What are the Role and Functions of Sub-Divisional Officer (India)?



The district is geographically divided into a number of units known as sub-divisions in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, revenue divisions in Tamil Nadu, and prants in Maharashtra.

The official-in-charge of this unit bears a variety of names; he is called Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) or Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) in U.P, Revenue Divisional Officer or Sub-Collector in Tamil Nadu, Prant Officer in Maharashtra.

This helps in further decentralisation of authority as well as to provide field training to recruits to the IAS. The SDO is either a newly recruited member of the IAS or a member of the State Civil Service.

The former, it has been observed, generally does not take any marked interest in the administration of the sub-division, as he regards this as a mere training post, and a stopgap arrangement. Like the District Collector, he is the voice of the government in his own sub-division. He is a link between the District Collector and the Tahsildar in revenue matters and the District Magistrate and the Station Officer in matters relating to law and order.

The Sub-divisions may be classified into two broad types - an 'office' type sub-division, and a 'touring' type sub-division. In the former, the SDO maintains the office just as a Collector or a Tahsildar does.

Here, the headquarters of the sub-division is usually located within the sub-division itself. This type came into existence during the earliest phase of the British rule in India and has since continued. Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam and Rajasthan represent this type.

There is also a touring type sub-division in which the SDO does not maintain an office. He is a touring officer gathering information, transmitting it to this district chief, contacting people, execution of government activities in his sub-division, and supervising subordinate officials.

His 'core' role in both the types is the same. HE is 'primarily ... an inspecting, testing, and supervising officer, hearing appeals and trying cases. He moves about the villages and ascertains the villagers' grievances and wants and gains experience.'

The SDO is thus a valuable field aide to the District Collector and is an integral part of the district administration.

The SDOs in many states do not live within their sub-divisions. They reside at the district headquarters. Naturally, they cannot be quite effective in their work, and the public too is put to considerable inconvenience by having to come to district headquarters for even small items of work. As a matter of policy, the SDO and other sub-divisional level officers must reside at the sub-divisional headquarters.