government is not a new concept. It was there even before India’s independence but was not implemented properly. However, after the 73rd Amendment, this concept was taken seriously, and the Government of India appointed various committees for proper study and implementation.

Now, you will learn about a few committees that formed part of the adequate implementation of the concept of local self-government.

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee

This committee was appointed in 1957 to check and suggest certain measures for better working of the community development program and National Extension Service. Moreover, after a complete evaluation, the committee recommended the establishment of a local government known as Panchayati Raj. A few recommendations of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee are as follows:

  1. Three-tier Panchayati Raj system:
    A. Gram Panchayat at the village level.
    B. Panchayat Samiti at the block level.
    C. Zila Parishad at the district level.
  2. They suggested that the directly elected people will form a Gram Panchayat and indirectly elected people shall form a Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad.
  3. Furthermore, the main objective of local self-government shall be planning and development.
  4. This committee further added that the Panchayat Samiti shall be the executive body that will implement the things, and the Zila Parishad will work as an advisory and supervisory body.
  5. The chairman of Zila Parishad will be the District Collector.
  6. The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee also asked for certain resources to help them properly discharge their duties.

The report of the Balwant Rai Committee was accepted by the National Development Council in 1958. But they further said that no rigid pattern has to be followed, and the states will be free to form their own pattern, keeping the main objective in mind.

Rajasthan was the first state to adopt the concept of local self-government, and it was first implemented in the Nagore district. At the same time, different states adopted different patterns and formations of local self-government.

Ashok Mehta Committee

This committee was appointed in 1977 to suggest ways to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system in India. Here are a few recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee:

  1. The three-tier system can be replaced with a two-tier system to increase efficiency. That is Zila Parishad at the district level and Mandal Panchayat formed for a group of villages.
  2. The district-level body will supervise local government activities after the state level.
  3. Zila Parishad shall be an executive body that will be responsible for making plans at the district level.
  4. The Zila Parishad and Mandal Panchayat may have taxation powers for mobilising their financial resources.
  5. There should be a regular audit by the agency at the district level.
  6. Panchayati Raj institution shall be granted constitutional recognition.

GVK Rao Committee

This committee was formed to review existing administrative arrangements for rural development and poverty elevation programs. Furthermore, the Planning Commission appointed this committee in 1985.

GVK Rao Committee found that the development was not seen as bureaucrats were involved in the process, and hence, there was no involvement of local people. Then, there came a need to remove bureaucratisation and include people of that particular area in the decision-making. This committee recommended the following to improve the Panchayati Raj system:

  1. Zila Parishad, which is a district-level body, will be the most important body in democratic decentralisation.
  2. The district and lower level are to be assigned with the specific planning, implementation, and monitoring of rural development programs.
  3. There shall be a post of District Development Commissioner. He will work as a chief executive officer of the Zila Parishad.
  4. Regular elections shall be held for levels of the Panchayati Raj system.

LM Singhvi Committee

The Rajiv Gandhi government established this committee to guide the growth of Panchayats and their institutions. Consequently, under the Narasimha Rao government, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts of 1992 were approved. The main recommendations of the LM Singhvi Committee were:

  1. There must be constitutionally sanctioned Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  2. A three-tier structure for the Panchayati Raj system should be in place at the village, block, and district levels.
  3. Nyaya Panchayats must be established for a group of villages.

Conclusion

One of India’s most effective governance systems is the local self-government system. It is an effective entity that controls most Indian communities at the local level. A small number of significant committees greatly aided the development of local self-government in India. It operates locally, something the state-level government cannot do.

The majority of systems globally, including this one, are flawed. Corruption, a lack of resources, and poor management are common problems for local self-government. Thankfully, the government has launched some programs to improve rural regions nationwide to solve these issues.

Read Next: Amendments in Indian Constitution for Local Self-Government

Anushka Saxena
WritingLaw » Law Notes » Meaning and Evolution of Local Self-Government in India Law Study Material
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