Urban Local Administration in India

India has a history of urban administration. The history of urban bodies, both cities and towns, is fairly old in India, which can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization where emphasis was laid on the well-planned roads, houses and town meetings. Kautilya, in Arthasastra, has given a graphic description of the city of Patliputra.

The Mauryas, the Guptas, the Turks and the Mughals helped flourish the city administration: laying emphasis on sanitation, roads, inns, water supply, market-places, public utility works. The number of corporations in India increased rapidly in independent India: in 1975, there were 34 municipal corporations and 68 in 1986. The number is still on the increase. The total number of towns in the country are around 5,000, while the percentage of villages in India is over 70 percent of the total population, more than 600,000 (2005-06). Corporations, municipalities, notified area committees, town area committees, and cantonment boards are urban local institutions in India.

The organizational structure of each urban institution varies from state to state, so do vary their functions as well. Usually, a municipal corporation is headed by a mayor with an elected council. The powers of the Municipal Corporation are performed by (i) General Council, (ii) Standing Committees and (iii) the Municipal Chief Executive Officer.

The councilors are elected by the people for a fixed period. The Council, consisting of the councillors and aldermen elect the mayor and the deputy mayor. The mayor, and in his absence, the deputy mayor, presides over the meetings of the Council. The General Council makes laws and the byelaws, approves budget, appoints committees, and supervises the working of various departments of the corporation. There are various standing committees in the corporation, elected by the council, to carry on the administrative work including taxation, finance, health Indian Polity and Governance?113 and sanitation, water and electricity supply. The municipal commissioner, as the chief executive officer of the corporation, is appointed by the state government who, supervises the administration.

The corporation’s functions are such as public health, education, construction and maintenance of waterworks, and sewerage, streets and bridges, parks, recreation grounds, markets, etc. Corporations have the power to impose taxes tax, tax on buildings, education cess, tax on profession and the like. Municipalities are set up in smaller towns through the Acts of the state government. Their organizational structures vary from state to state. They differ from corporations because they are established in smaller areas and for smaller population and they have lesser sources of revenues. The municipalities have three authorities: council and its committees, chairman/president of the council and chief executive officer or chief municipal officer. The strength of the municipal councils varies from state to state. The members of the council are elected on the basis of universal adult franchise and for a period fixed by the state laws. The council’s functions include such as: formulation of policy matters, preparation of budgets, imposition taxes, making of rules and regulations, laws and byelaws.

Most of the functions of the municipal council are carried out by the committees. The chairman or the President of the council is the ceremonial head and performs the functions of the presiding officer, though in some states he does the executive and administrative tasks as well. The functions of the municipal officer relate to the conduct and supervision of the administration in the concerned area. The municipalities perform the same functions as those of the corporations. Smaller urban areas such as notified areas, town areas and cantonment boards are bodies where administration is carried on by appointed officials under the supervision and control of the state government.

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