The urban governance or 'Urban Local Bodies' (ULBs). as they are technically called, in state of West Bengal dates back to early 18th century. As a matter of fact, Kolkata Municipal Corporation (then called Calcutta Municipal Corporation) is one of the oldest municipal bodies of the country, initially Kolkata and other municipalities were created mainly to cater to the socio-political needs of the time.
However, the requirements and aims started to change with time. It is a historical fact that the municipalities in West Bengal were the nerve centers of all kinds of activities, including political, prior to independence. However many gradually lost their relevance during post independence era, especially in sixties and seventies.
Writers Building in British era
During this period hardly few new municipalities were created and all the municipalities were under bureaucratic control without any provision of election. However things started to change from eighties with left front policy of decentralisation.
The policy of Left Front Govt's decentralisation started to give increasing emphasis to these
municipal corporations and other Urban Local Bodies. Actually it has been
a conscious policy decision having its roots in the recommendations of 'Urban Development
Committee' being set
in early eighties.
Subsequently the State Government made real efforts to implement the recommendations as far as possible. For example, in 1976-77, the per capita development grant within core Kolkata was Rs. 61.54 while the same was Rs. 19.88 for the KMA municipal areas outside Kolkata Municipal Corporation and Rs. 0.87 for urban areas beyond KMA area. Within a span of two and a half decades, the differences have been reduced significantly.
According to the available data, in 2004-05, per capita development grant was Rs.259.25 for all over the urban areas.
Reduction of the difference within
the development grants and per capita development
expenditure earmarked for Kolkata metropolis area and that
of outside urban centres;
Utilisation of regional resources
in municipal development;
Giving priority to the improved
quality of life of the urban poor and weaker sections of the
Decentralisation of the development projects;
Make the municipalities capable to
provide urban services as well as micro- planning for their
Moreover, to facilitate the systematic urbanization process, the responsibilities were also shared. The Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority was given the dictum to oversee the process within municipalities in KMD area while Municipal Affairs Department was told to look after other municipalities
Overall the situation has evolved so dramatically in the last two decades that now 28.03% of the state total population live in urban areas, which is hardly 2.93% of the entire land of the state.