District Administration and the District Collector

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Since ancient times district has been the primary unit of the district administration that functions under the charge of a District Officer termed District Collector. India is a democratic welfare State in which there are wide scope of activities for the development of the people and the nation as a whole. District administration, as the part of the people administration, functions within the territorial boundary of the district. In the words of S.S. Khera, “District administration is the total functioning of government.”

In the present scenario, the role of the district administration has increased manifold because of the introduction of new plannings and development functions. It continues to be the hub of the Indian administration as it has to build the country from below. Most recently the nature of the district administration has transformed drastically with the introduction of democratic decentralization and Panchayati Raj.

As the government at the Centre and at the State level cannot implement its policies from the headquarters, the state is divided into territorial divisions and district level.

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Role of the District Administration

The primary concern of the district administration is to ensure public safety, the protection of citizens and all their rights. It comprises the maintenance of law and order and the administration of criminal and civil justice.

In the field of revenue administration, it has a significant role that includes land revenue, irrigation charge, agriculture income, tax levied, excise duties, entertainment tax etc. Along with these, the administration of treasury, land reforms, land acquisition, land management, land records, etc. also fall within the ambit of the district administration.

All the development policies and programmes in the field of agriculture, cooperation and industry along with the special programmes launched to strengthen and develop weaker sections of the society are implemented by the district administration vigorously. One of the major roles of the district administration is to ensure people’s participation in planning and execution of development of schemes. Its one of the major functions involves the ensurance of the supply of essential commodities to the people living in remote villages. It has also got the responsibility to help people in times of natural calamities and disasters.

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The District Collector

The office of the District Collector or Deputy Commissioner, who as the chief representative of the government is the king-pin of the administration, is the result of a long process of evolution. The office of the district collector was created in 1772 during the time of the British regime. And from that time, the District Collector performed activities primarily related to collection of land revenue, maintenance of law and order, prevention of disorder, proper working of the police and jails, administration of criminal justice and he also exercised judicial powers in some cases.

The office of the district collector, that belongs to the Indian administrative Service, has ‘Admirably survived the historical role of change from alian regime to national one’. After attainment of freedom its role has become more multidimensional. As Article 50 of the Constitution of India separated the judiciary from the executive, the district collector no longer holds the same judicial authority as he used to hold earlier as a District Magistrate during the British regime.

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Role and functions of District Collector

The foremost task of a District Collector, as the head of the revenue administration of the district, is the assessment and collection of land revenue.

Revenue Functions:

  • To maintain land records
  • To collect land revenue
  • To collect rural statistics
  • To collect other government dues
  • To distribute and recover taccavi loans
  • To implement land reforms
  • To exercise the power of land acquisition officer, that is, acquiring land for purpose of colonization, industry, slum clearance, etc.
  • To look after the welfare of the agriculturists.
  • To make an assessment of lsses of crops and recommend relict during natural calamities like fire, draught and flood etc.
  • To pay rehabilitation grant
  • To hear appeals against the orders of lower authorities.
  • To manage government estates.
  • To pay Zamindari Abolition compensation
  • To supervise treasury and sub treasury
  • To enfore Stamp Act.

Taccavi: These are advances or loans of money given to the cultivators at the time of sowing or in bad season or to enable them to expand their cultivation. This loan has to be repaid by the cultivators when the crop is harvested.

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Maintenance of law and order in the District Administration

In this capacity the District Collector has got the responsibility of maintaining law and order in his district. Three elements of the district administration are involved in this task: the police, the judiciary and the jails. As a District Magistrate a district collector performs the following functions:

  • Control and supervises the subordinate magistracy.
  • Inspects the jails.
  • Grants superior classes to prisoners.
  • Orders imposition of section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in case of threat to public peace.
  • Submits an annual criminal report to the government.
  • Controls and directs the action of district police.
  • Enforces Entertainment Tax Act and Press Act.
  • Grants, suspends or cancels various kinds of licenses like arms, hotels, explosives, etc.
  • Prosecutes offenders under the Factories Act and Trade Mark Act.
  • Orders disposal of unclaimed property.
  • Supervises and control local bodies.
  • Recommends schemes for the development of forests.

Co-ordinator of Different departments of the District Administration

Prior to the independence, the district collector used to function like the coordinating agency in overall charge of every significant official activity in the district. After independence, several departments of technical nature, such as public health, public works, agriculture, irrigation, education and cooperation, were set up. These departments are headed by specialists and are not under the supervision of the collector any more.

Although the independence of these departments in their functioning has weakened, to some extent, the role of the collector as a coordinating agency, the entire team of the district administration has to work with a sense of dedication in the same manner as a soldier on the battle front. The district collector, still the commander of the district administration, has to organize and coordinator, must provide breathing space to each agency of the district administration, remove bottlenecks, establish the truth of the various departments in himself and bring out unity of purpose.

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Other Functions of the Collector in the District Administration

Besides the above described works, the collector performs many other functions; some of the important ones are:

  • He conducts census operation every 10 years.
  • He functions as the returning officer and coordinator of election work of Parliament and Vidhan Sabha constituencies at district level.
  • Grants old age pension and house building loans.
  • Supervises and controls municipalities in the district.
  • He is responsible of small savings schemes and contributions to the National Defense Fund (NDF).
  • He functions as the chairman of several committees such as the family planning committee, public grievance committee, planning committee, soldier welfare fund committee, etc.
  • Acts as a protocol officer.
  • Preparation of district gazetteers and protection of ancient monuments.
  • Superintends over all other branches of district administration.

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