Historical perspective of local bodies in India

  • The origin of local self-government had very deep roots in ancient India. On the basis of historical records, excavations and archaeological investigations, it is believed that some form of local self-government did exist in the remote past. In the Vedas and in the writings of Manu, Kautilya and others, and also in the records of some travelers like Megasthenes, the origin of local self-government can be traced back to the Buddhist period
  • The Ramayana and the Mahabharata also point to the existence of several forms of local self-government such as Paura (guild), Nigama, Pauga and Gana, performing various administrative and legislative functions and raising levies from different sources.
  • The institution of urban local government originated and developed in modern India during the period of British rule. In 1687-88, the first municipal corporation in India was setup at Madras

Measures taken during the British rule with regards to urban local bodies:

  1. In 1726, the municipal corporation were setup in Bombay and Calcutta
  2. Lord Mayo’s resolution of 1870 envisaged a roadmap for these bodies in India
  3. Lord Ripon’s resolution of 1882 has been hailed as the ‘Magna Carta’ of local-self government
  4. A royal commission was established under the chairmanship of Hobhouse on decentralization in 1907
  5. Government of India Act, 1919 assigned the local-self government subject to an Indian minister
  6. In 1924, the cantonments acts was passed by the central legislature
  7. Local self-government was declared as a provincial subject under the Government of India act, 1935

Post-independent India and urban local government

Independence brought a new kind of activity in every sphere of public life. It opened a new chapter in the history of local government in India. Urban local-bodies received consistent policy attention from various committees that were setup at different times to suggest ways to improve the urban local bodies. Some of these committees include- PK Wattal, John Mathai, Nur-ud-din Ahmed, AP Jain, Rafiq Zakaria. G Mukharji, KN Sahaya and CM Correa

The primary recommendation of some of these committees included constitutionalizing the ULB. Government under Rajiv Gandhi and VP Singh tried to get the ULB constitutionalized. However, it could not be realized during their time. It was only during the time of PV Narasimha Rao that ULB could receive the constitutional status when the 74th amendment act was passed by both the houses of the parliament and it finally received the assent of the President