In 1919, a Government of India act incorporated the need of the resolution and the powers of democratically elected government were formulated. In 1935 another Government of India act brought local government under the purview of the state or provincial government and specific powers were given.
According to the 1991 Census of India, there were 3255 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the country; classified into the four major categories of:
- Municipal corporation (Nagar Nigam)
- Municipality (municipal council, municipal board, municipal committee) (Nagar Parishad)
- Town area committee
- Notified area committee
The municipal corporations and municipalities are fully representative bodies, while the notified area committees and town area committees are either fully or partially nominated bodies.
As per the Constitution of India, 74th Amendment Act of 1992, the latter two categories of towns are to be designated as municipalities or nagar panchayats with elected bodies. Until the amendments in state municipal legislations, which were mostly made in 1994, municipal authorities were organized on an ultra vires (beyond the authority) basis and the state governments were free to extend or control the functional sphere through executive decisions without an amendment to the legislative provisions.
After the 74th Amendment was enacted there are only three categories of urban local bodies:
Administrative structure of India
- Mahanagar nigam (municipal corporation)
- Nagar palika (municipality)
- Nagar panchayat (notified area council, city council)
This article provides that there be a Nagar panchayat for transitional areas i.e. an area in transition from rural to urban, a municipality for a smaller urban area, and a municipal corporation for a larger urban area.Article 243Q of the 74th Amendment requires that municipal areas shall be declared having regard to the population of the area, the density of population therein, the revenue generated for local administration, the percentage of employment in non-agricultural activities, the economic importance or such other factors as may be specified by the state government by public notification for this purpose.
Among all urban local governments, municipal corporations enjoy a greater degree of fiscal autonomy and functions although the specific fiscal and functional powers vary across the states, these local governments have larger populations, a more diversified economic base, and deal with the state governments directly. On the other hand, municipalities have less autonomy, smaller jurisdictions and have to deal with the state governments through the Directorate of Municipalities or through the collector of a district. These local bodies are subject to detailed supervisory control and guidance by the state governments.
Responsibilities of urban local bodies
The municipal bodies of India are vested with a long list of functions delegated to them by the state governments under the municipal legislation. These functions broadly relate to public health, welfare, regulatory functions, public safety, public infrastructure works, and development activities.
Public health includes water supply, sewerage and sanitation, eradication of communicable diseases etc.; welfare includes public facilities such as education, recreation, etc.; regulatory functions related to prescribing and enforcing building regulations, encroachments on public land, birth registration and death certificate, etc.; public safety includes fire protection, street lighting, etc.; public works measures such as construction and maintenance of inner city roads, etc.; and development functions related to town planning and development of commercial markets. In addition to the legally assigned functions, the sectorial departments of the state government often assign unilaterally, and on an agency basis, various functions such as family planning, nutrition and slum improvement, disease and epidemic control, etc.
The Twelfth Schedule of Constitution (Article 243 w) provides an illustrative list of eighteen functions that may be entrusted to the municipalities.
Besides the traditional core functions of municipalities, it also includes development functions like planning for economic development and social justice, urban alleviation programs and promotion of cultural, educational and aesthetic aspects. However, conformity legislation enacted by the state governments indicates wide variations in this regard. There is a lot of difference in the assignment of obligatory and discretionary functions to the municipal bodies among the states. Whereas functions like planning for the social and economic development, urban forestry and protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspects are obligatory functions for the municipalities of Maharashtra, in Karnataka these are discretionary functions.
These agencies usually undertake land acquisition and development works, and take up remunerative projects such as markets and commercial complexes, etc. The Municipal bodies in most cases have been left only with the functions of garbage collection, garbage disposal, street lighting, construction and maintenance of roads, etc.
In terms of fiscal federalism, functions whose benefits largely confine to municipal jurisdictions and may be termed as the essentially municipal functions. Similarly, functions that involve substantial economics of scale or are of national interest may not be assigned to small local bodies. For valid reasons, certain functions of higher authorities are appropriate to be entrusted with the Municipalities – as if under principal-agent contracts and may be called agency functions that need to be financed by intergovernmental revenues. Thus instead of continuing the traditional distinction between obligatory and discretionary functions the municipal responsibilities may be grouped into essentially municipal, joint and agency functions.
Municipal Corporation (Nagar Nigam/Mahanagar Palika)
Nagar Nigam a.k.a. Mahanagar Palika or by some other names in different states in India are state government formed departments that works for the development of a metropolitan city, which has a population of more than 1 million. The growing population and urbanization in various cities of India were in need of a local governing body that can work for providing necessary community services like health centers, educational institutes and housing and property tax.
They are formed under the Corporations Act of 1835 of panchayati raj system which mainly deals in providing essential services in every small town as well as village of a district/city. Their elections are held once in five year and the people choose the candidates. The largest corporations are in the eight metropolitan cities of India, namely Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune. These cities not only have a large population, but are also the administrative as well as commercial centres of the country.
Municipality (Nagar Palika)
In India, a Nagar Palika or Municipality or is an urban local body that administers a city of population 100,000 but less than 1,000,000. However, there are exceptions to that, as previously nagar palikas were constituted in urban centers with population over 20,000 so all the urban bodies which were previously classified as Nagar palika were reclassified as Nagar palika even if their population was under 100,000. Under the Panchayati Raj system, it interacts directly with the state government, though it is administratively part of the district it is located in. Generally smaller district cities and bigger towns have a Nagar palika. Nagar palika are also a form of local self-government, entrusted with some duties and responsibilities, as enshrined and guided upon by the Constitutional (74th Amendment) Act, 1992.
The members of the Nagar palika are elected representatives for a term of five years. The town is divided into wards according to its population, and representatives are elected from each ward. The members elect a president among themselves to preside over and conduct meetings. A chief officer, along with officers like an engineer, sanitary inspector, health officer and education officer who come from the state public service are appointed by the state government to control the administrative affairs of the Nagar Palika.
Notified Area (Nagar Panchayat)
A Nagar Panchayat or Notified Area Council or City Council is a form of an urban political unit in India comparable to a municipality. An urban centre with more than 11,000 and less than 25,000 inhabitants is classified as a “Nagar Panchayat”.
Each Nagar Panchayat has a committee consisting of a chairman with ward members. Membership consists of a minimum of ten elected ward members and three nominated members. The N.A.C. members of the Nagar Panchayat are elected from the several wards of the Nagar Panchayat on the basis of adult franchise for a term of five years. There are seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and women. The Councilors or Ward Members are chosen by direct election from electoral wards in the Nagar Panchayat.
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