Local Governance Lesson-1 Presented By ROMAN SAINI
IN THIS LESSON Local Governance . Evolution Of Local Self Government In India
Local Governance Integrating institutional reforms in local governance with economic reforms was Gandhiji's far-sighted vision of Poorna Swaraj' Economic reforms and local government empowerment are the two great initiatives launched in the 1990's .Economic reforms have taken roots over the years and have yielded significant dividends in the form of enhanced growth rate, bulging foreign exchange reserves and availability of a variety of goods and services. The freedom and choice resulting from the reforms have built a broad national consensus across the political spectrum ensuring their continuity. Local government empowerment too is broadly accepted as a vital principle and all parties are committed to it. But, in practice, real empowerment as envisaged has not taken place.
Local Governance .The concept of local self government is not new to our country and there is mention of community assemblies in the Vedic texts. Around 600 B.C., the territory north of the river Ganga comprising modern day north Bihar and eastern U.P. was under the suzerainty of small republics called Janapadas among which Lichhavis were the most powerful. . In these Janapadas, the affairs of the State were conducted by an assembly consisting of local chieftains .In the post Mauryan times as well, there existed republics of Malavas and the Kshudrakas where decisions were taken by "sabhas" .The Greek Ambassador, Megasthenes, who visited the court of Chandragupta Maurya in 303 B.C. described the City Council which governed Pataliputra -comprising six committees with 30 members.
Local Governance Similar participatory structures also existed in South India. In the Chola Kingdoms, the village council, together with its sub-committees and wards, played an important part in administration, arbitrated disputes and managed social affairs. . .They were also responsible for revenue collection, assessing individual contribution and negotiating the collective assessment with the King's representative. They had virtual ownership of village waste land, with right of sale, and they were active in irrigation, road building and related work. Their transactions, recorded on the walls of village temples, show a vigorous community life and are a permanent memorial to the best practices in early Indian polity
Local Governance The present structure of Local Self Government institutions took shape in 1688 when the British established a Municipal Corporation at Madras which was followed by creation of similar bodies at Bombay and Calcutta (1726) . Comprising a Mayor and a majority of British-born Councillors, these Corporations were basically units of administration enjoying considerable judicial powers. During the next 150 years, municipal bodies were created in several mufasil towns although their functions remained confined to conservancy, road repairs, lighting and a few other sundry items In 1872, Lord Mayo introduced elected representatives for these municipalities and this was further developed by his successor, Lord Ripon, in 1882.
Local Governance By the 1880s, these urban municipal bodies had a predominance of elected representatives in a number of cities and towns, including Calcutta and Bombay. A corresponding effective structure for rural areas came up with the enactment of the Bengal Local Self Government Act, 1885 which led to the establishment of district local boards across the entire territory of the then Bengal province. These boards comprised nominated as well as elected members with the District Magistrate as Chairman. . The District Magistrate was responsible for maintenance of rural roads, rest houses, roadside lands and properties, maintenance and superintendence of public schools, charitable dispensaries and veterinary hospitals. .
Local Governance Within a span of five years, a large number of district boards came into existence in other parts of the country, notably Bihar, Orissa, Assam and North West Province . The Minto-Morley Reforms, 1909 and the Montague Chelmsford Reforms, 1919, when Local Self Government became a transferred subject, widened the participation of people in the governing process . By 1924-25, district boards had a preponderance of elected representatives and a non-official Chairman . This arrangement continued till the country's Independence in 1947 and thereafter till the late 1950s.
Local Governance After Independence In compliance with the provisions of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) pertaining to establishment of village panchayats as units of self government, an ambitious rural sector initiative, the Community Development Programme, was launched in 1952. Its main thrust was on securing socio-economic transformation of village life through people's own democratic and cooperative organisations with the government providing technical services, supply and credit. In 1953, the National Extension Service (NES) was introduced which was an amplified version of the Community Development Programme and aimed at transferring scientific and technical knowledge to agricultural, animal husbandry and rural craft sectors. .
Local Governance Balwantrai Mehta Committee Government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Shri Balwantrai Mehta in 1957 It offered two broad directional thrusts; There should be administrative decentralisation for effective implementation of the development programmes and the decentralised administrative system should be placed under the control of local bodies. . .Second, it recommended that the Community Development/National Extension Service blocks throughout the country should be designed as administrative democratic units with an elected Panchayat Samiti at this level to operate as a fulcrum of developmental activity in the area.
Local Governance .Panchayati Raj elections were postponed indefinitely and flow of funds for Block Development were reduced to a trickle. The net result was that, by the 1970s, these bodies remained in existence without adequate functions and authority . .The position of these institutions was further weakened due to the creation of a large number of parastatals. Parastatals were assigned many of the functions legitimately envisaged in the domain of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) . .For example water supply, slum improvement boards, etc. on the perception that these functions were too complex and resource dependent to be handled by local governments
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