The historical reasons necessitating the formation of individual cantonments are different for different cantonments depending upon the prevailing political and military realities of the times.
For example Secundrabad cantonment was established to assist the Nizam of Hyderabad, militarily against his local adversaries, whereas Lucknow Cantonment was established to maintain pressure on the Nawab of Oudh and to finally capture that state. Similarly the need for cooler climate for the British troops and strategic importance of Doab dictated the setting up of hill cantonments and cantonments in modern day Uttar Pradesh respectively.
However, irrespective of the local factors, the paramount consideration in setting up all these cantonments was the need for military camps in various strategic locations of India to establish, maintain and consolidate the rule of a foreign power Spread of diseases like, diarrhea, malaria, and venereal diseases among the troops necessitated the cantoning (insulation) of these military camps from the local population.
Office of the Cantonment Board
The records of 19 th century British India reveal that health and hygiene of the troops was one of the major areas of concern which the rulers of the day had to contend with. This consideration coupled with the desire of an alien ruling elite to distance itself from the native population led to the development of an insulated type of character in all these cantonments which has continued till date.
While most of the cantonments came to be established in early part of 19 th century, but the characteristic civil and military administration took around seventy five years to come into the shape which is still in existence in the sixty two cantonments of the country.
Adhocism guided the early administration of all these cantonments and a large plethora of rules and regulations evolved to suit the requirements of the local administrators. Commanding officer was the incharge of both civil and military administration. To assist the commanding officer in his civil duties, a group of civil officials like sanitary officer, executive engineer, and civil surgeon were also there. He also consulted the magistrate of the district on important issues of civil and criminal administration.
Inside Office of the Cantonment Board
This system of informal consultations was later codified into a permanent structure called cantonment committee by the act XXII of 1864. This act was the first attempt by the Britishers to put an end to the adhocism of the cantonment administration prevalent till then. It legalized the cantonment administration and gave sanctity to the institutions like cantonment committee and cantonment magistrates (present day CEO) with retrospective effect. The cantonment committees were entrusted with the powers to regulate and administer the municipal functions. However, there have been few noticeable changes like from purely official bodies the Cantonment Boards have now become democratic in nature with the inclusion of elected members in them.But more importantly the Boards are now playing the role of main development agencies of the cantonments along with erstwhile role of regulator and municipal administrator.
These committees were the original precursors of the modern day Cantonment Boards existing today in all the 62 cantonments. With the departure of British in 1947 a great deal of change was brought about by the succeeding nationalist regime in both civil and military spheres but elements of continuity are still visible in the Cantonment Boards. Cantonment Boards have been instrumental in maintaining the distinctive character of the cantonments as it evolved during the 150 years rule of the British. This distinctiveness of the cantonments is largely the result of cantonment Act of 1924 by which cantonment Boards are governed today and which heavily draws from the rules and regulations evolved during the 19 th century.
Inside Office of the Cantonment Board