India is a federal republic composed of 29 States and 7 Territories. Every State has a legislation based on one or two congresses, elected by the direct or indirect universal suffrage. At the executive level, the President appoints the State Governor; every Governor then appoints the Ministers and chooses one of them to be the Chief Minister. The federal governments manage certain skills as the security and the health sector, as well as the taxes collection such as the property tax.
Territories are directly administrated by the central government, which selects a General Administrator. Five of the seven Territories operate according to this principle. The Territories of Delhi and Pondicherry differ from this: the government, as the assembly, is elected by the direct universal suffrage. These two Territories are under the jurisdiction of the Indian law, but their legislation differs from it on certain aspects.
The former French trade posts are integrated to the Indian Union through a political Territory. The Territory of Pondicherry so gathers the four districts formerly under the French administration: Pondicherry, Karikal in the South, Mahé isolated in Kerala and Yanaon isolated in Andhra Pradesh. These cities were important for the trade of the French East India Company but are now insignificant in modern India. The Territory of Pondicherry is renamed "Puducherry" in 2006, finding its original Tamil name which means "new town".
To symbolize the specific case of the Pondicherry legislation, the sale of alcohol is the most regularly quoted element – and the most easily observable in streets. The sale of spirits is less strict than in other Indian States, taxes are less heavy on products, prices are thus lower and stores more numerous; in turn the police roadblocks are more important at the entrances of the Territory. Alcohols sold on the Territory of Pondicherry can't bring out because of the different legislation of the nearby States.
Four districts compose the Territory of Pondicherry:
- Pondicherry (950 000 inhabitants)
- Karikal (200 000 inhabitants)
- Yanaon (55 000 inhabitants)
- Mahé (40 000 inhabitants)
The district of Pondicherry is geographically very split, because it gathers all the lands that were under the French administration during the colonization.
The four districts are subdivided into eight taluks, an Indian political entity based on a municipality or a rural area. Every municipality or rural area can include one or several localities, these lasts divided into neighbourhoods. Let us summarize this territorial meshing as follow:
- The Territory of Pondicherry
- The four districts
- The eight taluks (= municipalities)
- The localities
- The neighbourhoods
Let us take an example to comprehend more easily these administrative strata. The French area (or "white town") is a part of the city center of the Pondicherry locality, administrated by the municipality (= the taluk) of Pondicherry. The taluks of Pondicherry, Bahour, Ozhukarai and Villianur forms the district of Pondicherry, which thus represents one of the four districts of the Union Territory.
A mayor manages every municipality of the Territory of Pondicherry with a City Council, both elected by the direct universal suffrage. Their mandate lasts 6 years (as in the French legislation) and half of the City Council is renewed every three years.
The municipality of Pondicherry houses approximately 250 000 inhabitants according to the last 2011 census, what makes it the second city in demographical terms of the Union Territory after Oulgaret. The initial city hall collapsed in 2014 after torrential rains. It was a building of colonial architecture with a view on Goubert Avenue and the Bay of Bengal. Badly preserved, it didn't resist to time and climatic conditions. The municipal administration was temporarily transferred to another public building in front of the railroad station, during the renovation period of the city hall.
The economy remains largely based on the cotton culture and its transformation, and the harbour of Pondicherry always serves as a way out for these products. This economic and commercial dynamic is a historical characteristic of Pondicherry. After trade, rice agriculture and fishery represent the second sector of employment. As in modern India, the public and private investments increase each year in the technological sectors (information and communication technologies, software, automobile production, etc.). Finally the tourism is a key sector in the economic diversity of Pondicherry. The majority of tourists are French, even if other nationalities as Britons and Germans are increasingly present.
The political weight of Pondicherry was always hegemonic over the other French trade posts in India. During the colonization the city represented the epicentre of the French power: Karikal and Yanaon were economic dependences in charge of sending their products towards the market and the harbour of Pondicherry; the commercial activity of Mahé was incomparable with the political center.
This historical hegemony results logically today on the political organization of the Union Territory. All the political administrations are centralized on the Pondicherry municipality: the legislative assembly, the governor palace and the central government. At the educational level, the main universities, the institutes and the engineering schools are also situated on the Pondicherry district.
Proof of this supremacy, the French Consul General in Pondicherry Mr. Philippe Janvier-Kamiyama went to Mahé when he was appointed to the office in September 2013. Mahé hadn't been visited by its reference Consul for almost ten years.
We just evoked the Consul General in Pondicherry; let us replace it in the more general context of the French consulate. This one represents the French diplomacy in the Territory of Pondicherry, the Tamil Nadu and Kerala States, as well as the Laccadive and Andaman islands. Its role is essential in the life of French expatriates and tourists in these Indian territories. The Consulate registers their presence and pay attention to their safety. It's an antenna of the French Republic on a foreign territory.
The French political presence in South India is symbolic above all. This symbol is mainly stood by the cultural diplomacy: the fame of the French Institute of Pondicherry (FIP) in Indian studies is significant; the international network of French Alliance possesses an office in the French area and participates to the local cultural life.
Accordingly to its history and its architecture, the political organization of Pondicherry is at the junction of Indian and French influences. The old French trade posts are concentrated within the same Union Territory. We find the administrative characteristics and territorial meshing of Indian political organization (Territory – districts – taluks) with French legislative influences (mandate terms, direct universal suffrage, presence of Consul General). The political weight of Pondicherry is hegemonic over the three other districts: this phenomenon is highlighted by the central government's choice to develop a Smart City on this territory (Oulgaret taluk) while this district already houses all the political symbols.