Local Self-Government in India

Quest for UPSC CSE Panels

Local Self-Government in India-Image




GS-II: Polity

1 min read

Prelims:  Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

Mains:  Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.


What is the historical background and evolution of Local Self-Governments in India?

Pre-Independence Period

  • Local Self-Governments in India have a long history dating back to ancient times. During pre-independence, these institutions were known as "panchayats" and were primarily responsible for maintaining law and order in rural areas. 
  • Local Self-Governments were responsible for resolving disputes and providing a forum for village-level decision-making. Panchayats were often headed by a village headman chosen by the village elders. 
  • In the 19th and early 20th centuries, British colonial rule introduced modern forms of local self-government in India, which were based on the Panchayati Raj system. These institutions have continued to evolve and play a vital role in the governance of rural areas in modern India.

Mahatma Gandhi’s view on Local Self-Governments

  • Decentralized Form: Mahatma Gandhi believed that Local Self-Governments were the backbone of India's democracy. He believed that these decentralized local government bodies have the power to make decisions at the community level. 
  • Self Rule: Gandhi believed that Local Self-Governments were an essential part of village self-governance and that they should be given more authority and resources to carry out their duties. 
  • Participative Governance: He also believed that Local Self-Governments were an essential platform for people to participate in the democratic process and to have a say in the decisions that affected their lives. 
  • Gandhi believed that Panchayati Raj Institutions(PRIs) should be accountable to the people they served and that they should be transparent and responsive in their decision-making processes.

Post-Independence Period


Community Development Program launched to promote rural development


First Panchayati Raj elections held in Rajasthan


State of Rajasthan passes Panchayati Raj Act, providing legal framework for PRIs


Central government establishes Ministry of Community Development and Cooperation


National Panchayati Raj Day established to recognize the contributions of PRIs


Central government passes 73rd Amendment to the Constitution, providing legal basis for PRIs


Panchayati Raj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) passed, giving tribal areas greater autonomy


National Gram Swaraj Abhiyan launched to promote decentralized governance and strengthen PRIs


Government of India launches National Rural Livelihoods Mission to empower women and marginalized groups through PRIs


Some important committees, which recommended Local Self-Governments, are given below:

  • Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957): This committee recommended the establishment of PRIs at the village, intermediate, and district levels. It also recommended that PRIs be given financial resources and powers to decide on local issues.
  • Ashok Mehta Committee (1977): This committee recommended that PRIs be given more powers and resources and that they be made responsible for planning and implementing development projects at the local level.
  • G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985): This committee recommended that PRIs be given greater autonomy and that they be made accountable to the people they serve. It also suggested that PRIs be given the power to levy taxes and fees.
  • L.M. Singhvi Committee (1986): The L.M. Singhvi committee recommended the need for constitutional recognition and legal framework for Panchayat Raj Institution and urban local bodies to strengthen the local self-governance in India.
  • P.K. Thungon Committee (1989): It recommended constitutional recognition for the local government bodies.
  • Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007): The principle of Subsidiary should be upheld, and there should be a clear delineation of functions for each level of local government.


What is the existing structure of Local Self-Governments in India?

India has a federal system of government in which powers are divided between the central government and the states and union territories. The Constitution of India defines the structure of local self-government in the country through the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, which were passed in 1992. These amendments created two new governance structures: the Panchayats (for rural areas) and the Municipalities (for urban areas).

The Panchayati Raj system was first established in India in the 1950s, but it was only with the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 that it was given constitutional recognition and a formal structure. The Act defines the Panchayati Raj system as a "three-tier system" consisting of:

  • Village Panchayats: The lowest level of local government, responsible for village-level administration and development.
  • Intermediate Panchayats: Intermediate level of local government, typically responsible for a group of villages.
  • District Panchayats: The highest level of rural local government, responsible for district-level administration and development.

Urban Local Bodies(ULBs)

Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are the grassroots-level democratic bodies that are responsible for the administration and development of urban areas in India. The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 gave constitutional recognition to the ULBs and established a formal structure for them. Some ULBs in India are given below:

  • Municipal corporation: Municipal Corporations, also known as Nagar Nigams, are the highest level of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in India. The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 gave constitutional recognition to Municipal Corporations and established a formal structure for them.
  • Municipality: A Municipality is a form of Urban Local Body (ULB) in India, responsible for the administration and development of urban areas. They are typically divided into two categories: Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats. Municipal Councils govern smaller urban areas, while Nagar Panchayats are for areas in transition from rural to urban.
  • Notified area committee: Notified Area Committees (NACs) are established in rapidly expanding towns or cities that have not yet reached the population required to become a municipality. They are designated as NACs by the state government through an official gazette notification. NACs are made up entirely of members nominated by the state government.
  • Town area committee: Town Area Committees (TACs) are established to administer small towns. They are created by a specific act passed by the state legislature. It could be wholly elected, wholly nominated or a combination of both parties elected and nominated. 
  • Cantonment board: The Cantonment Board is an organization established to administer and manage the civilian population living in cantonment areas. It operates in accordance with the provisions of the Cantonment Act of 2006 and falls under the jurisdiction of the Union Defence Ministry. 


15th Finance Commission recommendations for strengthening the local government finances

  • Comparison to 14th FC: The 15th FC has included all levels of rural panchayats and also the panchayats in scheduled areas in contrast to the 14th Finance Commission, which considered only village panchayats for grants and excluded scheduled area village panchayats.
  • Grants to local bodies: The Finance Commission has recommended the grant of Rs 4.36 lakh crore from the central divisive tax pool to local governments, both rural and urban, for 2021-26.
  • Setting up State Finance Commission: No grants will be released to local bodies of a state after March 2024 if the state does not constitute State Finance Commission and act upon its recommendations by then.
  • Grant Criteria: Grants to local bodies (other than health grants) will be distributed among states based on population and area, with 90% and 10% weightage, respectively.


Previous Year Questions(PYQs)



Q) The strength and sustenance of local institutions in India has shifted from their formative phase of ‘Functions, Functionaries and Funds’ to the contemporary stage of ‘Functionality’. Highlight the critical challenges faced by local institutions in terms of their functionality in recent times. (2020)


Q) “The reservation of seats for women in the institutions of local self- government has had a limited impact on the patriarchal character of the Indian Political Process.” Comment.  (2019)


Q) Assess the importance of the Panchayat system in India as a part of local government. Apart from government grants, what sources the Panchayats can look out for financing development projects? (2018)


Q) The local self government system in India has not proved to be effective instrument of governance”. Critically examine the statement and give your views to improve the situation. (2017)


Q) In absence of well–educated and organised local level government system, ‘Panchayats’ and ‘Samitis’ have remained mainly political institutions and not effective instruments of governance. Critically discuss. (2015)



Q) Under which schedule of the Constitution of India can the transfer of tribal land to private parties for mining be declared null and void?(2019)

(a) Third Schedule

(b) Fifth Schedule

(c) Ninth Schedule

(d) Twelfth Schedule


Q)Local self-government can be best explained as an exercise in (2017)

(a) Federalism

(b) Democratic decentralization

(c) Administrative delegation

(d) Direct democracy


Q) Consider the following statements:(2016)

1. The minimum age prescribed for any person to be a member of Panchayat is 25 years.

2. A Panchayat reconstituted after premature dissolution continues only for the remainder period.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Q) The fundamental object of the Panchayati Raj system is to ensure which among the following?(2015)

1. People’s participation in development

2. Political accountability

3. Democratic decentralization

4. Financial mobilization

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4


Q) The Government enacted the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act in 1996.Which one of the following is not identified as its objective?(2013)

(a) To provide self-governance

(b) To recognize traditional rights

(c) To create autonomous regions in tribal areas

(d) To free tribal people from exploitation


Q) Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, who shall be the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights or both?

(a) State Forest Department

(b) District Collector/Deputy Commissioner

(c) Tahsildar/Block Development Officer/Mandal Revenue Officer

(d) Gram Sabha


Q) Which of the following provisions of the Constitution of India have a bearing on Education?(2012)

1. Directive Principles of State Policy

2. Rural and Urban Local Bodies

3. Fifth Schedule

4. Sixth Schedule

5. Seventh Schedule

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3, 4 and 5 only

(c) 1, 2 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5


Q) The Constitution (Seventy-Third Amendment) Act, 1992, which aims at promoting the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the country, provides for which of the following?(2011)

1. Constitution of District Planning Committees.

2. State Election Commissions to conduct all panchayat elections.

3. Establishment of State Finance Commissions.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q) What are the foundational principles of Local self-government?

The foundational principles of local self-government in India are based on the idea of community participation, decentralization of power, transparency, and accountability, Responsiveness to local needs, independent and autonomous, democratic governance.


Q) Who was the father of local self-government in India?

Lord Ripon is considered the "Father of Local Self-Government in India." He served as the Governor-General of British India from 1880 to 1884, during which time he introduced a number of reforms aimed at increasing the participation of Indians in the administration of their own affairs.


Q) What are the limitations of local self-government in India?

The distribution of power is not well established, leaving questions about task allocation, qualifications, and necessary requirements unanswered. Additionally, a lack of financial resources is hindering the ability to achieve the goal of self-governance.