Kolkata Municipal Corporation: A Complete Look Back

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Kolkata Corporation vote is knocking at the door. The last election was held in 2010, when TMC won the  KMC board and Sovan Chattopadhyay got the chair of Mayor. In the mean time 5 years have passed and another vote is due. Already candidates in the different wards have started with their campaigning. People of kolkata will cast their vote on 18 April and they have to wait till 28 April to know the result. Ahead of the KMC polls,we can look back and watch the evolution of Kolkata Municipality:

History
Abul Fazl, Prime Minister of Akbar mentioned Kolkata in the Ain-E-Akbari, an encyclopaedic work compiled by him.  This area was a Khas Mahal or imperial jagir. The zamindari rights of Kolkata and the adjoining lands from Barisha to Halisahar were conferred upon the Savarna Ray Chowdhuri family of Barisha by Emperor Janhangir. Later the Savarna Ray Chowdhuri family was persuaded by Prince Azim-us-Shan, grandson of Aurangzeb to transfer the zamindari rights of the three villages of Sutanati, Kolkatta and Gobindapur to the East India Company for Rs. 1300/- on November 8, 1698.

On the otherhand, the first Corporation was set up on 4th September, 1726  by a royal charted. It was consisting of a Mayor and 9 Aldermen. Somehow, they were mainly concerned with discharging judicial functions as Mayor’s Court. The administration continued to be in the hands of the Zamindar, assisted by a deputy known as black zamindar.

Another royal charter in 1763 redefined the powers and responsibilities of the civic body, marginally to cope with additional demands made on it. Expansion of the lighting and conservancy services, laying of roads and drains and excavation of tanks for supply of drinking water were the direct outcome of the growth the city. Clearance of the Maidan, construction of Fort William in the present site and the spread of European quarters at Chowringhee were the significant developments between 1757 and 1800.

Since 1793, it had been the practice to raise money for town development by means of lotteries. As long as the Town Improvement Committee existed, parts of these funds were channelised for their activities. In 1817 the Lottery Committee was formed. That time Town Hall, the Beliaghata Canal and a large number of roads were constructed.

In 1863 the Municipal Government was vested in a body composed of all the Justices of Peace for Kolkata together with all the Justices for the province who happened to be resident in the town. This body elected its own Vice-Chairman and had a regular Health Officer, Engineer, Surveyor, Tax Collector and Assessor. A water rate was imposed and the house tax was raised to a maximum of ten per cent. Apart from developing the water supply and drainage system, in this period New Market (1874) and Municipal Slaughter Houses (1866) were consrtucted

With the passing of the Calcutta Municipal Consolidation Act, 1876, a Corporation was created consisting of 72 Commissioners with a Chairman and Vice-Chairman; 48 Commissioners were elected by the rate-payers and 24 appointed by the Government. In 1888 the Municipal boundaries were extended by the inclusion of suburbs lying east and south of Lower Circular Road. Seven wards were brought within the fold and additions were made to three other wards in the north of the town. The number of Municipal Commissioners was raised to 75, of whom 50 were elected, 15 appointed by the Government and the other 10 nominated by the Chambers of Commerce, the Trades Association and the Port Commissioners.

A new era of democracy came in kolkata as the Municipal Government  by making provision for election of a Mayor annually, by Sir Surendranath Banerjee, who as the first Minister of Local Self-Government in Bengal was the architect of Calcutta Municipal Act of 1923. A major reform was the enfranchisement of women. The adjacent municipalities of Cossipore, Manicktola, Chitpore and Garden Reach were amalgamated with Kolkata. Garden Reach was later separated. C. R. Das was the first elected Mayor and Subhas Chandra Bose his Chief Executive Officer. The city was ruled under the Act till March 1948 when the State Government superseded the Corporation.

After independence, a new chapter was opened on 1st May, 1952 when the Calcutta Municipal Act, 1951 came into force. The Corporation was envisaged as a policy-making, directive and rule-making body, the executive side being left as much as possible in the hands of the Commissioner. 76 Councillors were returned from the General territorial constituencies. The Chairman of the Kolkata Improvement Trust was made an ex-officio Councillor. In 1962 adult franchise was introduced in the municipal elections. The number of wards later increased from 75 to 100. Tollygunge was merged with effect from 1st April, 1953. The 1951 Act provided for an elected Mayor, a deputy Mayor and 5 Aldermen elected by the Councilors. The three Co-ordinate Authorities were

(i) the Corporation

(ii) the Standing Committees; and

(iii) the Commissioner. Such system continues till 1972. The Corporation was superseded by the State Government in 1972.
During the long interlude of 13 years of rule by Administrators, lot of thought went into devising a model legislation suited to the genius of city government. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act of 1980, which came into effect in January, 1984 marked a bold departure from the beaten track in shaping a Corporation that is truly autonomous and directly responsible to the electorate. In combined features of a “Strong Mayoral” concept with a cabinet form of Government in the Mayor-in-Council.

Apart from the provision of full-time political executive, the Act created three authorities in keeping with the widely accepted democratic norms (i) the Corporation, (ii) the Mayor-in-Council and (iii) the Mayor.With the amalgamation of erstwhile Municipalities of Jadavpur, South Suburban and Garden Reach, the strength of the elected Councillors was fixed at 141. From time to time the Act has been amended as per requirements for the betterment of the rate-payers. Now with added area number of councillors as well as ward increased to 144.

Mayor and evoution in voting system
Initially, there was no booth, ballot paper or EVM. with the help of pallanque or fiton voters came in the voting hall where candiates were also present. Police conducted the whole voting process there. One by one Police called the voters’ name and asked them whom to cast . They answered by raised their finger to indicate the right candidate. In the first phase only owners of the land or house were eligible to cast vote.

Even women were  not allowed to cast their vote in municipal election. Later all adults dwelling in the city got the right to cast their vote in KMC election. In the period of 1924 to 2015  there are 37 mayors.Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was the first mayor and Jatindra Mohan Sengupta, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy also became mayor in the later year. During 1948-52 and1972-85 in both phases there were no mayors in the seat. Upto 1972 there was mayor election in every year and since 1985 kmc election is held  in after 5 years. Shymsundar Gupta was the last mayor in old system and Kamal Basu was the first mayor in the new sytem. But there is no lady in the KMC mayor chair till today.

 Date of Election                 Name
 
(Under the Calcutta Municipal Act, 1923 – Bengal Act III of 1923)

16/04/1924     Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das
01/04/1925     Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das
17/07/1925     Deshapriya Jatindra Mohan Sengupta
01/04/1926     Deshapriya Jatindra Mohan Sengupta
27/04/1927     Deshapriya Jatindra Mohan Sengupta
02/04/1928     Sri Bijoy Kumar Basu
10/04/1929     Deshapriya Jatindra Mohan Sengupta
29/04/1930     Deshapriya Jatindra Mohan Sengupta
22/08/1930     Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
15/04/1931     Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy
11/04/1932     Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy
09/04/1933     Sri Santosh Kumar Basu
04/07/1934     Sri Nalini Ranjan Sarkar
30/04/1935     Sri Abul Kasem Fazlul Haque
29/04/1936     Sir Harisankar Paul
28/041937     Sri Sanat K.Roy Chowdhury
29/04/1938     Sri A.K.M. Zakariah
26/04/1939     Sri Nisith Chandra Sen
24/04/1940     Sri Abdur Rahman Siddiqi
28/04/1941     Sri Phanindra Nath Brahma
29/04/1942     Sri Hem Chandra Naskar
30/04/1943     Sri Syed Badrudduja
26/04/1944     Sri Anandi Lal Poddar
27/04/1945     Sri Debendra Nath Mukherjee
29/04/1946     Sri Syed Mohammed Usman
29/04/1947     Sri Sudhir Chandra Ray Chaudhuri

(Under the Calcutta Municipal Act, West Bengal Act XXXIII of 1951)

01/05/1952     Sri Nirmal Chandra Chunder
06/03/1953     Sri Naresh Nath Mookherjee
02/04/1953     Sri Naresh Nath Mookherjee
28/04/1954     Sri Naresh Nath Mookherjee
25/04/1955     Sri Satish Chandra Ghosh
23/04/1956     Sri Satish Chandra Ghosh
29/04/1957     Dr. Triguna Sen
18/04/1958     Dr. Triguna Sen
08/04/1959     Sri Bejoy Kumar Banerjee
08/06/1960     Sri Keshab Chandra Basu
28/04/1961     Sri Rajendranath Majumdar
18/04/1962     Sri Rajendranath Majumdar
08/04/1963     Sri Chittaranjan Chatterjee
17/04/1964     Sri Chittaranjan Chatterjee
26/04/1965     Dr. Priti Kumar Roy Chowdhury
25/04/1966     Dr. Priti Kumar Roy Chowdhury
24/04/1967     Sri Gobinda Chandra Dey
19/04/1968     Sri Gobinda Chandra Dey
13/06/1969     Sri Prasanta Kumar Sur
24/04/1970     Sri Prasanta Kumar Sur
23/04/1971     Sri Shyam Sundar Gupta

(Under the Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act, 1980 West Bengal Act LIX of 1980)

30/07/1985     Sri Kamal Kumar Basu
30/07/1990     Sri Prasanta Chatterjee
15/07/1995     Sri Prasanta Chatterjee
12/07/2000     Sri Subrata Mookherjee
05/07/2005     Sri Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya
16/06/2010     Sri Sovan Chatterjee

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