Who is a Collector?
A Collector formally addressed as the District Collector, is any person given the power to collect or manage collection in a district or territory. He is the highest Indian Civil Administrative Officer who is in charge of the collection of revenue and administration of a district in the country. District Collector also possesses executive magisterial powers, his post is also known as District Magistrate. In each district, the collector, who is also the district magistrate, is the principal representative of the administration. The collector closely cooperates with the superintendent of police to maintain law and order in the district and serves as the principal revenue officer. In revenue matters, he/she is responsible to the Government through the Divisional Commissioner and the Financial Commissioner (Revenue).
The current district administration in India is a legacy of the British Raj, with the District Collector being the chief administrative officer of the District. Warren Hastings introduced the office of the District Collector in the Judicial Plan of 1772. By the Judicial Plan of 1774, the office of the District Collector has temporarily renamed Diwan. The name, Collector, derived from their being head of the revenue organization (tax collection) for the district. With the passage of the Government of India Act 1858, by the British Parliament. District Collectors became members of the Indian Civil Service and were charged with supervising general administration in the district.
The Indian Statutory Commission (the Simon Commission–1930) commented that the district collector “is in the eyes of most of its inhabitants, the government” while Ramsay MacDonald contrasted the District Collector with a tortoise on whose back stood the elephant of the Government of India.
The office of a collector during the British Raj held multiple responsibilities – as a collector, he was the head of the revenue organization, charged with registration, alteration, and partition of holdings; the settlement of disputes; the management of indebted estates; loans to agriculturists, and famine relief. As district magistrate, he exercised general supervision over the inferior courts and in particular, directed the police work. The superintendent of police (SP), inspector general of jails, surgeon general, divisional forest officer (DFO), and the Executive Engineer had to inform the collector of every activity in their departments. Until the later part of the nineteenth century, no native was eligible to become a district collector. But with the introduction of open competitive examinations for the Indian Civil Service, the office was opened to natives. Romesh Chandra Dutt, Sripad Babaji Thakur, Anandaram Baruah, Krishna Govinda Gupta, and Brajendranath De were the first five Indian ICS officers to become Collectors. After the independence of the country, the judicial powers of the collector were transferred to the judicial officers of the district. Afterward, with the declaration of the National Extension Services and Community Development Program by the Nehru government in 1952, the District Collector was entrusted with the extra obligation of executing the Government of India’s advancement programs in the region.
- One of the main functions that a collector perform is the maintenance of law and order.
- He is in charge of the law and order of the district and performs this duty with the assistance of the Deputy Superintendent of Police.
- He plays a pivotal role in assessing the lands in a district for the purpose of collecting land revenue.
- He also performs magisterial responsibilities as he has the powers of a first-class Magistrate.
- The Collector directs and supervises the execution of developmental plans.
- He ensures that the schemes reach the targets at the right time and coordinates the proper execution of developmental schemes by removing difficulties.
- He also makes sure there is no corruption.
Public Security, Law, and Order, and Preventive Action:
- He takes preventive action to ensure public peace and tranquillity by way of making preventive arrests under CrPC and for National Security.
- He also imposes restrictions on unlawful assemblies by way of a curfew that restricts free movement.
- The District Collector is the custodian of all lands in the district and the collection of revenue function is primary to his role.
- Being the head of the Revenue Administration he has the authority to collect the land revenue, and government dues, maintain land records, implement measures for the reformation of land, and collect rural statistics.
- He has the powers to pay rehabilitation grants, manage government estates, and pay compensation for the people affected by Zamindari Abolition.
- He is the chairperson of the District Planning Council (DPC) and is involved in preparing the 5 year and annual district plans.
- He oversees the progress and implementation of schemes and projects and heads the coordination cell of a bank in the district.
- He also anticipates the expenditure and allots the appropriate amount of money for it.
- In case of natural calamities like floods, famines, or epidemics, the collector has a duty to manage the disaster.
- He is the Chairman of the District Disaster Management Committee (DDMC) and by virtue of this power, he is expected to take anticipatory measures to diminish the consequence of such disasters.
- He is authorized to grant gratuitous relief to the affected persons.
Fair Price to Agricultural products:
- He possesses the power to distribute agricultural loans and help farmers auction products at reasonable prices.
- He also has powers to set up procurement shops with the help of marketing and cooperative departments to ensure the sale of major agricultural products at minimum prices assured by the government.
District Excise Department:
- The main source of income for the State Government arises from the sale of liquor and other intoxicants and also the District Collector supervises the payment of monthly rents, inspects the quality of liquor, and strictly prohibits adulteration of liquor.
Supervision of District Treasury:
- He is the authority controlling the District Treasury safeguarding public money, and government property, and complying with government instructions with respect to financial prudence.
- He is in charge of the dispersal of money for pensions to retired government servants, salaries, and other monetary benefits to other government employees.
- He also has the power to take action under the Indian Treasure Trove Act.
- Abiding by the standing instructions and guidelines issued by the Government, the Collector performs protocol functions in the district.
- A Senior Additional District Collector is appointed to perform this type of function. Performance of this function is very crucial and any mistake in the execution of this function would lead to serious consequences to the district collector as he is answerable.
District Civil Supplies:
- He administers the management of the provision of essentials by way of the Public Distribution System (PDS) which operates through fair price shops that provide goods like rice, wheat, sugar, kerosene, etc.
This distribution is ensured through ration cards issued by the government.
- The District Supply Officer who is in charge of all these shops is under the control of the district collector.
- He has the power to conduct raids in such shops at regular or random intervals.
- Any other function in the district that has not been allocated to any other department is automatically directed to the jurisdiction of the District Collector. He is bound to perform his functions and duties within the given budget and regulations imposed by the Government.
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