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Chapter: 9th Social Science : Civics: Local Self Government

Local Self Governments since Independence

The conceptualisation of the system of local self-government in India took place through the formation and effort of four important committees from the year 1957 to 1986.

Local Self Governments since Independence

The conceptualisation of the system of local self-government in India took place through the formation and effort of four important committees from the year 1957 to 1986. The Community Development Programme (1952) and National Extension Service (1953) became a basis for 'The Great Charter on Panchayat Raj' in 1957.

Salient Features of the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts (1992)

·              Panchayats and Minicipalities will be 'institutions of self-government'.

·              Basic Units of Democratic System Grama Sabhas (Villages) and Ward Committees (Municipalities) comprising all the adult members registered as voters.

·              Three-tier system of panchayats at village, intermediate block/taluk/mandal and district levels. Two-tier for smaller states with population below 2 million.

·              Seats at all levels filled by direct elections.

·              Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and chairpersons of the Panchayats at all levels also shall be reserved for SCs and STs in proportion to their population.

·              One-third of the total number of seats reserved for women. One-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs also reserved for women. One-third offices of chairpersons at all levels reserved for women.

·              Uniform five year term and elections to constitute new bodies to be completed before the expiry of the term. In the event of dissolution, elections must be held compulsorily within six months.

Salient Features of the Tamil Nadu Panchayati Raj Act, 1994

The New Panchayati Raj System came into being in Tamil Nadu after the enactment of a new law for local body institutions in the year 1994. The salient features of the new Act are as follows: (a) A three-tier system (b) Gram Sabha (c) Establishment of Election Commission (d) Constitution of Finance Commission (e) Reservation of seats for SC/ST’s proportionate to their population One third reservation of seats for women and (g) Constitution of District Planning Committees.

Village Panchayat

Local governments which are function in villages are called Village Panchayats. The President and ward members are directly elected by the people. (Those who have attained the age above 18) and their term of office is five years. District Collector act as the Inspector of Village Panchayat. Village Panchayats are constituted in each and every village wherever the population is above 500.

Functions of the Village Panchayat

                               Supply of drinking water

                               Maintenance of street lights

                               Maintenance of roads

                               Maintenance of village libraries

                               Maintenance of small bridges

                               Granting permission to the housing plots

                               Maintenance of drainage

                               Construction of group houses

                               Cleaning of streets

                               Maintenance of burial grounds

                               Maintenance of common lavatory facilities

Historical Origin and Development of Local Self Government in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu has a long history of local self-governance as is evident from the Uthiramerur stone inscriptions in Kanchipuram District.

Tamil Nadu, in those days was a land of village republics, with community groups undertaking many activities for their area development. This tradition reached its peak during the 10th and 11th centuries under the reign of Cholas when Village Councils used to levy taxes, improve community life andadminister justice in their limited area. These Village Councils had effective links with the Chola rulers. “Kuda Olai Murai” was the name of the secret ballot method exercised to elect members to the Village Councils. With the downfall of Cholas, the state experienced a decline of the village autonomy and rise of the centralized feudal administrative system. This continued till British rules introduced local self-governance primarily as an administrative convenien colonial British Government.

In the post independence era, the fir t enactment in democratic decentralization in the state was the Madras Village Panchayats Act, 1950. Pursuant to the White Paper on the 'Reform of Local Administration' in 1957, the Madras Panchayats Act, 1958 and Madras District Development Council Act were enacted with the following salient features.

Voluntary Functions.

According to the Tamil Nadu Local Government Act passed in 1994, the following functions to be performed as voluntary functions by the local governments.

                               Maintenance of street lights in the villages

                               Maintenance of markets and fairs

                               Implantation of trees

                               Maintenance of play grounds

                               Maintenance of parking vehicles, slaughter houses and cattle sheds

                               Control over places of exhibition


Village Panchayat was the only local government which was empowered to levy taxes in the three-tier system of Village Panchayat.


                               Property Tax

                               Professional Tax

                               House Tax

                               Taxes for connection of drinking water

                               Land Tax

                               Taxes levied on shops

Go to the local government office in your village and know about the levying of taxes.

Meeting of Gram Sabha

In each and every village, the people living within its jurisdiction will be the members of Panchayat. The President of the Panchayat will preside over its meetings. In the meeting of the Grama Sabha, the income and expenditure and the beneficiary of the schemes in the village are discussed.

Meetings of the Grama Sabha are conducted four times a year

1.    January 26    -        Republic Day

2.    May 1  -        Labourer Day

3.    August 15     -        Independent Day

4.    October 2      -        Gandhi Jayanthi

Panchayat Union

Panchayat Union is formed by grouping of villages. Members of the Panchayat Union are directly elected by the people. The Chairman of the Panchayat Union is chosen from among the members.

Functions of the Panchayat Union

                               Supply of drinking water

                               Maintenance of Village Health Centres

                               Maintenance of roads

                               Establishment of Maternity Homes

                               Establishment of Public fairs

                               Establishment of Veterinary hospitals

                               Maintenance of Social forests

                               Repairing of Primary School buildings

Where will you report if street lights are not functioning and drinking water is not available in the tap in your village?

The district collector, Planning officer, concerned Block Development Officer are empowered to supervise the developmental functions of the Panchayat Union.

District Panchayat

A District Panchayat is constituted in each district. One district Panchayat is constituted for every 50,000 people and the ward members are directly elected by the people. The Chairman is elected from one among its members and their term is 5 years.

Functions of District Panchayat

                               Advising the government about the developmental schemes of the Village Panchayat and Panchayat Union.

                               Supervising the functions of District Planning Commission.

Urban Local Government

•      Town Panchayat

•      Municipality

•      Corporation

Gandhi’s Concept of Gram Swaraj

Gandhi really wanted ‘Swaraj’, the self rule by the people of India who represent the rural mass. He observed 'India’s soul lives in the village'. He dreamt of village republics in terms of Panchayat in free India.

Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayat Raj, a decentralized form of government, where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India’s political system.

In simpler words, Gandhi’s ideal village should be basically self-reliant, making provision for all necessities of life-food clothing, clean water, sanitation, housing, education, and other requirements, including government and self-defense

Town Panchayat

The area where more than 10,000 people live is called a Town Panchayat. Members and President of the town Panchayat are directly elected by the people. There is an Executive Officer to look after the administration of the Town Panchayat and their term of office is 5 years.


The area where more than 1,00,000 people live is  called  Municipality. The Members and the Chairman of the Municipalities are directly elected by the people and their term of office is five years. A Municipal Commissioner is appointed by the government to administer the Municipality.


Municipal corporations are established in big cities where the city has many lakhs of population. The Municipal Commissioner is the Administrative Officer. The Mayor is the Chairman of the corporation. The term of office of the Mayor and other members is five years.

In Tamil Nadu, there are 12 Corporations. They are in Chennai, Kovai, Madurai, Trichy, Tirunelveli, Salem, Erode, Vellore, Tuticorin, Tirupur, Tanjore, Dindigul.

The Municipal Commissioner will be a person from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). All the decisions of the Corporation Council will be implemented by him. He will be assisted by the office of the corporation.

Name the British Viceroy after whom the building of Chennai Corporation is name.

Important functions of the Mayor

                               He acts as a bridge between the members of the corporation and the government

                               He presides over the meetings of the Corporation Council

                               He receives the dignitaries from foreign countries

Types of other Urban Panchayats

                               Notified Area Committee

                               Town Area Committee

                               Cantonment Board


                               Port Trust

                               Special Purpose Agency

Elections to the local government in Tamil Nadu

The State Election Commission conducts the elections to the local government like general elections. The electoral roll is prepared ward wise. Seats are reserved for the SC & ST and also for the women in proportion to the population by rotation basis.

Problems and Challenges facing the Local Self Governments

Local self governments are the crucial basis for our democracy. The Constitutional status of local self governments adds more significance to their functioning. There are, however, a few critical concerns in the working of local self governments in India. Major problems and challenges may be mentioned as below:

•      Lack of clear demarcation of powers and functions of local bodies

•      Allocation of funds and needs assessment are not matched

•      Role of caste, class and religion in decision- making at the local self governments

•      Poor accountability of elected members and officials at the grassroot levels of democracy

Piped water supply scheme in Erode Municipality:-

Periyar E.V.Ramasamy became the Chairman of Erode  Municipality in 1917. During his tenure in Erode Munici p a li t y, Periyar worked effectively for Providing piped drinking water supply and health facilities to the people. Piped water supply scheme was implemented in 1919 by Periyar. This scheme was said to be first of kind in the history of Indian Municipal administration.

Odanthurai Panchayat

With permanent concrete houses built over a period, the village now has been declared as hut less village which provides continuous water supply, quality road networks to the residents.

The most notable among Odanthurai's Self-help ventures is its experiments with renewable energy sources. By awaiting loan from the banks and subsidy by The Government, the village panchayat had installed a small wind tarn at the cost of Rs.2.3 Cr which generates around 7.5 lakh units of electricity in a year. While the Panchayat’s need is only 2.5 lakh units, the remaining power is sold to TANGEDCO, fetching an annual income of around R.s 20 lakh. Moreover the panchayat had installed a 9kw biomass gasifier Power generation system to substitute the grid electricity for pumping drinking water.

Solar based streetlight and biogas system connected to houses for cooking purpose are some of the highlights of the self-reliant in energy aspect by this model village panchayat, Odanthurai


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