Short Essay on the District Collector (India)

District Collector/Deputy Commissioner

A Deputy Commissioner is the chief administrative and revenue officer of a district. The office of the deputy commissioner traces its origin to the district collector system of the early phase of British rule. The district supervisor was appointed with limited functions in 1769. Warren Hastings introduced the district collector system in 1772. The system was, however, repealed in the following year, but restored again in 1787.

Under the Regulation of 27 June 1787, the collector was vested with the powers of a judge and magistrate. The collector had also some authority over the police. With the introduction of the permanent settlement in Bengal in 1793, the collector was stripped of his judicial and police powers, but by 1831 he was reinvested with judicial powers. Since then, the collector was known in Bengal as the district magistrate and collector or just as the district magistrate.

The term deputy commissioner was used during the British colonial days in a different context to describe the chief revenue and executive officer of districts in what was known as non-regulation provinces.

The regulation provinces signified the settled areas of Bengal where a legalistic system based on comprehensive acts or regulations governed the working of the district administration.

The non-regulation provinces meant newly acquired territories which, because of unstable conditions, demanded a more authoritarian pattern of administration. In East Bengal districts, the appellation district magistrate and collector was uniformly used.

This is still the traditional and primary task of the Collector. As the head of the revenue administration of the district, his foremost task is the assessment and collection of land revenue. Khera points out two principles, which must be adhered to here.

The first is that revenue which is assessed, like all taxes, which are assessed, must be collected in full. Any tendency to relax or depart from this principle or for the Collector to permit it to be weakened or watered down will, sooner or later, and probably quite soon, make the collection of the revenue extremely difficult.

The second principle predicates timely collection becomes difficult severer measures may be needed to enforce the collection. Taxes due to the government may be of several types, such as irrigation dues, income-tax dues, agricultural dues, canal dues, taqavi loans and distress taqavi.

The irrigation department makes out demand lists of irrigation dues each season and sends them to the Collector who is then responsible for the recovery of these loans. Although income tax is a Central department, arrears are yet another responsibility of the Collector.

Another element comprises court fees payable in connection with various judicial proceedings, taxes livable in the shape of revenue stamps on documents such as sale and transfer deeds, agreements of various kinds, receipts etc.

Excise is also an important component of his jurisdiction. Excise duties on various commodities such as liquor, drugs, petrol etc., are levied by the District Excise Officer, working under the Collector.

Taqavi consists of loans given for assisting agricultural operations. The Collector, together with other officials, is responsible for assessing the amount of relief required in case of an agricultural calamity, estimating the amount to be given in each individual case and also the recovery of these loans.

There might also be situations when a complete recovery of loans is not possible. In such cases, he consults the state government for the relaxations that can be given. Here, shades of his personality as a development officer can be noticed.

Agricultural loans (taqavi or tagai) are distributed by the Collector and his staff, relief works have to be taken up on a very extensive scale in case of a famine, camps may have to be opened, seeds distributed, cattle and agricultural implements supplied, land revenue and rents remitted or suspended.

Land acquisition is another major responsibility of the Collector. Due to various development projects, housing schemes, slum clearance etc., and land has to be acquired for public purposes.

The Collector is responsible for this acquisition. He is authorized to take action under the Indian Treasure Trove Act when he has to report to the state government the discovery of a treasure, its nature, value etc.

The district treasury comes under the control of the Collector. The treasury officers of the district function under his supervision, The Collector is responsible for general supervision, physical verification at regular intervals, checking, certifying and communicating directly to the Accountant General the exact balances as found to exist at his inspection.

The figures reported by him are then checked against the accounts submitted by the treasury officer.

In addition, an important function as a revenue officer is the preparation as well as maintenance of land records. This includes survey of land and settlement operations, execution of land reform laws and administration of nazul lands. Land records consist of the basic village records, village maps showing every single plot of land, nature of land, crops grown etc., a register of holdings which shows the names of the cultivators and a register showing the nature of the crops, soil etc. of the village.

The Collector is responsible not only for the maintenance of these records but also their revision from time to time. Settlement operations are usually preceded by a complete general revision of the land records.

He is the manager of government estates in the district, government land, forests, waterways etc. Lastly, he also hears appeals in revenue cases against the orders of the lower courts.

The revenue work is a colossal task in itself and, therefore, the Collector has a whole hierarchy of staff to assist him. The general pattern in most of the states is that there are Sub-Divisional Officers, Nabi Topsiders, Patwaris, Lanugos and Gird wars.

Besides these officers, some states like Andhra Pradesh have another IAS officer designated as the District Revenue Officer in each district to assist the Collector in his revenue work. In Sikkim, there is one Deputy District Collector, one Revenue Officer and two Revenue Inspectors in each district to assist the Collector.