The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) today, caters to about 98% of Delhi’s population. But, till about 40 years ago, it was even bigger — the one provider of every conceivable public service.
And if you believe Mahesh Chand Sharma, former mayor of Delhi, even with its huge workforce and range of services, the current MCD isn’t as powerful as it was in the past.
“From taking care of water, power and sewage disposal to public transport and fire services, all powers were vested with the MCD,” he said.
“Till about 1975, MCD looked after the drug and licensing departments and was also responsible for school education till the senior secondary level,” he said. Currently, the MCD is only responsible for primary education in Delhi.
MCD’s predecessor, the Delhi Municipal Commission, was set up in 1862 and by the next year, the body had set up a sanitation and conservancy system and constructed public toilets. It also started the registration of births and deaths.
Back then, the commission supplied potable water to Delhiites through carts. Water works, first started in 1896, was modernised in 1926 when the Delhi Joint Water and Sewage Board was set up.
It first introduced street lights in 1870, and replaced them with electric lights in 1911, when Delhi was first electrified, thanks to the Delhi Durbar. A separate Delhi State Electricity Board was created in 1851.
Fire services were first modernised in 1942 with the creation of Delhi Fire Service that had two fire stations.
After the MCD was created, the different boards responsible for providing water, electricity and transport were converted into municipal undertakings — Delhi Water Supply and Sewage Disposal Undertaking (DWS and SDU), Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking (DESU) and Delhi Transport Undertaking (DTU).
Their single-handed control of almost all public services, however, started fading in the 1970s. The first to go was public transport, as it was found that the ‘suvidha’ service of DTU was inadequate. The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) was created by the central government in 1972.
Major changes came after 1991 with the National Capital Territory Act and then the amendment of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act in 1993. In 1996, DESU was replaced by the Delhi Vidyut Board and DWS and SDU were replaced by the Delhi Jal Board in 1997.