Author: Luv Kumar, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Christ(Deemed to be University) Bangalore-Central Campus
INTRODUCTION AND STATUTORY BACKGROUND
The 74th Amendment Act of 1992 establishes the fundamental framework for delegating powers and authorities to municipal bodies at various levels. The states, however, are responsible for giving it a practical shape. In India, "Urban Local Government" refers to the people's governance of an urban area through their elected representatives. The jurisdiction of an urban local government is limited to a specific urban area demarcated for this purpose by the state government.
Part IX-A of the Indian Constitution was added by the 74th Amendment Act. Articles 243-P to 243-ZG are contained in this section, which is titled 'The Municipalities.' The act also added a new Twelfth Schedule to the Constitution. This schedule contains 18 municipal operational items. Municipalities are now subject to the jurisdiction of the Constitution's justiciable section as a result of the Act. In other words, the Constitution requires state governments to implement the new municipal system in accordance with the act's provisions [Article 243 Q]. The goal of the act is to revitalize and strengthen municipal governments so that they can function effectively as local government units.
The government of Rajiv Gandhi introduced the 65th Constitutional Amendment Bill (Nagarpalika bill) in the Lok Sabha in 1989. By granting municipal governments constitutional status, the bill aimed to strengthen and modernize them. Despite being passed in the Lok Sabha, the bill was defeated in the Rajya Sabha and thus lapsed in October 1989. The National Front Government, led by V P Singh, reintroduced the revised Nagarpalika Bill in the Lok Sabha in September 1990. The bill, however, was not passed and lapsed as a result of the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. The modified Municipalities Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by P V Narasimha Rao's government in September 1991. It was eventually enacted as the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992[i]and went into effect on June 1, 1993.
Towns and cities contribute significantly to the nation's economic growth.
These urban centers also significantly contribute to the growth of the rural hinterland.
People and their representatives must be fully involved in the planning and implementation of local programmes in order to keep this economic change in line with local requirements and realities.
If democracy is to remain strong and stable in the Parliament and State Legislatures, its roots must extend into the towns, villages, and cities where people live.[ii]
The Nagarpalika institutions across the nation now have a consistent structure owing to the 74th Amendment Act. All segments of society are adequately represented due to the provisions for reserves for women, SC, ST, and BC (in some states). Nevertheless, there have also been gaps on a number of fronts, notwithstanding the gains. In order to carry out the tasks that have been given to them; it has been discovered that Nagarpalikas have little autonomy. Additionally, a lot of governments have not delegated the majority of the responsibilities to the local authorities, rendering the exercise of choosing such a large number of members rather symbolic. They are also criticized for the fact that the establishment of local authorities has had little impact on how decisions are made at the federal and state levels. As a result, effective decentralization has been little. Additionally,Nagarpalika’s ability to function successfully has been hampered by their financial reliance on the State and Federal Governments. Local residents still do not have much influence over how resources are allocated or on what social programmes will be offered.
The inability of States to carry out the 74th Amendment's requirements has been extensively discussed in literature. Examining issues with the fundamental structure of urban local governments as well as the political forces obstructing the implementation of this Amendment are nevertheless critical. The "implementation failure" narrative frequently emphasizes how local governments face financial constraints and lack the administrative capacity to effectively carry out their duties. Examining the deliberate depoliticization and powerlessness of urban local governments as an institution is also crucial.
Disempowerment and depoliticization have taken place in a variety of ways. First, by attempting to make city-level elected officials deferential to the State government, they lose all authority. Most municipal corporations have a commissioner appointed by the State government as their executive head, with the mayor serving only as a ceremonial head. The State governments have taken advantage of this gap in municipal governance to assure that almost no city-level politician challenges their authority over a city.
The continuing existence of numerous parastatal agencies established by the State government further denies municipal corporations their right to participate in politics. Urban development agencies (which construct infrastructure) and public corporations could be examples of these (which provide services such as water, electricity and transportation). These organizations, which have some autonomy, answer solely to the State government and not the local government. Even urban land-use and planning regulation, which is typically a hallmark of local government, are under the control of development authorities under the State government.
It is concerning that local government has become even more apolitical in recent years, even though parastatal institutions and commissioners who are not elected are pre-74th Amendment legacies that have not been undone.[iii] Programs run by the federal government, such the Smart Cities Mission, aim to separate programmes from that run by local governments. According to this programme, special purpose vehicles (SPs) for smart cities must be developed. These SPs must have "operational independence and autonomy in decision making and mission implementation." Furthermore, it "encourages" the State government to give the Chief Executive Officer of the SPV "the decision-making powers afforded to the ULB (urban local body) under the Municipal Act/Government Rules."
The development of alternative institutions that weaken the elected local government demonstrates how higher governmental echelons mistrust local politics and deftly maintain power in a city. The local government needs approval from the State government even to carry out tasks that are under its purview (such collecting local taxes or starting civic projects that cost more than a particular amount). Therefore, in the federal structure of India, municipalities are not yet autonomous enough to be considered the "third tier" of governance. India still only has the Union and State governments, even after the 73rd and 74th Amendments.[iv]
The 74th Amendment contains some built-in restrictions, but it has emerged as a guiding principle for civic activity in many communities. The State government is exempt from many of its most important laws. Essential civic concerns like urban transit, housing, and urban commons are not included in the functions mentioned under the 12th Schedule, which a state government is supposed to cede to the local government. The 74th Amendment also includes an exception for industrial townships, which exempts territories designated as such from the requirement to form a municipality. State administrations have used these restrictions to maintain the fragility of municipal governments.
The development of ward committees and metropolitan planning committees, two organizations required by the 74th Amendment, has frequently been the focus of civic engagement. However, relying too heavily on such imperfectly representative entities does not bode well for the development of a reallydemocratic municipal administration. In fact, local governments may become even more depoliticized and subservient to the demands of some elite resident welfare associations as a result of civil society's obsession with electing its members to ward committees. We must accept that municipal governments are essentially political arenas where various interests struggle, rather than harbouring mistrust for them.
We must re-evaluate the forms of organizing power that are now in use in urban India as cities struggle to meet the basic demands of their populations. Urban areas only have one municipal body, as opposed to rural regions having three levels of panchayats (village, taluk, and district levels) as provided by the 73rd Amendment (whether it is a municipal corporation, municipal council or town panchayat). However, given the exponential growth of Indian cities over the past 25 years—some of which have populations that surpass 10 million—we need to reconsider the current paradigm of urban governance, which concentrates authority in a single municipality. Urban governance changes can take many different forms, but they must be prioritized within the context of local governments' political empowerment and increased democratic accountability on the local level.
Though, the 74th Amendment's noble goal of promoting decentralization in metropolitan areas was not achieved. It would not be incorrect to state that the 74th Amendment needs to be reviewed immediately given the flaws that currently exist.
[i]https://www.insightsonindia.com/polity/functions-and-responsibilities-of-the-union-and-the-states-issues-and-challenges-pertaining-to-the-federal-structure-devolution-of-powers-and-finances-up-to-local-levels-and-challenges-therein/devolution-of-powers-and-finances-up-to-local-levels-and-challenges-therein/74th-amendment-act-municipalities/salient-features-of-74th-amendment-act/ [ii]https://ccs.in/internship_papers/2004/2.%2074th%20Amendment_Areeba.pdf [iii]http://drtktopecollege.in/pol/sites/default/files/university%20question%20papers/Making%20of%20the%20Indian%20Constitution%20-%20Analysis%20Odisha%20Govt%20site.pdf [iv]https://mohua.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/74th_CAA13.pdf