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Rural vs Urban Governance

  • Categories
    Governance: Doing the rights things in the right way
  • Published
    20th Mar, 2023


In our day-to-day life we require basic facilities such as water supply, drainage, garbage disposal, public health and sanitation. We must have watched such activities as installation or repairing of street lights, construction or repairing of roads or say renovation of a village tank is done by a specific group of people. It is the local government who do all these works for the people.

As local level democratic government, the municipal institutions are structure of Government that are elected by the local people which raise taxes and collect fees and fines from the public. They regulate city life by laying down regulations regarding buildings, road network and garbage disposal. There are many developmental activities undertaken by them like women and child development, slums improvement etc. Municipal government has made possible participative urban development and local management of civic facilities.

But this governance model differs for Urban and rural areas, as requirements, management and resources required are all different. So let us see the journey of the emergence of such a system of administration with slightly including the difference between both of them.

What does the governance means?

  • In modern times, the term ‘governance’ connotes the process by which an organisation, especially a government, formulates its policies, enacts appropriate laws, implements the related programs, evaluates and modifies them when necessary, changes the laws and programmes if needed and becomes accountable to the stakeholders/citizens and gets their mandate to govern.
  • At a broader level, governance refers to ‘all processes of governing, whether undertaken by a government, market or network, whether over a family, tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through laws, norms, power or language’.
  • It relates to ‘the processes of interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in a collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions’.
  • Thus, the term governance can be used for all organisations, formal or informal, and not just restricted to the government.
  • Though governance is applicable to any institution or body, corporate, non-governmental organisations, among others, the worldwide interest began to focus on the governance by the government or what was called the ‘statist’ view.
  • In India, it refers to the processes of the all the three tiers of government constitutionally set up: the Central government, the various state governments and the local bodies, viz., the Panchayats in the rural areas and the nagar palikas in the urban areas.

Reforms introduced by 74th Amendment Act: (local Self-governance model)

  • The recommendations and suggestions of several commissions and committees appointed by the Central Government, from time to time, to improve the urban bodies resulted in the enactment of the Constitution (Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act, 1992.
  • Earlier, State Governments were free to manage their local bodies as they wished. The Amendment made statutory provisions for the establishment, empowerment and functioning of urban local self-governing institutions.
  • The main provisions of this Act can be grouped under two categories–‘compulsory’ and ‘voluntary’.
  • Some of the compulsory provisions which are binding on all States are:
  • Constitution of nagar Panchayats, municipal councils and municipal corporations in small, big and very big urban areas respectively;
  • Reservation of seats in urban local bodies for Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes roughly in proportion to their population;
  • Reservation of seats for women up to one-third seats;
  • The State Election Commission, constituted in order to conduct elections in the Panchayati raj bodies (see 73rd Amendment) will also conduct elections to the urban local self- governing bodies;
  • The State Finance Commission, constituted to deal with financial affairs of the Panchayati raj bodies also looks into the financial affairs of the local urban self-governing bodies;
  • Tenure of urban local self-governing bodies is fixed at five years and in case of earlier dissolution fresh elections are held within six months.

Major difference between Rural and Urban governance:



  • Urban areas usually refer to cities, suburbs and towns. 
  • Rural areas usually refer to villages
  • Urban areas have more development in terms of access to infrastructure and connectivity like airports, ports, railways, housing, roads etc.
  • Rural areas usually don’t have much development in terms of infrastructure. 
  • Land in urban areas is used for development activities. There is usually not much land available which has not been used for developmental activities.
  • Rural areas usually have a lot of vacant lands without much development.

Urban areas are densely populated

  • Rural areas are sparsely populated
  • As of 2018, approximately 34% of India’s population lives in urban areas.
  • More than 65% of India’s population lives in rural areas as per 2018 figures
  • From 2008 to 2018 there has been a steady decline in the percentage of the population living in rural areas of India, due to migration.
  • Although the total population living in urban areas is much less compared to Rural areas, the population density is very high in urban areas
  • The population density is less in rural areas compared to urban areas.
  • Urban areas have a scarcity of land
  • Rural areas do not have land scarcity.
  • There is very high pollution in urban areas due to high population density, vehicles and industries.
  • There is not much pollution in rural areas compared to urban areas, due to lesser vehicles, lower population density and lesser industries
  • There is not much greenery in urban areas of India, since most of the land is occupied by buildings and roads
  • There is more greenery in rural areas of India
  • Jobs are concentrated in the services industry, manufacturing industry, trade and commerce
  • Jobs are concentrated in agricultural activities.
  • In urban areas, the problem of social barriers is minimal, there are equal opportunities for jobs, education etc. 
  • In rural areas of India, there is always a lot of difference in social status in rural areas due to gender, religion, caste, culture etc. 

Issues with the Governance model in India:

  • The major problems are in policy and programme implementations in the country.
  • In the implementation of programmes, there are large gaps on time lines in implementation, differentials in quality, areas and effectiveness and efficiency.
  • The dimension of identifying the various critical ‘gaps’ in programme implementation should be a major dimension of governance.
  • Any index of governance within a country at the national level or sub-national levels should take into account the existing political system as given and develop the indicators to be useful within the given system.
  • Viewed from this angle the indicators of ‘voice and accountability’ should take a secondary place in the development of the governance index than effectiveness of programme implementation.
  • The role of the governments at the Central and state levels is crucial in many of the governance indicators related to development in India.
  • The governance indicators in the West, especially the United States, were more directed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the market system.
  • India is yet to come to this stage of development.
  • We should focus more on the governance indicators that will contribute to strengthening of the government system and development.
  • The governance indicators should serve a dual purpose:
  • First, they should measure the level of governance quantitatively in the desired dimension specified as stated above taking into political system and developmental aspirations of the people.
  • Second, it should help to monitor the improvements in governance over time.

Way forward:

  • India needs to work on achieving the goals set by United Nations under SDG-11 (Sustainable Cities) to be achieved by 2030.
  • Need for Comprehensive National urban plan for effective and timely implementation of policies and schemes
  • Ensure access for all through adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums, transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport.
  • Give special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women and children, persons with disabilities and older persons.
  • Reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.
  • Provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces.
  • Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning
  • Substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.


Cities and Villages are living ecosystems. They need to be managed accordingly. Rather than going by populist measures or sticking to the original master plans, local solutions to local problems, innovative, in situ and tailor-made solutions should be evolved, adapted and adhered to. Authorities need to be willing to learn, evolve and discard if necessary. The flawed perception of Engines of Growth are tied to big cities must be shed. Secondary cities and the rural areas should be developed to reduce the lopsided spatial development currently happening in India.

Verifying, please be patient.

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