Questions on Local Governments

1. Define local government. State two examples to justify the need for a local government.

Local government is a government of the local people, by the local people and for the local people. The local government institutions provide a platform for the common people to participate and contribute to development and social justice at the local level.

It provides a forum to them to deliberate on the nature of local problems and devise appropriate solutions that are in conformity with local situations. Local government is in fact a government which functions at the grassroot level.

2. Trace the evolution of Panchayati Raj System since the ancient days.

Panchayati Raj System was functional in ancient time in our country. They had been variously known as Panchayats. Biradaries or by some other name, generally headed by village elders. By 73rd Constitutional Amendment Panchayati Raj System got constitutional status and consists of elected representatives of the people.

3. To what extent do you think the facilities and support provided by the local government impact our quality of life.

Local Government provides for maintenance of water, drainage system, provision of drinking water, etc. Thus impacts your quality of life in many ways.

4. How has the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act 1992 impacted the Panchayati Raj System?

(a) Established three tier Panchayati Raj System.

(b) Establishment of District Planning Committees to prepare development plans for the districts.

(c) Establishment of Gram Sabha (village assemblies) and their empowerment as a decision making body at the village level.

(d) By ensuring reservation for Scheduled Castes, Schedule Tribes and women, the act has given them the opportunity to participate in the decision making process of local government and hence has empowered them (e) Established state finance commission, state election commission.

5. How is Village Panchayat constituted? What is the role of Gram Sabha or Village Assembly?

Village Panchayat or Gram Panchayat is the grassroot institution of Panchayati Raj System. In the Panchayats, one-third of seats are reserved for women. Seats are also reserved for persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes. The Panchayat has a Sarpanch (Mukhia) who is directly elected by all the voters of the village. The panchayat also has panchs and a Vice Chairperson elected by the members of the Panchayat.

6. List the important functions of a Gram Panchayat. Which of these functions are very essential? Are there certain functions which you feel the local governments need not take up? If so, why?

Three functions of the Gram Panchayat are:

  1. provision of safe drinking water
  2. paving of streets
  3. developing and maintaining good drainage system

Discretionary functions are some of the functions which the Panchayat may not necessarily take up. These functions can be performed only if the Panchayat has the resources and funds. These include plantation of trees, setting up and maintenance of insemination centre for cattle, developing and maintaining playground for sports and setting up and running the library.

7. Describe the different sources of income of a Village Panchayat.

Some of the sources of funds for a Panchayat are:

(i) taxes on property, land, goods and cattle

(ii) rent collected for facilities like Barat Ghar or any other property of panchayat

(iii) various types of fines collected from the offenders

(iv) a part of the land revenue collected by the State Government given to the Panchayats

(v) donations collected from the villagers for some common cause

(vi) grants-in-aid from State and Union government

8. How many types of urban local bodies were functioning before the 74th Constitutional Amendment 1992? What changes did the Amendment make?

After independence four types of urban local bodies were functioning: (i) Municipal Corporations, (ii) Municipalities, (iii) Town Area Committees and (iv) Notified Area Committees. But the 74th Constitutional Amendment 1992 brought about major changes in the system of urban local government.

Now three types of urban local governments are functioning: (a) Municipal Corporations for the big cities, (b) Municipal Councils for smaller cities and (c) Nagar Panchayats for those areas that are in transition from rural areas to urban areas.

9. What are the functions of a Municipal Corporation? Why are these functions important?

These functions are very important as they improve the quality of lives of the citizens. Health, water supply or electricity are all of critical importance in every persons life, by ensuring that the city is clean, or providing for hospital and safe drinking water, the municipal corporation helps in improving the quality of life of citizens.

10. What are the sources of income of a Municipal Corporation?

(i) Income from taxes - Housing tax, entertainment tax, tax on hoardings, etc.

(ii) Grant-in-Aid from State and Union Government.

(iii) Income from rents - Municipal corporation rent out properties like shops, kiosks, community halls, etc.

(iv) other fees and charges like toll tax, sewer charges, water and electricity charges, etc.

11. Examine the significance of District Administration in governance.

District administration is headed by District Magistrate other officials of the District Administration are Suprintendent of Police, District Education Officer, District Agriculture Officer, SDOs, etc.

Sub Divisional Officer: The SDO assists the District Magistrate in the field of administration and also works as his or her representative. He or She keeps the land records and collects land revenue and has the power to issue Certificates regarding domicile, Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribes and other Backward Classes.

The Block Development Officer: The BDO is linked with the middle tier of Panchayati Raj as he or she is the ex-officio Secretary of the Panchayat Samiti and keeps the record of the meetings, prepares budget and coordinates various developmental activities.

12. What are the major functions of a District Magistrate?

The main functions of District Magistrate are:

(i) maintaining law and order and ensuring peace in the district

(ii) implementing various policies and programmes of the State government and the Central government

(iii) acting as the main link between State government and district level institutions and offices

(iv) Co-ordinating the activities of different departments such as education, health, welfare, land management, police, jail and culture

(v) ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections for various representative bodies, such as Lok Sabha,Vidhan Sabha, Block Samities, Zila Parishad, Municipalities, etc.

13. What opportunities do local bodies provide to citizens? What are the major challenges of local bodies?

Local bodies are the best institutions to impart political education to citizens and enable them to acquire leadership qualities. When citizens participate, they learn to analyse and plead for issues and concerns of self as well as others. Since these local government bodies are nearer to them, citizens can have access and seek solutions through personal initiative and intervention. Women also have great opportunities to participate as members of local bodies.

The challenges to the effective functioning of local government bodies are - Being close to the people, these institutions have raised democratic aspirations and expectations which they are not always able to fulfill because of various constraints. These constrains include factors like poverty, illiteracy, social inequalities and the trends of criminalization of politics. The elements of casteism, communalism and the increasing trend of corruption and nepotism have been great challenges to the effective functioning of the local bodies.