shg_successstory1The Panchayat have to past formed an integral part of Village Administration in out Country In South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the Panchayats had theit toots in the past and as evident from the historical recoids, Inscriptions and monuments, they played a vital role in the integration and development ot village life.

Local Self Government in the Ancient Period: The present Kanniyakumari district had boon under the sceptres of the Ayis, the Pandyas, the Cholas, the Nayaks and the Venad rulers. The monarchy was replaced in the district by democracy, after Independence.

There are inscriptional evidences to say that there were village Sabhas during the Ayi‘s rule in the district. The functions of the sabhas were mostly restricted to temple administration.

There are also references in Palliam Copper plates and the Parthivapuram plates, about a sabha at Munchirai, (Vilavankodu taluk) which exercised judicial powers under the supervision of the Crown,

Huzur office plates refer to the purchase of certain land from the Sabha of Munchirai by an Ayi king, Karunandatakkan, to build a temple for Lord Vishnu, at Parthivapuram.

The Sangam Literature mentions about Manram and Podhiyil and according to K.A.N. Sastri they refer to the Village Assemblies existed then.1

The ‘Maha sabhas’ were the Village Assemblies existed in the Brahmadeya villages. In the middle of the 10th Century, Suchindram, a village in the district, an abode of Lord Shiva, was* a Brahmadeya village which had a Maha sabha, K.K.Pillay the author of the Suchindram Temple says that this Mahasabha wielded enormous administrative powers.

There are clear and unmistakable traces of the existence and the active functioning of sabha in villages in Rig Vedic India.The essential duty of the Sabha was to administer justice. It is worth noting that almost every inscription in South India which mentions a Village Assembly also makes reference to a Madyastha of the village, and the administration ot justice formed one of the principal duties of the Assembly. It would thus appear that the Village Assembly of later historical times in South India was, far from being the result of a single line of development, northern or southern, the complex product of the interaction of southern and northern, Tamil and Sanskrit, influences.

Local Self Government under the Cholas: In the history of the Local Self Government of Tamil Nadu, the Chola rule has been engraved on the golden leaves with diamond style. The most striking feature of the Chola period 850 AD to 1173 AD was the functioning of the autonomous rural institutions with vigour and efficiency.3 A highly developed committee system (Variyams) for the administration of local affairs was evolved and the Sabha of Uttiramerur, which revised its constitutional arrangements twice at short intervals in the reign of Parantaka I, is the typical example of a number of similar attempts going on everywhere to evolve improved methods of administration.

This sketch of administration in its detail has had particular reference to the Chola empire, but the conditions elsewhere in South India were generally similar, though the -administrative terms differed in the different kingdoms.4

Raja Reya the Great, brought Nanjilnadu, – the area now Kanniyakumari district, – under the Chola rule and it continued under the Cholas until the rule of Kulotunga I. Hence the distinctive feature of the Chola Administration, the autonomous villages, prevailed there also.

The method of election for the local self governing bodies under the Cholas was known as ‘Kudavolai Murai’ or pot ticket system. According to this system, the names of the contesting candidates would be written on palmyra leaves, put in a pot, shuffled and a child would be asked to take out as many leaves as the total number of candidates needed to be elected. The candidates, whose names were written on the leaves taken out by the child, would be declared elected.

The members thus elected would constitute themselves into various ‘variams’ or committees such as Eri Variam or Lake Committee. Thottavariam or Garden-Committee, Pon Variam or Golden Committee etc. and those members would discharge thoir respective function. The duration of the membership was one year. A big banyan tree in the village or the village Mandaba served as the office.

The account books of the Panchayats were maintained by an officer designated as ‘Karanathan*. This post was filled with meticulous care. The persons chosen for this job were of sterling character. They presented the accounts in the Panchayat meetings. If the members doubted the genuineness of the account, the ‘Karanathan’ had to read out the account holding a hot iron bar and it was the belief that there would be blisters in his hands, if he muddled with the accounts. Thus, the Panchayats in ancient days proved efficient units of village administration, attending to all the civic amenities of the villages and also administered justice impartially.

After the Chola’s rule, the Pandyas of the Second Empire, and after them the Nayaks ruled this part of Tamil Nadu. During this period also, the local self governing institutions were encouraged and allowed to exist, though there were slight changes in the mode of election, duration of office, designation of the officers, etc.

After the Nayak’s rule, the area of the present district of Kanniyakumari, then known as Nanjil Nadu and Edanadu went into the folds of the Venad rulers and continued under their rule up to 1st September 1949, – when the erstwhile Travancore State was merged with the Indian Union.

About the Local Self governing institutions in Nanjil Nadu during the earlier period of Venad Kings, K.K. Pillay writes as follows:-

“In Nanjil Nadu and Venad, during the 12th and 13th centuries, as indeed for long time later, the local assemblies and temple sabhas were virile institutions; and the day-to-day affairs were managed by them. The Inscriptions at Vellayini of 1196 A.D., another at Trivandrum of 1209 A.D., and yet another at Manalikkara of 1235 A.D., all indicate that the local affairs were under the purview of the assemblies.”

Prof. P. Sundaram Pillay is of the opinion, that these sabhas (or village assemblies) were not mere occasional assemblies of the inhabitants of Nanjilnadu and they were permanent and well constituted public bodies that acted as buffers between the people and the Government.

Keralotpatti a Malayalam literature mentions about three types of Assemblies (i.e.) Tarakuttam, Nattukuttam and Perumfcutiam, flourished in Kerala from time to time for many centuries till recent past.8 Among these, Tarakuttam was a village assembly, Nattukuttam was the Assembly containing representatives of villages while Peaimkuttam was the National Assembly represented by the whote country

There are ample evidences that in 1703 A.D Nanjilnadu, then a portion of Kerala and now forming part of Kanniyakumari District had such Assemblies and the ‘Nattars’ the members of the Assemblies assembled on various occasions at Vadaseri Asramam (near Nagercoil) and Esanthimangalam and passed resolutions against some of the oppressive Government legislations.

When Madras Presidency was formed as the result of the take over of the administration of British East India Company, the local self governing institutions were not encouraged. But, Nanjilnadu was under the erstwhile Travancore State, where there was monarchy and so. The local self governing Institutions were not discouraged, though not encouraged with fresh measures. In course of time, the British administration began to realise the importance of the Local Self Government and consequently, legislations in this regard made headway.

The History of the Modern Local Self Government in Kanniyakumari district.

Ripon’s Resolutions on Local Self Government: Lord Ripon, who is rightly called the father of Local Self Government in India, passed two Resolutions on Local Self Government, one in 1881 and the other in 1882 in his capacity as the Governor General of India (1880-84). His Resolutions on Local Self Government are great landmarks in the growth of the Local Self Government in the country.

The Resolution in 1881 stated that it had come to initiate measures to develop the idea of local self government. Accordingly, the provincial Governments were directed by the Governor General of India to transfer considerable revenues to the local bodies. The latter were also to be in charge of those matters, which were chiefly concerned with the localities.

The Government of India directed the provincial Governments to take a careful survey of the provincial, local and Municipal Acts. The object of the inquiry was to find out as to what sources of revenue could betransferred from the provincial to the local heads, so that they coyid administered by the Municipal Committees. Secondly, it had to bef0 ^ out as what items could safely be given away to the local bodies ill third object of the inquiry was to devise steps that were, “necessary \ ensure more Local Self Government.”

The provincial Governments conducted the inquiry as the directions of the Governor General and submitted Reports. The Reports were analysed and the offshoot was the passing of the famous Resolution of 1882 by Lord Ripon. In this Resolution of 1882, Lord Ripon evinced real interest and took special pains to make it clear that the expansion of system of Local Self Government would not bring about a change for the better from the point of view of efficiency in Municipal administration. To quote him, “It is not primarily with a view to improvement in administration that this measure is put forward and supported. It is chiefly desirable as an instrument of political and popular education.” The Governor General was of the opinions that when after some time more local knowledge was acquired and more local interest was created, improved efficiency would in fact follow. But there were bound to be initial failures in the new field. If the Government officials encouraged and supported the growth of local bodies, it was hoped that the period of failure would end very soon and substantial progress would be made. The Local Governments were directed by the Resolution to maintain and extend a net work of Local Boards in every district. The area of jurisdiction of every Local Board was to be so small that both local knowledge and local interest on the part of members of the Board could be secured. The number of non-official members were to be large and the official element was not to exceed one third of the whole. Thus, importance was attached to non-official members so that their involvement should be there in administering local boards. Wherever practicable, the Local Government were to introduce the system of election for the members of the Local Boards.

With Tegarct to the provincial Governments control on the Local Boards, it is said that the “true principle” to be observed in this matter was that, “the control should be exercised from without rather than from within”. The Government should “revise and check the acts of local bodies but not dictate them”. The number of the cases, where sanction was required, was to be large at the beginning but the same was to be reduced later on. The Government were to be given authority to set aside altogether the proceedings of the Local Boards or to suspend them temporarily in the case of crisis and continued neglect of duty. The power

of absolute suppression was to be exercised only with the consent of the Government of India. To quote him, “It should be the general function of the executive officers of Government to watch especially at the outset, the proceedings of the Local Boards, to point out to them matters calling for their consideration, to draw their attention to any neglect of duty on their part and to check by official remonstrance any attempt to exceed their proper function or to act illegally or in any arbitrary or unreasonble manner”.

This Resolution and its aftermath in the British administration had its echoes in the Native States also. In Travancore Government, the earliest legislation in this regard was the Regulation II of 1894 which had provisions to constitute Town Improvement Committees. The Committees thus set up were vested with certain powers to improve the conservancy and sanitation of the respective towns.

Accordingly, five such Town Improvement Committees were set up in the State and one was at Nagercoil. The committee consisted of Local officials and non-officials. As per the Regulations, a fund, known as the ‘Town Improvement Committee Fund’ was created. The duties of the Committees were confined to the supervision of the sanitary arrangements alone in the town. Later, the scope was widened and the Committees were entrusted with the maintenance of public wells, public conveniences, street lights, provision of roads, etc. In the years followed, duties such as provision of private scavenging, traffic regulations, provisions of public health, etc., also were assigned to the Town Improvement Committees. The Committees were also authorised to levy and collect certain local taxes such as house tax, vehicle tax, and etc.

In the year 1913, the towns of Colachel and Padmanabhapuram were also provided with Town Improvement Committees. One of the prime functions of these committees was specified as the prevention of epidemics. The Presidents of the committees were vested with powers of inspecting and controlling the manufacture of food materials. The supervision of the cattle pounds also was brought under the control of the committees.

In the year 1914, a Town Improvement Committee was set up in Kuzhithurai, which brought the total number of such committees in the area into four.

In the year 1920, the Municipal Act of Travancore State was passed which marks an important epoch in the history of the Local Self Government of Kanniyakumari district. The Act was drafted on lines with the Madras District Municipalities Act, 1884, the City of Madras Municipality Act, 1884 and the Punjab Municipalities Act, 1891.10 This Act made better provisions for the organisation and administration of Municipal towns. Arrangements were also made for providing better educational, public health and other facilities to the public. The maximum and minimum number of official and non-official members in the Municipal Committees, and the obligatory and discretionary powers of the Committees were defined in the Act. According to the provisions of the Act, maintenance of roads in the Municipal area, street lighting, public health including cleaning of streets, registration of births and deaths, educational activities, public parks and recreation centres, etc. came under the purview of the Municipalities.

As per this Act, four Municipalities (i.e.). Nagercoil, Padmanabhapuram, Kuzhithurai and Colachel were constituted in the area. In other words, the former Town Improvement Committees were reconstituted as Municipalities by the Act. In 1946, the official heads of the Municipalities designated as Commissioners – were appointed.12

Panchayats: Keen interest was also evinced by the then Travancore Government to involve the rural people in Local Self Government. The first piece of Legislation in regard to this was enacted in the year 1935, by passing Travancore Village Panchayat Act.

Thie immediate result of the Act was the formation of two rural panchayats, one at Bhoothapandi, – a taluk headquarters in the present Kanniyakumari district. According to the provisions of the Act, the Government had powers to declare any village or a cluster of villages as a village panchayat, consisting of not less than five and not more than 11 members. The obligatory and discretionary powers of the panchayats were quite identical to that of the Municipalities. The Act laid particular stress on the principle that all the matching grants extended by the Government to a village panchayat, together with the local taxes levied and collected from the people were to be spent by the village panchayat itself for the benefit of the village.13

Further development in the history of the Local Self Government was, the Travancore Village Union Act, 1940. This Act had provisions for the

formation of Village Unions,  a type of Local Self Governing Organisations, slightly less powerful than Village Panchayats. They had the status of the corporate bodies and had perpetual succession and a common seal. They could sue and be sued, in their corporate name. They could also acquire, hold, and transfer property and enter into contract. The term office of a member was fixed for 3 years. A few years after the passing of the Act, these local bodies were brought under the control of the Registrar of Village Unions and Panchayats.1

These Village Unions attended to certain public utility services such as cleaning of streets, constructions, maintenance and improvement of public wells and tanks for the supply of drinking water, opening of burial and burning ghats, control and management of the cattle pounds and other items of local importance.

The first major Legislation after Independence, with regard to the Panchayat was the Travancore-Cochin Panchayat Act, 1950. The first Panchayat election was held in the district on 15 August 1953.15

After Merger : Even after the carving of the Kanniyakumari district out of the territories transferred to the then Madras State from the erstwhile Travancore-Cochin State in 1956, the administrative set up of the Local bodies then in existence, were allowed to continue until 31st March 1962. The Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act 1958 was extended to the Kanniyakumari district with effect from 1 April 1962.1

In the Panchayat Administrative System prevailed prior to the extension of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1958 to Kanniyakumari district, every Panchayat was having a full time Panchayat Officer. But, as per the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act, 1958, only Executive Officers of the Panchayats, in their capacity as Executive Authorities, can implement the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act 1958. But, as per this Act, Town Panchayats alone are manned by Executive Officers. Hence this problem was solved by upgrading all the Panchayats in the district as full fledged Town Panchayats and the Panchayat Officers were redesignated as Executive Officers.

Nine Panchayat Unions (i.e.,) Rajakkamangalam, Agasthiswaram, Munchirai, Melpuram, Wlliyoor, ThaJakulam (later became Kurunthancode), Thuckalai,Thovalai and Tiruvattar, were inaugurated in the district, on 1 April 1962. 17.


Administration: Prior to the year 1965, all local self governing bodies in the State, were functioning under one head of the department. The designation of the head of the department was often changed. Initially, it was Inspector Of Municipal Councils and Local Boards, and it existed till 1962. Inthe post was re-designated as Additional Development Commissioner. Again in 1964, the nomenclature was changed as Joint Development Commissioner. In the year 1965, the administrative set up of local bodies was bifurcated. For municipalities, the controlling officer at the State level was Chief Electoral Officer and for Panchayats, the head of the department was the Director of Rural Development.17^ In the year 1967, the designation of the Head of the Department of Municipalities was changed into Inspector of Municipalities and in 1970, the post was re-designated as Director of Municipal Administration.1

District Level Control: At the district level, the Collector is the supreme authority to control the local bodies. In addition, there are also regional levels Departmental Officers to control them.

Besides the Director at the State level, there are Regional Directors to administer the municipalities. At the regional level, the municipalities in Kanniyakumari district are under the control of the Regional Director of municipalities, Tirunelveli. The municipality is headed by the Commissioner in the official side and the Chairman and his Council in the non-official side. The following diagram shows the organisational set up of a municipality.

Classification of Municipalities: The municipalities in the State have been classified into various grades, taking into account of their annual income and the income limit for the purpose of classification has been prescribed in G.O.Ms.No.400, R.D. &.L.A., dated 23 March 1983. If the annual income of a municipality is above rupees 100 lakh, it can claim to be declared as a special grade municipality. If the annual income crosses rupees 50 lakh, the status of the municipality is classified as selection grade. The first grade municipality should have an annual income of more than rupees 25 lakh. If the annual income of a municipality is more than rupees 10 lakh, it is classified as second grade municipality. Ordinarily, municipalities are constituted from selection grade town panchayats. The municipality thus constituted initially, is classed as third grade municipality.


Functions of the Municipalities: The Municipal Act lays down both obligatory and discretionary duties on municipalities.

Obligatory Functions

  1. Relief during famine and scarcity 2. Maintenance of public roads, streets, lanes, culverts, and causeways 3. Maintenance of reading room

Maintenance of parks and gardens 5. Maintenance of play groundsConduct of exhibition and fairs 7. Cleaning of streets, drains and scavenging 8. Maintenance of hospital and dispensaries 9. Maintenance of endemics 10. Births and deaths registration 11. Maintenance of avenues 12. Maintenance of street lighting 13. Elementary educationWater supply, public service connection 15. Drainage 16. Town planningDiscretionary Functions19

  1. Secondary education, libraries and museums 2. Poor home orphanage 3. Housing 4. Provision of veterinary hospitalsThough imparting elementary education is an obligatory duty of the Municipalities, none of the Municipalities in Kanniyakumari district, maintains educational institutions, as this was looked after by the erstwhile princely State of Travancore, then. After merger of the erstwhile Travancore State with the Indian Union, the educational institutions continued to be managed by the State Government.

Municipal Finance : The municipality derives its income from property tax, entertainment tax, remunerative enterprises such as markets, bus stands and rent of land and buildings, profession tax, vehicle tax, cart tax, animal tax, licence fees for various trades and surcharges.

The origins of each municipality, population, status, income, etc., are discussed below.

Nagercoil Municipality:          Nagercoil headquarters of the district hasbeen a Municipal town since 1920. The municipality was upgraded to selection grade in 1978. Its status was further upgraded as special grade with effect from July 1988. It is the biggest municipality in the district. The jurisdiction of this municipality is spread over an area of 24.27 The population of the municipal town as per the census of 1981, is 1,71,648 and the present (1988) approximate population is 2,00,000. The normal annual income of the municipality is Rs.195 lakhs.

Financial Condition: The annual income of this municipality during 1921-22 (i.e.) the next year of its constitution was Rs.2076 and it rose up to Rs.80, 635 in 1961-62 after 40 years.

A table showing the annual income of this Municipality since 1978-79 is given below

Year Annual Income (in rupees)
1978-79 64,15,024
1979-80 77,48,494
1980-81 80,22,208
1981-82 85,74,723
1982-83 80,55,026
1983-84 94,72,492
1984-85 1,01,78,973
1985-86 1,19,01,714
1986-87 1,54,31,611
1987-88 1,95,00,000


Water supply: The source of protected water supply to this Municipality is the Mukkudal dam situated 15 km. to the north of the town The water pumped out of the dam is treated with chlorine or othe purifiers in the filter house built in Krishnan koil. Drinking water is suppliet on alternate days and the normal supply of water per day is 144 lakh o litres. There are two over head tanks and one booster station here.

Kanniyakumari district. Shandies:

National Highways:    Tim      National Highways wing was created inSeptember 1971. Implementation of National Highways Projects (Centrally Sponsored) and Central Road Fund Schemes is its responsibility. After reorganisation, responsibilities extend to the maintenance work in the Urban links of the National Highways also.

In the district the National Highways Department maintains two roads viz. N.H.7 and N.H.47 totalling 83.2 km. in Kanniyakumari district.16 The total length of N.H.7 Is 7.2 km, which starts from Kanniyakumari at the 224/4 point and ends at Anjugramam (231/6 km. point). The length of N.H. 47 here is 56 km. (i.e.) from Kanniyakumari to Kerala border.

Lorry Agencies:- T.V.S. & Sons Limited.

A.B.T. Parcel Service, Nagercoil. Raghavan Transport, Nagercoil. Oriental Lorry Service, Nagercoil. R. Somanathan & Company. Prince Lorry Serivce, Marthandam. A.R.C. Monday Market, Neyyoor.

Petrol stations are at Kanniyakumari, Nagercoil, Thuckalay, Marthandam, Monday Market and Colachel.

  1. Chief Engineer, NH, Madras, Reports dated 16 March 1978 and

23 September 1978.

  1. Chief Engineer (H&RWs.), Madras, Report dated 22 October 1977.

24 Collector of Kanniyakumari, Reports dated 30 June 1977 and 27 October 1987.

  1. Divisional Manager, Arasu Rubber Corporation Limited,Manalodai,Ponmanai-P.O.

030 Stamps and Registration C. Stamps

1854.6 200.5   238.9   276.1   911.1

230 Stamps Regis­tration

596.8   60.4     626.6   692.6   942.9

104 Other General Eco­nomic Service (a)

Regulation of Busi­ness undertakings Admn. IP.Act

0.2       0.5       0.3.      1          1          07

065 (c) other services

other receipts fees receipts fees realised under spl. marriage Act 1954

_          o.03     –           003      001

065 – other administration other services other receipts 05-fees reali­sed under the Hindu marriage Act.

0.2       0.8       13        1-6       17065 C. AA other Admn. servicesother services other economic ser­vice AE Regulation other Business undertaking


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