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Urban Local Bodies in India

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The Urban local bodies are responsible for administering the governance of the urban areas through elected representatives. The territory of the urban bodies is demarcated by the state governments to ease the governing process.
Urban governance was constitutionalized by the Indian Constitution through the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992. The government of India has entrusted the duty of regulation of the urban bodies to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the Ministry of Defense for management of the cantonment boards, and the Ministry of Home Affairs for the management of Union Territories.

History Behind the Evolution of Urban Bodies in India: 

The Urban local bodies had their inception in British India. 

  • The first Municipal Corporation was set up in India in the year 1687 at Madras, followed by Bombay and Calcutta in the year 1726
  • Lord Ripon is regarded as the father of local self-government for his resolution on local self-government in 1882 which is beheld as the ‘Magna Carta’ of local self-government. 
  • In September 1991 PV Narasimha Rao’s government introduced a modified version of the Municipalities Bill in the Lok Sabha which emerged as the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act in 1992. It came into force on the 1st of June 1993. 
  • The municipalities are incorporated under Part IX-A of the Constitution under Articles 243P to 243-ZG. 

Municipalities and their Constitution:

After the 74th Amendment was enacted there are only three categories of urban local bodies which are as follows: 

  • Nagar Panchayat: A Nagar Panchayat is a form of urban political unit. The areas which are in the process of transition from rural to urban areas are categorized as Nagar Panchayats. The population of these areas should be more than 12,000 and less than 40,000 people. 
  • Municipality: These bodies govern the administration of smaller cities and towns which have a population of more than 20,000 but less than 10 lakhs.
  • Municipal Corporation: A municipal corporation administers larger cities, having a population of more than 10 lakhs. The area of the municipal corporation is divided into several wards and members of every ward elect one member each of who are known as councillors.

Composition and Duration of Municipalities:

  • The people of a municipal area directly elect every member of the municipality
  • Every municipal area is divided into wards, one member is elected from each ward who is the councillors of the respective wards and became one of the members of the municipality.
  • There is a chairman in charge of the administration of every municipality his election may be determined by the state government.  
  • People who possess exceptional knowledge or experience in local-level administration, are a part of the body. 
  • Members of the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, or members of the State legislative assembly who belong to the constituency are also members of the municipality.  
  • Chairpersons of the committees other than the ward committee are also members of the municipality. 
  • Seats are also reserved for the members of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled tribes and 1/3rd of the seats are reserved for women.
  • All the municipalities are elected for a five-year term. They however can be dissolved before the completion of their tenure and in that case, elections must be held before the expiry of six months. 

Roles and Responsibilities of Urban Local bodies:

The organization of a corporation can be divided into two parts. 

  1. Deliberative: The deliberative part of these bodies is composed of the elected members of a corporation, council, or municipal board. They are responsible for conducting debates to analyze municipal policies and performances, determine the budget, and look after all the important aspects of municipal administration. 
  2. Executive: this part is composed of municipal officers and other permanent employees. They look after the administration of the municipality.

The Functions Performed by the Municipalities can be classified into two types, they are as follows:

  • Obligatory Functions: the performance of these functions is mandatory to the organization. The functions within this category are:
    1. Supply of drinking water
    2. Construction and maintenance of roads
    3. Street lighting
    4. Drainage and sewage of the town
    5. Waste disposal
    6. Control of epidemics
    7. Maintenance of health care facility of the town.
    8. Supply of electricity.
  • Discretionary Functions: these functions are not obligatory; a municipal body can take up these functions when the funds are adequate.
    1. Maintenance of orphanages and rescue homes
    2. Arrangement of housing facilities for low-income groups
    3. Providing treatment facilities, etc.

Types of Urban Local Bodies:

There are eight categories of urban governments created in India for the administration of urban areas. They are as follows:

  • Municipal Corporation: These bodies cater to the urban administrative needs of bigger cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, etc. These bodies are established by acts of the state legislature and in the case of union territories, these acts are passed by the Parliament of India. A municipal corporation has a division of authorities into three heads which are the council, the standing committees, and the commissioner. A council is headed by a mayor, who is assisted by a Deputy Mayor. His prime responsibility is to preside over the meetings of the Council, he is elected for a one-year term.
  • Municipality: Municipalities cater to the administrative needs of smaller towns and cities. They are set up by acts of the state government and the Union government in the case of Union territories. It also has three authorities which are the council, standing committees, and the chief executive officer. The Council here is headed by a President or chairman, who presides over the meetings and wields executive authority.
  • Notified Area Committee: These bodies cater to the administrative requirements of the areas which are developing rapidly owing to industrialization. They do not fulfill the necessary criterion of a municipality hence notified area committees are constituted as these areas are important to the state government.  
  • Town Area Committee: The administration of the small areas and towns is dealt with by the town area committee, they are semi municipal authorities who are given selective civic functions like drainage, street lighting, roads, etc. These bodies may be either entirely elected or entirely nominated otherwise partially elected or nominated by the government of a state.
  • Cantonment Board: A Cantonment Board caters to the administrative requirements of the civilian population residing in the cantonment areas. Unlike the other urban bodies, this body is created and administered by the central government. It works under the guidelines of the Defense Ministry of the central government.
  • Township: this type of urban government is built by large-scale public enterprises to give their staff and workers the basic civic amenities in the form of housing colonies near the plant. A township is led by a town administrator and he is assisted by some engineers and some other technical and non-technical staff. This form of government has no elected members.
  • Port-Trust: The port areas like Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai are administered by the Port Trusts. These bodies are created by acts of Parliament, they have elected as well as nominated members. The Chairman presides over the Port Trust.
  • Special Purpose Agency: These bodies have been formed to fulfill specific purposes designated for them. These are function-based bodies directed specifically for catering to specific purposes e.g. Town improvement trusts, Water supply, and sewerage boards, Pollution Control Boards, etc.  

Urban local bodies form the basis for strengthening grassroots democracy in India. These bodies play the greater role of involving masses at the grass-root levels, thereby making them more aware electorally and politically. It empowers every citizen down to the grass root levels and gives them the power to influence the decision-making powers of the government thereby enhancing Indian democracy and making it more responsive.

Last Updated : 12 Apr, 2022
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