Essay on the Origin and Evolution of District Administration



Public Administration carries out functions, which are vital to the very existence of the people such as maintenance of law and order, supply of essential commodities and provisions of housing and clothing. Environmental factors particularly social, affect public administration a great deal.

In India, efficiency of the administration means the efficiency of the district administration, because it is the district administration that comes into direct contact with the people. As the captain of the team of district officials, the collector has to coordinate the different departmental units to prevent duplication, overlapping and waste. The collector of a district should provide good leadership.

The power of the officials under the bureaucratic systems constitutes a threat to the liberties of the people. Harold J.Laski has defined bureaucracy as a "system of government, the control of which is so completely in the hands of officials, that their power jeopardises the liberties of ordinary citizens.

The characteristics of such a regime are a passion for routine in administration, the sacrifice of flexibility to rule, delay in making decisions and a refusal to embark upon experiment."

The district officer wielded immense power for a long time in the past. He ruled autocratically and nobody could interfere in his work. The Collector during the British period was answerable only to the board of revenue and government. The primary duty of the Collector was the collection of revenue and it is this function that gave him the designation of 'collector'.

Ramsay MacDonald has rightly pointed out that "he is the eye of the government and its tongue. He has to keep his finger on the pulse of his district, and nothing of any importance is supposed to happen without his knowledge. A sparrow ought not to fall without the incident coming to his ears".

However, the office of collector had undergone considerable structural and functional changes during the period of British rule. Besides revenue collection, the district collector exercised civil, judicial and military powers in districts until 1792, when the judicial and magisterial powers were separated from him and transferred to the district judge.

During William Bentinck's administration, the magisterial duties were separated from the district judge and annexed to the district collector who was given the designation of district magistrate and collector.

During the same period the posts of deputy collector was created to help the office of the district magistrate and collector. Until the later part of the nineteenth century, no native was eligible to become a district collector.

But with the introduction of competitive examinations for the Indian civil services, no bar to the post remained, though no native ever became a district collector until the very end of the nineteenth century. For colonial reasons, the post of district judge was more open to native civilians than that of the district magistrate and collector.