Here is your essay on Municipal governance



In India, for the administration of urban areas, several types of municipal bodies are created for the towns and cities, depending on their size, population, industrial or other importance etc. These bodies are:

1. Municipal Corporation

2. Municipal Council/Committee/Municipality

3. Notified Area Committee

4. Town Area Committee

5. Township

6. Cantonment Board, and Special Purpose Agency/Authority

These local bodies do not exist in all the states and union territories strictly in order of hierarchy. For instance, Rajasthan until very recently did not have any municipal corporation.

Only in 1992, the state government, through legislation, provided for the creation of municipal corporations for Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota, elections for which are yet to be held. Delhi already has a municipal corporation. Similarly, several other variations regarding these bodies may exist.

A brief description of each is given below. Relevant provisions of the 74th Amendment Act, 1992 have also been given at the appropriate places. They apply to both Municipal Corporation and municipal council/committee/municipality.

Urban Local Self-Government

Following the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, Urban Local Self-Government in India has been classified into three types - Municipal Corporations, Municipalities and Nagar Panchayats.

(I) municipal corporation

Municipal corporations are set up only in big cities. The 74th Amendment Act provides that the areas for different types of urban bodies would be specified by the Governor of the state, taking into account the population, density of the population therein, revenue generated by the local body, percentage of em­ployment has a statutory status as it is created by an Act on the state legislature or of the Parliament in case of a union territory.

At times, an Act like the Madras City Corporations Act of 1951, which created the Madras Corpora­tion, exclusively sets up a single corporation.

The U.P Mahan agar Palika Adhiniyam represents the other model, 1959, which was a general Act, passed for the creation of municipal corporations in Kanpur, Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad and Lucknow (KAVAL).

The municipal corporation is a popular body that provides representation to local people. Most of its members are directly elected on the basis of adult franchise. It does not have a sovereign status or inherent powers.

It exercises only those functions, which are allocated to it by the state government. An important feature of a corporation is that there is a statutory separation of the legislative (or the deliberative) wing and the executive wing.

The Mayor heads the council of a corporation and its standing committees constitute the deliberative wing, which takes decisions.

The Municipal Commissioner is the executive authority, responsible for enforcing these decisions. Collectively, the council, headed by the Mayor, the standing committees and the Municipal Commissioner make up the corporation.

The council of the corporation consists of councilors who function for a period of five years. The composition of the municipal bodies has also undergone a change after the Constitution 74th Amend­ment Act.

It lays down that all the seats shall be filled by direct elections for which the municipal area would be divided into wards. Each seat shall represent a ward in the municipality.

Apart from the seats filled by direct elections, some seats may be filled by nominations of persons having special knowledge or experience of municipal administration, but such members would not enjoy any voting right. Besides the members of Parliament and of the state legislature will also be voting members in a municipality.

The Act also gives details regarding the reservation of seats for SC/ST, women and backward classes.

The proportion of seats to be reserved for SC/ST to the total number of seats reserved for SC/ST, shall be reserved for women belonging to SC/ST. Not less than one-third of the total seats in the municipal body will be reserved for women. (This is inclusive of the seats to be reserved for women belonging to SC/ST).

An optional provision for a state legislature is that it can provide for adequate representation of SC/ST and women in relation to the office of chairperson of the municipality.

The Constitution 74th Amendment Act does not specify the manner and procedure of election of the chairperson. It has been left to the state legislature. It may either be by direct elections or from amongst the elected members of the municipality concerned.

Presently, the chairperson in a corporation is the Mayor, who is supported by a Deputy Mayor. The Mayor is elected in most of the states generally for a one-year renewable term. He can be removed from his office by a no-confidence motion of the council. He is the "first citizen" of the city but is not the real executive.

The Mayor presides over the meetings of the council. In some states, he is authorized to constitute committees, make appointments to the lower grade positions, supervise and inspect the working of various units and represent the corporation on national and social occasions. As the size of a corpo­ration is generally large, several committees are set up to facilitate its working.

The committees such as those dealing with finance, public works etc., are almost common to all the corporations. More commit­tees can be set up as per the felt needs of the corporation.

The Municipal Commissioner is the chief executive officer of the corporation. He is at the apex of the municipal hierarchy and is the key officer controlling the administrative machinery of the corporation.

The state government appoints him. In the case of a union territory, the Central government makes the appointment. Generally, officers belonging to the Indian Administrative Service are appointed to this post, though, at the state level, even a state service officer may be appointed.

Since a municipal com­missioner is the pivot of municipal administration, he performs varied tasks. He executes or implements the decisions of the council and its committees. All municipal records are in his custody; he prepares the budget estimates, makes appointments to certain categories of posts and can enter into contracts not exceeding Rs. 25,000 on behalf of the corporation.


Municipal bodies are performing the traditional civic functions of municipalities. However the 74th Con­stitution Amendment lies down those municipalities would go beyond the mere provisions of civic ameni­ties. Now, they are expected to play a crucial role in the formulation of plans for local development and the implementation of development projects and programmes, including those specially designed for urban poverty alleviation.

An illustrative list of functions that may be entrusted to the municipalities has been incorporated as the Twelfth Schedule of Constitution. A state legislature would be free to select from this list or add to this list while stipulating the functions to be performed by municipalities.

The list of functions that has been laid down in the Twelfth Schedule is as follows:

1. Urban planning, including town planning.

2. Regulation of land use and construction of buildings.

3. Planning for economic and social development.

4. Roads and bridges.

5. Water supply for domestic, industrial and commercial purposes.

6. Public health, sanitation, conservancy and solid waste management.

7. Fire services.

8. Urban forestry, protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspects.

9. Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and the mentally retarded.

10. Slum improvement and up gradation.

11. Urban poverty alleviation.

12. Provision of urban amenities and facilities such as parks, gardens, playgrounds.

13. Promotion of cultural, educational and aesthetic aspects.

14. Burials and burial grounds; cremations, cremation grounds and electric crematoriums.

15. Cattle ponds; prevention of cruelty to animals.

16. Vital statistics including registration of births and deaths.

17. Public amenities, including street lighting, parking lots, bus stops and public conveniences.

18. Regulation of slaughterhouses and tanneries.

(II) Municipal council/committee/municipality

A municipal council is statutory body created by an Act of the state legislature and the criteria for setting it up vary from state to state. Broadly, these are: population, size, sources of income, industrial/commer­cial future and prospects of the city. Even within a state, the criteria may differ.

A city, which is industri­ally advanced, may have a municipality despite its low population. The size of a municipality is deter­mined by the state government, but the minimum number of councilors should be five.

The size in­creases with the increase in population. Their tenure, under the Constitution 74th Amendment Act, 1992 is five years.

A municipal council consists elected, co-opted and associate members. For the elected seats, elec­tions are held on the basis of adult suffrage and secret ballot and for which purpose; the city is divided into wards.

Seats are reserved for SC/ST, women and backward classes. Nominated members and, members with voting rights are the same as for the municipal corporation.

The councilors can be re­moved by the municipal council, by the citizens of the ward or by the state government, according to the prescribed procedure.

In order to lessen the workload of the council, several sub-committees are set such as the Ward Committee to manage the affairs of a ward and committees dealing with subjects like buildings, vehicles, works, finance, lease etc.

The municipal council elects, from amongst its members, a President for a period of five years. The council also elects one or two Vice-Presidents-one senior and one junior-who are removable by the council itself.

The President plays a pivotal role in municipal administration and enjoys real deliberative and executive powers. He presides over the meetings of the council, guides the deliberations and gets the decisions implemented.

He is the administrative head of all the officers of the municipality, is the custodian of municipal records, approves all financial matters before they are placed in the council and represents the council on national and social occasions.

He enjoys special extraordinary powers, under which he can order the immediate execution or suspension of any work.

The state government also appoints an Executive Officer in the municipal council for the conduct of general administrative work.

He exercises general control and supervision over the municipal office, can transfer clerical employees, prepares the municipal budget, keeps an eye on expenditure, is responsible for the collection of taxes and fees and takes measures for recovering municipal arrears and dues. He can be removed by the council or by the state government.

As already pointed out, the functions of the municipal council are broadly similar to those of a municipal corporation. When a city having a municipal council is given a municipal corporation, the latter takes up the functions of the former.

Given below are a few remaining provisions of the 74th Amendment Act which apply to municipal bodies and a few that apply to Notified Area Committees (NAC) and Town Area Committees (TAC).

(Iii) notified area committee (NAC)

The Notified Area Committee is set up for an area which does not yet fulfil all the conditions necessary for the constitution of a municipality but which the state government otherwise considers important. Generally, it is created in an area which is fast developing and where new industries are being setup.

It is not created by statute but by a notification in the government gazette and, hence, the name 'notified area'.

The state government constitutes a committee called the Notified Area Committee (NAC) to ad­minister this area. All the members of this committee are nominated by the state government and there are no elected members.

Its chairman is also appointed by the state government. The criteria for establishing this committee differ from state to state. For instance, in Punjab, an NAC can be set up, if the population of the area is 10,000 or above.

In Rajasthan, places of tourist attraction such as Pushkar and Mount Abu were, until recently, notified areas. As all the members of the NAC are appointed by the government, it is clearly a violation of the democratic principle.

In a number of states, there are demands for abolishing these committees and setting up municipalities in their place so that the local people can solve their problems themselves.

(Iv) town area committee (TAC)

It is a semi-municipal authority, constituted for small towns. Such committees exist in several states, but Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of such committees.

The TAC is constituted and governed by an Act of the state legislature and its composition and functions are specified in it. Its membership differs from state to state.

The committee may be partly elected, partly nominated or wholly elected or wholly nominated. The committee is assigned a limited number of functions, such as street lighting, drainage, roads, conservancy etc.

The District Collector, in some states, has been given control and powers of surveillance over a TAC. Following the recommendations of the Rural Urban Relationship Committee (1966) that the smaller TACs be merged with the Panchayat Raj bodies, lately, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have merged their TACs with Panchayati Raj institutions.

(V) Township

Several large-sized public enterprises have been set up in India. A few examples are: the steel plants at Rourkela, Bhilai and Jamshedpur, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited near Bhopal and Hindustan Aero­nautics near Bangalore.

Near the plants, housing colonies have been built for the staff and workers. Since these industries are a source of employment, people from urban as well as rural areas are drawn to them and, resultantly, small townships evolve around them.

Among the well-known examples are the township of Jugsalai and Adityapur near Jamshedpur. These townships are administered by the Munici­pal Corporation or council within whose boundary they fall. For administering them, the corporations of council appoint a Town Administrator, who is assisted by a few engineers and technicians.

The town­ships are well planned and contain facilities like water, electricity, roads, drainage, markets, parks etc. The expenditure on these services is shared by the industry concerned. The facilities existing in the townships are generally of a high standard.


This form of urban local government is also a British legacy. Cantonment boards were first set up under the Cantonments Act in 1924. While all other institutions of urban governance are administered by the state government, these are the only bodies which are centrally administered by the Defence Ministry.

When a military station is established in an area, the military personnel move in and, to provide them with facilities of everyday life, a sizeable civilian population also joins the developing area. Soon, colo­nies, markets etc., develop near such military stations. For administering these areas, cantonment boards are created. As of 1987, there were 63 cantonment boards in India which were grouped into three classes:

(1) Class I cantonment in which the civilian populations exceeds 10,000,

(2) Class II cantonment in which the civilian population is between 2,500 and 10,000 and

(3) Class III cantonment in which the civilian population is less than 2,500.

The board consists of both elected and nominated members. The officer commanding the station is the President of the board. An elected member holds office for three years, while the nominated mem­bers continue as long as they hold the office in that station.

To explain the composition, instance may be given of a Class I cantonment. A Class I cantonment consists of: (i) the officer commanding the station, (ii) a first class magistrate nominated by the district magistrate, (iii) a Health Officer, (iv) and Executive Engineer, (v) four military officers, nominated by the officer commanding the station, and (vi) seven members elected by the people of the cantonment.

The board performs obligatory functions such as lighting, streets, drainage, cleaning of streets, markets, planting of trees, supply of water, registering births and deaths, protection against fire, establishment of schools and hospitals, public vaccination etc. Some of the discretionary functions are: construction of public works and wells, provision of public transport, census etc.

(Vii) Single purpose agencies

These agencies are set up as government departments or as statutory bodies under separate Acts of the state government. Some such agencies are housing boards, pollution control boards and water supply and sewerage boards.

Such bodies are set up, even though other municipal agencies exist for the same area, since there are certain activities which require expertise, concentrated attention and special skills which the municipal bodies do not possess. Besides, the municipal bodies are already over-burdened; they lack the requisite administrative machinery and the necessary resources in order to deal with problems arising out of rapid urbanisation.

(Viii) Housing boards

Almost all the states have set up housing boards to deal with problems relating to housing. The consti­tution of a housing board varies from state to state. Broadly, however, a housing board at the state level is headed by a chairman, who is either a serving civil servant or a citizen from public life.

On the board are representatives of the state departments of finance, industry, and education, and health, labour and local self-government. Other members are the Chief Town Planner, the Mayor or the Municipal Commissio and some citizens, including members of the Central and State legislatures.

At the central level, the most important agency involved in promotion of housing is the Housing a Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO). It has promoted lakhs of housing units in the country. Mo of them is for the members of the lower income group.

The housing boards, at both the central and the state levels, receive funds from the Central and State governments for implementing housing schemes. At both the levels, some general functions that they share are: (a) analysis of problems of housing and advising the government on tackling them, (b) preparation and execution of the programmes of construction of houses, (c) creation of planned neighborhoods', (d) acquisition of land for purposes of construction of houses, (e) construction ol houses at reasonable cost to help the middle and poorer sections, and (f) encourage research and projects for evolving new methods of construction.

In practice, the housing boards have also been catering to the requirements of higher income groups, yet, their most important contribution has been in serving the middle income groups. Besides, a number of well-integrated colonies have been developed by the housing boards.

The housing boards are generally criticised for their slow pace, substandard quality of materials used in construction and continually increasing costs of the houses.

(IX) Improvement trusts

An Urban Improvement Trust is a statutory body constituted with the specific purpose of promoting the development of a city. Generally, there is a division of areas within a city between the municipal council and the improvement trust. Mostly, it is the "newer" city or the outlying areas that fall within the ambit ol an improvement trust.

The composition and powers of an improvement trust are specified in the Act under which it is created. Hence, there are inter-state variations in the structure of improvement trusts. Generally, an improvement trust is headed by a chairman, who is a nominee of the state government.

He may be a civil servant or any other person appointed by the state government. Certain representatives of the municipal body, within whose jurisdiction it functions, are also nominated to the trust by the state gov­ernment. All other members of the trust, such as the Chief Town Planner, Engineer and heads of depart­ments, are also nominated by the state government.

An improvement trust is a multi-functional development agency, which performs an important coordinative role by bringing the representatives of a large number of government agencies engaged in the process of urban development, less than one roof.

An expanded version of an urban improvement trust is a Development Authority like the Delhi De­velopment Authority (DDA), which was set up in 1957. It is a nominated body, dominated by bureau­cracy.

It consists of the following members: (1) the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi who is the ex-officio chairman, (2) a Vice-Chairman, appointed by the Central government, who is the de facto head of the DDA. (3) a Finance and Accounts Member, appointed by the Central government, (4) an engineer member, appointed by the Central government, (5) two councilors, elected by the municipal corpora­tion, (6) two representatives of the Advisory Committee for Delhi and (7) two other persons, nominated by the Central government.

The statute spells out the functions of the DDA. They are "to promote and secure the development of Delhi according to the master plan and, for that purpose, the Authority shall have power to acquire, hold, manage and dispose of land and other property, to carry out building, engineering, mining and other operations to execute works in connection with supply of water and electricity, disposal of sewage and other services and amenities and generally to do anything necessary or expedient for purposes of such development and for purposes incidental thereto."

On the pattern of Delhi Development Authority, though with variations, is an institution like the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA), which is headed by the Minister for Local Self-Government, but whose de facto head is a super-time scale IAS officer. The JDA is the successor organization to Jaipur Urban Improvement Trust. However, the powers and functions of the new organization are more ex­panded. We now move to the issue of personnel administration in the urban bodies.

Personnel administration in urban bodies

Three types of municipal personnel systems obtain in the Indian states and union territories. They are:

(1) The Separate Personnel System: In this system, each local authority has the power to appoint its own personnel. Such personnel are administered and controlled by the local authority and are not transferable to any other unit.

(2) The Unified Personnel System : Under this system, all or some local bodies form a single career service for the entire state, from which officers and other employees are posted in various units and are also transferable within the state. The service is administered by the state government.

(3) The Integrated Personnel System: Under this pattern, personnel of the local bodies and those of the state government form a part of the same service. All or some categories of personnel of the local bodies may be drawn from this service. The local civil service is absorbed into the state civil service. The state government can transfer them from the urban body to other departments.

In India, all the three systems operate in various states. The separate personnel system is found in West Bengal and Gujarat, where the urban units several states. Such states have constituted munici­pal services from which are system operates in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu etc.

The integrated personnel system operates in almost all the states, though in a limited form. For instance, the Municipal Commissioner in a corporation or the Secretary of an improvement trust is almost always members of the Indian Administrative Service or of the state service.

Other senior positions, both administrative and technical, are also filled by senior officers of the state services. Some may, however, belong to the municipal service or may be deputed from other services to the local bodies.