EVOLUTION OF LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENT IN INDIA
Author: Parth Jaisinghani, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad
Today everyone is praising doctors and hospital staff for fighting the battle against Covid-19. However, we also have to note that local self-government officials in controlling the spread of this deadly virus played a vital role. They stood up for the country keeping their life at the border. India is a democratic country having a population of more than 135 crores. In a democracy, the government is divided into three sections these are legislative, executive, and judiciary. In India, the government is further divided into two parts that are central-level government and state-level government. Each state has its government and the central government looks over all states and union territories of India. However, in India, there is another system of government that is local self-government. The Panchayati Raj System laid down the foundation of this concept in the year 1992. This remarkable concept was also seen in Rig Vedas where self-government villages existed like “Sabhas”. Slowly this concept evolved and took shape of Panchayats. Every village in India has its own Panchayati Raj System, which looks into the matter of the village.
Under the Mughal Era, the local self-government did not enjoy the same freedom as under the Hindu ruler. Mughal rulers were like dictators that are they looked at everything it and they were supreme. All the power was centralized in their era.
A self-government system means the transfer of power from the center to the local bodies. This concept was also authorized in the British Era under the Government of India Act,1935. This article will cover the evolution of local self-government by discussing four committees, the current scenario of local self-government; also, this article will scrutinize different provisions in our constitution for local self-government.
EVOLUTION OF LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENT IN INDIA–
When we look at the evolution of local seld government in India we can see a key role-played by four committees- Balwan Rai Mehta Committee, Ashok Mehta Committee, GVK Rao Committee, and LM Singhvi Committee. Article 40 of the Constitution of India states that “the state shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government”. In India, the notable evolution of local self-government can be seen from the year 1957 to 1986.
In the year 1957, the Indian Government set up the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee. The committee submitted its report on the concept of ‘democratic decentralization. The key point of the report was a) to divide Panchayat Raj System at different levels that are gram panchayat at the root level, then panchayat Samiti will be above gram panchayat at the block level and Zila Parishad whose election will be done indirectly at the district level.
District Collector will look at b) Zila Parishad.
Their idea was been accepted by the National Development Council. However, they did not make a specific structure for this plan; they just gave the guidelines, which should be followed. The first state to adopt this system was Rajasthan in the year 1959. Meanwhile, some state events went further and made a four-tier system by introducing Nyaya Panchayats who were judicial bodies of the village.
The next committee was set up in the year 1977- Ashok Mehta Committee. This committee was formed to study Panchayati Raj Institution. They made 132 recommendations. Some of them were
- This three-tier system of Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti, and Zila Parishad to be replaced by a two-tier system.
- There should be the participation of political parties in choosing members of the Panchayat.
- Zila Parishad should do state-level planning.
- State Council of Ministers should elect the minister of Panchayati Raj.
The main recommendation of this committee was the constitutional recognization of this system. However, their recommendation was not implemented as the government collapsed.
The Planning Commission- GVR Rao Committee established the third committee in the year 1985. The committee stated if the power of Panchayat Raj is given to the Council of Minister that it will be like “grass without roots”. The committee also suggested
- All the commands for the development of the state must be given to Zila Parishad.
- There must be a chief executive officer at Zila Parishad.
- From time to time election for Panchayat Raj should take place.
The last committee was set up in the year 1986 by Rajiv Gandhi under “Revitalisation of Panchayat Raj institution for Democracy and Development”. The committee gave two important recommendations
- Constitution recognization of Panchayat Raj System
- For judicial matters, Nyaya Panchayat should be made for a group of villages.
CURRENT SCENARIO OF SELF GOVERNMENT-
In India, more than 70% of the population lives in rural areas, and the rest in urban areas. We have Municipalities for urban areas and Panchayats for rural areas. The development of our country is only possible with the proper functioning of self-government bodies. The 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Act, 1992 when PV Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, but this recommendation in action. Before these, the same concept was introduced in the 64th Constitutional Amendment but it was opposed by the Rajya Sabha of that time.
Two parts IX and IX-A were inserted by these amendments. Also, schedule XI for Panchayats and Schedule XII for Municipalities were inserted in the Constitution of India. The three-level system of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was adopted at the village, the cluster of the village, and the district level. The 74th Amendment also introduced the concept of Gram Sabha who will be legally responsible for the foundation of the Panchayati Raj System. Apart from this Nayay Panchayat, Municipal Council and Municipal Corporation will be set up for the small, medium, and large urban areas.
To be a member of the local self-government body one must need to be as much eligible as a member of the state legislature, the only difference is that he can be a member of local self-government at the age of 21 and not at the age of 25 years. The tenure of the self-government body is for five years. The power to self-local government is vested by the state government.
Self-government bodies like municipality and panchayat are very important for the daily life of the citizen. They provide basic amenities, which is essential for every citizen. Giving up the concept of Self Government will lead to the degradation of the social and economic life of an individual.
The idea of a self-government system is very innovative as it functions at the grass-roots level, which is not feasible for state government. Still, they have a lack of funds because of which development of a particular area is dawdling. However, if this corruption has encroached then there cannot be any comparison of this type of government. However, the government has also taken measures like those that the number of broadband connection has increased from 100 to 1.25 lakhs in the year 2014. E-Gram Swaraj portal was introduced by the government for addressing the needs of panchayats. Besides, many schemes have been introduced by the government for the upliftment of rural areas. We can conclude by stating that to have “Atmanirbhar Bharat” we must have “Atmanirbhar Panchayats”.
- Evolution of local self-government(Panchayat raj institution) chapter-IV available at -https://finance.mp.gov.in/rlb4e.pdf
- Background Note on “Local Self-Governance in Indian Constitution” by Ministry of Panchayati Raj available at- http://sri.nic.in/sites/default/files/Local%20Self-Governance%20in%20Indian%20Constitution.pdf
- The evolution of Local Self Government of India Chapter-II available at- https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/113782/7/07_chapter%202.pdf
- Village Self-Governance: Re-engineering Panchayati Raj Institutions for the 21st Century by Indian Express available at- https://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/village-self-governance-re-engineering-panchayati-raj-institutions-for-the-21st-century-4842582/
- Local Self-Government in India by H.Wheeler available at- https://www.jstor.org/stable/752246?seq=1
- Local Self-Government in India by S.N. Mallik available at- https://www.jstor.org/stable/1016884?seq=1