Municipal governance in India - all about

Municipal governance in India - all about

Municipal governance in India has existed since the year 1687, with the formation of Madras Municipal Corporation, and then Calcutta and Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1726. In the early part of the nineteenth century, almost all towns in India had experienced some form of municipal governance. In 1882 the then Viceroy of India, Lord Ripon, known as the Father of Local Self Government, passed a resolution of local self-government which laid the democratic forms of municipal governance in India. 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 preview of the state or provincial government and specific powers were given. According to the 2001 Census of India, there were 3723 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the country; classified into the four major categories.

  1. The municipal corporation (Nagar Nigam) (नगर निगम)
  2. The municipality (municipal council, municipal board, municipal committee) (Nagar Parishad)(नगर परिषद्)
  3. Town area committee
  4. 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, the 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 organised 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:

  • Mahanagar Nigam (Municipal Corporation) (महानगर निगम)
  • Nagar Palika (Municipality)(नगर पालिका)
  • Nagar Panchayat (Notified Area Council or City Council)(नगर पंचायत)

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.

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 sectoral 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 poverty alleviation programs and promotion of cultural, educational and aesthetic aspects. However, conformity legislation enacted by the state governments indicate wide variations in this regard. Whereas Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Manipur, Punjab and Rajasthan have included all the functions as enlisted in the Twelfth Schedule in their amended state municipal laws, Andhra Pradesh has not made any changes in the existing list of municipal functions. Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal states have amended their municipal laws to add additional functions in the list of municipal functions as suggested in the twelfth schedule.

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.

Provision of water supply and sewerage in several states has either been taken over by the state governments or transferred to state agencies. For example, in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, water supply and sewerage works are being carried out by the state level Public Health Engineering Department or Water Supply and Sewerage Boards, while liability for repayment of loans and maintenance are with the municipalities. Besides these state level agencies, City Improvement Trusts and Urban Development Authorities, like Delhi Development Authority (DDA), have been set up in a number of cities. These agencies usually undertake land acquisition and development works, and take up remunerative projects such as markets and commercial complexes, 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.

Suggested municipal functions

The suggested functions to municipal corporations, municipalities and nagar panchayats are listed in the table below.

Essentially Municipal Functions Municipal Corporation Municipal Council Nagar Panchayat
Urban planning including town planning Yes Yes Yes
Regulation of land-use and construction of buildings Yes Yes Yes
Planning for economic and social development Yes Yes Yes
Roads and bridges Yes Yes Yes
Water supply domestic, Industrial and commercial purposes Yes Yes Yes
Public health, sanitation, conservancy and solid waste management Yes Yes Yes
Fire services Yes Yes No
Urban forestry Yes Yes Yes
Preventive Health Care Yes Yes Yes
Provision of urban amenities and facilities such as parks, gardens, playgrounds Yes Yes Yes
Burials and burial grounds, cremations, cremation ghats/grounds and electric crematoria Yes Yes Yes
Cattle pounds, prevention of cruelty to animals Yes Yes Yes
Vital statistics including registration of births and deaths Yes Yes Yes
Street lighting Yes No Yes
Parking lots, bus stops and public conveniences Yes Yes Yes
Regulation of slaughter houses and tanneries Yes Yes Yes
Slum improvement and up gradation Yes Yes Yes
Agency Functions
Protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspects Yes Yes Yes
Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and the mentally retarded Yes Yes Yes
Urban poverty alleviation Yes Yes Yes
Promotion of cultural, education and aesthetic aspects Yes Yes Yes
Primary Education Yes Yes Yes
Primary Health Care Yes Yes Yes

Municipal Corporation (Nagar Nigam/Mahanagar Palika)

Nagar Nigam a.k.a. Mahanagar Palika or by some other names in different states(translated in English as Municipal Corporation) 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 urbanisation in various cities of India were in need of a local governing body that can work for providing necessary community services like health centres, educational institutes and housing and property tax. They also replace street lights.

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 the 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 Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Surat, and Pune. These cities not only have a large population but are also the administrative as well as commercial centres of the country.

Other names for municipal corporations

Municipal corporations are referred to by different names in different states (due to regional language variations), all of which are translated to "municipal corporation" in English. These names include Nagar Nigam (in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Haryana), Nagara Nigama (in Punjab), Mahanagar Palika (in Goa and Maharashtra), Mahanagara Palike (in Karnataka), Mahanagar Seva Sadan (in Gujarat), Pouro Nigom (in Assam), Pouro Nigam (in West Bengal), Pur Porishod (in Tripura), Nagar Palika Nigam (in Madhya Pradesh), Nagara Palaka Samstha (in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Nagara Sabha (in Kerala) and Maanagaraatchi (in Tamil Nadu). The Vadodara Municipal Corporation of the city of Vadodara in Gujarat is typically called by the name "Vadodara Mahanagar Seva Sadan" and the Greater Bengaluru Municipal Corporation of the city of Bengaluru in Karnataka is typically called "Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike". The detailed structure of these urban bodies varies from state to state, as per the laws passed by the state legislatures, but the basic structure and function is almost the same.