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The first Mayor

S. MUTHIAH

THE CENTENARY birth celebrations of Rajah Sir Muthiah Chettiar on August 5th also marked 70 years since he became the first Mayor of Madras under the City Municipal Act of 1933. It was on September 29, 1688 that the Corporation of Madras was inaugurated, the first in any British settlement overseas, and the first Mayor of Madras was Nathaniel Higginson. The Aldermen (councillors) were three Englishmen, three Portuguese, three Jews and "three Hindus."

The office of Mayor and Aldermen survived until 1792 when a new act created the Municipality of Madras. This Act, and several others till the 1933 one, did away with the office of Mayor - and Commissioners and Presidents took the Mayor's place. The 1919 Act provided for 50 nominated councillors, who would elect one of their number as President, and a Commissioner was appointed by Government as Chief Executive Officer. The first elected President was Sir Pitti Theagaraya Chetty.

It was during the Justice Party Ministry of the Raja of Bobbili in 1933 that, at the instance of the then Kumararajah Muthiah Chettiar, who was at the time President of the Council, that the City Municipal Act of 1919 was amended to recreate the office of Mayor. As President of the council, the Kumararajah succeeded to the office of Mayor on 7-3-1933. The first meeting of the reconstituted Corporation discussed and laid down codes for dress, regalia and protocol. The Kumararajah himself presented the Corporation with "a grand and massive" chair to serve as the Mayor's seat; it was a chair modelled on the presidential chairs in the Indian and Madras Assemblies. During his second term as Mayor, in 1934-35, the Kumararajah, who was also a member of the Legislative Council, urged further amendments of the Municipal Act - and the Act of 1936 was the outcome. This Act, which increased the Corporation Council's membership to 65, survived till the Corporation was dissolved in 1973. By the time it was resurrected in 1996, there were nationally recommended changes in the local government scene and the Mayor was elected by the public, and not by his fellow elected councillors.

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