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Constitution 74th Amendment Act, 1992
Decentralisation is a backbone for democracy and the Constitution of India recognized it.
The 74th amendment to the Constitution in 1992 provides that each urban area shall have
a municipality and municipalities are categorized into three, a nagar panchayat, for a
transitional area, that is to say, an area in transition from a rural area to an urban area; a
municipal council for a smaller urban area; and a municipal corporation for a larger
urban area. In addition to the municipality, the Constitution also provided, in each
municipality, Wards Committees, consisting of one or more wards within the territorial
area of a municipality having a population of three lakhs or more.
Wards Committee
The subject ‘municipalities’ is a state subject in India. In compliance with the
constitutional mandate, many states have provided the institution of Wards Committees.
The states have interpreted the constitutional provision according to their convenience;
and many states have provided the Wards Committees, not limiting to one, but for a
group of wards. The constitution and composition of Wards Committees in general are
- Wards Committees are constituted in municipalities having population of three
lakhs or more. In some states, they are constituted even if the population is less
than three lakhs. In such cases, certain conditionalities like minimum annual
income of the municipality etc. are imposed.
- Each Wards Committee shall consists of 5 to 10 wards
- The Wards Committee shall consists of the members elected from the wards for
which Wards Committee is constituted
- The Chairperson of the Wards Committee shall be elected by the members from
amongst themselves.
- There would be a Secretary to assist the Wards Committee in its functioning. The
Secretary is an official of the municipality to be identified by Commissioner.
The powers and functions of Wards Committee in general are
- Maintenance of sanitation, solid waste management, water supply and
- Maintenance of roads and street lighting
- Maintenance of markets, parks and playgrounds,
- Maintenance of school buildings, dispensaries and maternity and child welfare
- Review of revenue collections
- Preparation of draft annual budget of its jurisdictions and forward to council for
consideration and incorporation in municipal budget
- Approval of capital and maintenance works to certain limits in some states.
The Wards Committee, no doubt became an administrative decentralized apparatus in the
municipal governance, but devoid of real participation of the people in its functioning.
The principal reason for non participation of people in the governance is due to large size
of the Wards Committee. The aspirations of the common people could not be represented
in the system.
JNNURM – Mandatory reforms
The real people’s participation, ie., community participation can be achieved, if the
decentralisation is at some more lower level, say a ward in the municipal context. The
Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) therefore, among others,
has identified ‘enactment of community participation law to institutionalise citizen’s
participation and introduce the concept of Area Sabha in urban areas’ as a mandatory
reform at the State level. This reform is indeed in consonance with the provisions of
Constitution 74th Amendment. As indicated above, the 74th Constitutional Amendment
provides establishment of Wards Committee consisting of one or a group of wards in a
Community Participation Law
The basic model of Ward Committee would be
- There would a Ward Committee for every ward in the municipality
- The ward member would be the chairperson of the Ward Committee
- The Ward Committee would consists of a few members who are voters in the
ward, and they would be nominated by the municipa
- The members nominated would represent Non Government Organisations,
Community Based Organisations representing the urban poor, resident welfare
associations, professional groups, trade or industrial groups, academicians, social
or cultural groups etc and half of them would be women
- If the population of the municipality is large enough (say one lakh or more) the
ward may be divided into areas, and each area would be represented by Area
Sabha Representative, who is nominated by the municipality.
- The Area Sabha Representative should be a voter in the concerned area of the
ward. The Area Sabha Representatives will also be made members of the Ward
- Each ward will have Ward Sabha and all voters of the ward will participate in
Ward Sabha meetings..
- In case areas are established, each area will have Area Sabha and all voters of
the area will participate in Area Sabha meetings.
- Members of Ward Committee as well as Area Sabha representatives would be
nominated by the municipality and they would neither be elected nor nominated
by government or government agencies.
- This arrangement brings the community, i.e., people at the grass-root to the
system of governance.
Area Sabha/Ward Sabha
During the Area Sabha and Ward Sabha meetings, all voters of the concerned Area and
the ward respectively would participate and show their voice. The objective of the Area
Sabha/Ward Sabha meetings is to ensure people’s participation in municipal governance
and to make the public voice reflected in the decision making process of the
municipality. The Area Sabha and Ward Sabha are not decision making bodies and as
such do not have any powers to exercise. However, they would have certain functions
to perform. The functions may consist the following:
- Generate proposals and determine priority of schemes in the area and forward to
Ward Committee for inclusion in Ward Development Plan
- Identify the eligible beneficiaries under government sponsored welfare schemes
on the basis of already fixed criteria
- Identify deficiencies in the services provided by municipality
- Suggest location of street lights, public taps, public conveniences etc.
- Cooperate with Ward Committee in maintenance of sanitation
- Impart awareness on matters of public interest like literacy, health care,
environmental issues and pollution etc.
The Area Sabha/Ward Sabha should have certain rights also, like getting information
- Of the services rendered or works taken up in the next three or six months from
the officials concerned,
- Of the action taken by the Ward Committee on the proposals sent by it and the
decisions taken thereon
Ward Committee
The Ward Committee should have an office and a Secretary to assist in the functioning of
the Ward Committee. The Secretary is not an independent office. The Ward Committee is
a formal institution and the proceedings of Ward Committee should be recorded formally
and maintained. The Commissioner should provide formal accommodation (office) to
Ward Committee and identify an officer of the municipality to act as Secretary to the
Ward Committee to assist in its functioning. The Secretary assists in convening Ward
Committee meetings; and also Area Sabhas and Ward Sabha meetings. The Ward
Committee should have certain functions to perform. They may include
- Supervision over sanitation, distribution of water supply, working of street lights,
minor repairs to roads, maintenance of markets, parks and play grounds
- Monitoring poverty alleviation programmes
- Monitoring the functioning of schools, maternity centres and dispensaries.
- Facilitate collection of taxes and non taxes
- Preparation of list of beneficiaries under various government welfare schemes
- Preparation of annual Ward Development Plan including financial plan and
forward to municipality for consideration and inclusion in the municipal budget.
- Approving works relating to maintenance of services to a limited financial extent.
The Ward Committee should have certain rights also. They may include
- Seek information from Commissioner on any matter pertaining to the ward
- Seek information on Master Plan and Zonal Development Plan of the
- To be consulted in development of land use and zonal development regulations in
the ward
- To obtain municipal budget
- To obtain details of revenue items relating to ward
The Ward Committee, while making decisions or in its normal functioning should take
into consideration the outcomes during Area Sabha meetings and Ward Sabha meetings,
which are attended by all voters in the Area or Ward respectively. In fact, these Area
Sabha and Ward Sabha are represented by the community, i.e., people at the bottom.
Allocation of Funds
In the present day context, unless certain financial powers are allotted to the Ward
Committee, there would not be any effective decentralization. The municipality may
allocate certain percentage of budget earmarked in the annual budget towards
maintenance of services to all ward committees for performing the functions referred to
Some states have already responded and passed the law and it has to be seen how many
states would respond to the mandate of reforms identified by JNNRUM and really
decentralize the municipal governance to enable community participation.