Local Self Government: Functions, Meaning, Powers, Local Government in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Local Self Government is the body that provides services to the citizens of India to address their concerns at the grassroots level. To look after the administration of a town, village, or city, the Local Self Government was created. If you look at the governing structure of India, then you will find out that it is made up of three tiers – central government, state government, and Local Government in India.

In this article, we will discuss the history, objectives, and functions of Local Self Government. In addition, we have also covered how the local government system is structured. The article will help you understand the meaning of Local Government and how it works at the grassroots level.

What is Local Self Government?

Local self-government involves the devolution of governing authority to those at the bottom of the political food order. Here, participation at the grass-root level of society is included in the administration process.

  • In rural areas of India, block samiti, Panchayats, and Zila Parishad are established to carry out their functions as local self-government bodies. However, in urban areas, bodies like municipalities and corporations are established for local self-governance.
  • Local Self Government in India has been a topic of debate even before independence. Where few, like Gandhi, wanted village republics and the principle of subsidiarity, Nehru and Ambedkar favored a strong center.
  • Panchayati Raj System is a significant landmark in the evolution of grass root democratic institutions like Panchayats and Municipalities in the country.

Evolution of Local Self Government in India

The first local government system in India at the village level was established by the state of Rajasthan in 1959 in the Nagaur district, followed by Andhra Pradesh. Thereafter the system was adopted by most of the statuses.

  • The major concern regarding the local self-government was its architecture, amount of power to be devolved, finances, etc. Several committees were constituted by respective union governments to devise a method for the same.
  • In the earliest of times, village communities have been excited to carry out the function of self-governance. Over the period, these village communities were known as Panchayat Raj System, and they were the oldest Local Self Government.
  • After 1882, the elected bodies came into existence because Lord Rippon took the initiative to establish these bodies. That’s why Lord Rippon is known as the father of Local Self-Government.
  • 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments were passed, which made it mandatory for every state in India to have such bodies in its urban and rural areas. There was also the compulsion to carry out elections for the Local Self Government bodies every five years.
  • With the establishment of these bodies at the local level, the functioning and structure of the nation became better.

Functions of Local Government

All the Local Self Government bodies work with the aim of promoting economic development, infrastructure development, and promote social justice. Some of the most important functions of Local Government in India are:

  • Spread awareness about education, and build infrastructure like roads, schools, transport, etc.
  • Local Government looks after the community asset and promotes agricultural development through the proper implementation of various Government schemes.
  • These bodies aim to boost health facilities so that people don’t have to travel too far for health concerns. In addition, they promote the small-scale industries of rural areas.
  • Developing dairy, animal husbandry, and forestry are also the functions of Local Self Government bodies.

Structure of Local Self Government in India

In Both rural and urban areas, there are three Local Self Governing bodies. In Rural areas, the governing bodies include Zila Parishad, panchayat Samitis, and gram panchayats. Zila Parishad is at the top level, and it is made up of panchayat samiti. The Panchayat Samitis or the block councils are again made up of gram panchayats.

In Urban areas, the Local Government bodies include Municipal Corporations, Municipalities, and Nagar Panchayats. The difference between all these local self-governing bodies is that municipal corporation has more than a million population, while Municipalities have a population of less than a million.

Father of Local Self Government

Lord Rippon is known as the Father of Local Self Government because he was behind the establishment of various reforms. Among these reforms, he introduced Local Self-Government, and due to this, he is also called as ‘Good Viceory of India.’ The main objective of Rippon behind establishing the local government was to make things smoother and easier at the grassroots level of society. In addition, he introduced various schemes for the development of local government.

Tenure of Local Self-Government Bodies

The Local Self-Government bodies are elected for a five years term. When the term period gets over, a fresh election is conducted. Suppose anything happens and the panchayat is dissolved before the expiry period. In that case, the election is conducted within six months, and the panchayat or municipality will take care of the office for the six-month duration.

Powers of Local Self Government in India

The power of the Local Self-Government bodies is not defined exclusively, and they can be as per the states’ requirements. The power to Panchayats and Municipalities is given by the state governments as per the economic development. The primary goal behind the establishment of Local Self-Government was to help the government in planning for social and economic development. These bodies are authorized to collect, impose and manage taxes as well.

Local Self Government – Way Forward

The Local Self-Government is taking care of the society at grassroots level, and it had made things easier and better for both the central government, and the citizens of India. However things can be improve with proper 

  • States should devise proper mechanisms to devolve funds to the Local Self-Government bodies. They should be conferred power to generate their own revenue. This can be done by including the third tier in GST or can tax lands or local activities.
  • A proper uniform cadre should be created for the panchayats. Education programs for the representatives should be conducted, teaching them about their powers, roles, and responsibilities.
  • The powers of the Local Self-Government bodies should be properly demarcated. Gram Sabha should be empowered, and regular meetings must be conducted. It should take place under a video recording camera. Social auditing mechanisms should be developed.
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