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Evolution of Urban Bodies

Historical Perspective

The history of local self-government in India under the British rule can be conveniently divided into four phases.

The first phase may be assumed to have ended in 1882, when Lord Ripon issued his well-known resolution on local self-government.

The second phase covers developments from 1882 to 1919, when more powers were transferred from the centre to the provinces, and the recommendations of the Decentralisation Commission of 1907, besides discussing other matters, suggested some changes in local self-government.

The third phase extended up to 1935, during which the Indian Taxation Enquiry Committee (1925) considered the problems of local taxation, along with central and provincial finances.

The Simon Commission of 1930, reversed the process of decentralisation, by recommending strict control of the state over local bodies.

The fourth phase covers developments up to 1947. During this phase, the struggle for independence was intensified and with the introduction of provincial autonomy in 1937, and coming into power of congress ministries in many provinces, local bodies, particularly village panchayats, received a great stimulus and there was democratisation of local bodies. And “local self-government” became a mere annexe to the national political stadium, where the struggle for independence was moving towards its climax.

The Nagarpalika bill

In August 1989, Rajiv Gandhi’s Government introduced the 65th Constitutional Amendment Bill (i.e. Nararpalika Bill) in the Lok Sabha.

The Bill aimed at strengthening and revamping the municipal bodies by conferring a constitutional status on them.

Although the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, it was defeated in the Rajya Sabha in October 1989, and hence, lapsed.

The National front Government under V.P. Singh introduced the revised Nagarpalika Bill in the Lok Sabha in September 1990 again.

However, the bill was not passed and finally lapsed due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

P.V. Narasimha Rao’s government also introduced the modified Municipalities Bill in the Lok Sabha in September 1991.

It was passed in both, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, in December 1992. After that, the bill was approved by the required number of state legislatures.

It was assented by the President of India in April 1993. It emerged as the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992, and came into force on 1st of June, 1993.

The Provisions of the Bill were:

  1. The state legislatures can decide the composition of municipalities.
  2. The state legislatures can decide whether they want committees at the ward level or other levels within a municipal area.
  3. The state legislatures will decide the power and authority they want to give municipalities.
  4. Seats will be reserved for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women.
  5. The tenure of the municipalities will be five years.
  6. The power to impose taxes will be decided by the state legislatures.
  7. A finance commission will be constituted to review the financial position of the municipalities.
  8. The subjects to be looked after by municipalities include urban planning, land use regulations, urban forestry, urban poverty alleviation and slum improvement.
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