The municipal government of Calcutta was reconstituted by an act of the Bengal legislature, passed in 1899. Previously, the governing body consisted of seventy-five commissioners, of whom fifty were elected. Under the new system modelled upon that of the Bombay municipality, this body, styled the corporation, remains comparatively unaltered; but a large portion of their powers is transferred to a general committee, composed of twelve members, of whom one-third are elected by the corporation, one-third by certain public bodies and one-third are nominated by the government. At the same time, the authority of the chairman, as supreme executive officer, is considerably strengthened. The two most important works undertaken by the old municipality were the provision of a supply of filtered water and the construction of a main drainage system. The water-supply is derived from the river Hugli, about 16 m. above Calcutta, where there are large pumping-stations and settling-tanks. The drainage-system consists of underground sewers, which are discharged by a pumping-station into a natural depression to the eastward, called the Salt Lake. Refuse is also removed to the Salt Lake by means of a municipal railway.
The Calcutta University was constituted in 1857, as an examining body, on the model of the university of London. The chief educational institutions are the Government Presidency College; three aided missionary colleges, and four unaided native colleges; the Sanskrit College and the Mahommedan Madrasah; the government medical college, the government engineering college at Sibpur, on the opposite bank of the Hugli, the government school of art, high schools for boys, the Bethune College and high schools for girls.
The population of Calcutta in 1710 was estimated at 12,000, from which figure it rose to about 117,000 in 1752. In the census of 1831 it was 187,000, in 1839 it had become 229,000 and in 1901, 949,144. Thus in the century between 1801 and 1901 it increased sixfold, while during the same period London only increased fivefold. Out of the total population of town and suburbs in 1901, 615,000 were Hindus, 286,000 Mahommedans and 38,000 Christians.
The climate of the city was originally very unhealthy, but it has improved greatly of recent years with modern sanitation and drainage. The climate is hot and damp, but has a pleasant cold season from November to March. April, May and June are hot; and the monsoon months from June to October are distinguished by damp heat and malaria. The mean annual temperature is 79° F., with a range from 85° in the hot season and 83° in the rains to 72° in the cool season, a mean maximum of 102° in May and a mean minimum of 48° in January. Calcutta has been comparatively fortunate in escaping the plague. The disease manifested itself in a sporadic form in April 1898, but disappeared by September of that year. Many of the Marwari traders fled the city, and some trouble was experienced in shortage of labour in the factories and at the docks. The plague returned in 1899 and caused a heavy mortality during the early months of the following year; but the population was not demoralized, nor was trade interfered with.
A yet more serious outbreak occurred in the early months of 1901, the number of deaths being 7884. For three following years the totals were (1902-1903) 7284; (1903-1904) 8223; and (1904-1905) 4689; but these numbers compared very favourably with the condition of Bombay at the same time.