In late 17th Century, an Englishman called Job Charnock stopped at three sleepy hamlets of Gobindapur, Sutanuti and Kalikata.Job Charnock did not relish returning to Hooghly where their "factory" had been ransacked by the Nawab’s armies. He looked favourably at these villages where local trade already flourished. And history began.
At first a smattering of mud huts,the settlement soon began to see the building of pucca houses. When the British leased the villages from the Sabarna Raychoudhuris for Rs 1300 a year, the settlement built an unostentatious fort for protection. After the turmoil of court intrigues and the usurpation of power, Calcutta began to grow and thrive. But the records of the time describes it as a "pestilential city."No lighting.Unmetalled roads. Untreated water. Open drains. High Mortality rate. Yet the city attracted many.
In the early years,there was no civic or municipal authority in Calcutta.A Mayor's Court with judicial functions was established in 1726 by a Royal Charter. It undertook some civic work in order to attract dwellers to the city. On 12th August 1765 the East India Company was granted the Diwani of Bengal. This bestowed judicial and revenue-collecting functions upon it, and also implied a moral obligation to provide civic services. The demand for municipal services grew after 1773, when Calcutta was elevated as the capital of British India.Consequently, a sketchy conservancy system and a tiny police force were established.The city's governance was put in the hands of the Collector.In 1794, municipal administration was shifted from the Collector to the Justices of the Peace for the Town.It comprised of the Governor General, the members of his Council and the Judges of the Supreme Court. The Justices met the expenditure for conservancy and policing from a tax on houses and licence fees for the sale of liquor. The amount of house taxes realised in 1819 was a little over Rs 2.5 lakh.
In the early part of the 19th Century the Governor-Generals tried to raise funds for improvements in the City by running Lotteries. These Lotteries funded new roads, improved old roads,dug tanks,and built a Town Hall.
From the middle of the 19th Century attempts and experiments began to be made to establish a Municipal Corporation for Calcutta. It was felt that the city had grown and needed proper and specialised management to deal with its problems.Besides, now the "second city of the Empire" needed to have improved infrastructure,and systems to enable it to solve its own problems.
In 1847 the electoral system was introduced for the first time and the Justices were replaced by a Board of 7 paid members, four of whom were elected by the rate payers. The Board was authorised to purchase and hold property for improvement of the town, and to maintain roads and drains in proper state. In 1852, this Board was replaced by a new one of four members, of whom two were appointed by the Government and two were elected. Taxes were levied on housing, lighting, horses and vehicular traffic.
In 1863 a new body was formed which elected its own Vice Chairman, and had a regular Health Officer, Engineer, Surveyor, Tax Collector and Assessor. It was during this time that the drainage and water supply were largely developed. The New Market was established in 1874, and the Municipal Slaughter House in1866. Footpaths were made along with the main roads, and many other improvements carried out. The house tax was raised to a maximum of ten percent. In 1876 a new Corporation was created with 72 Commissioners. 48 of the Commissioners were elected by ratepayers and 24 appointed by the Government. At this time the two railway terminals at Howrah and Sealdah were connected by Harrison Road. Changes continued in 1888 and 1899. The most important changes were instituted by the Act of 1923, sponsored by Rashtraguru Surendranath Bannerjee as the first Minister for Local Self-Government in Bengal.