District Administration : Origin and development of the office of the District Magistrate and Collector; Changing Role Collector;For JPSC Mains paper IV

Collector is the Chief Representative of the Government in the district. Comment.

  • He is the most recognized face of administration
  • Considered as the principal representative of the government at the district level
  • In coordination with the state government as well as the local government
  • Has wide ranging functions and hence can address many problems of the people
  • Rajni Kothari –“institutionalised charisma”
  • PM MMS had observed – “DM remains even today the linchpin of the administrative system in India”

There exists an organic link between the collector and the state government as well as the collector and the local administration. There three are like gears that enable proper administration. They have to work in coordination.

What should be the governing principle of this state-collector-local relationship?

  • Principles of subsidiarity and decentralisation should govern their relationship

Structure of district administration

Evolution of collector post independence Or Changing role of district collector

  • Agents of change, of good governance and development administration.
  • The collectors have a first hand experience in dealing with the hopes and aspirations, the lives and livelihoods of the people. The state and central governments benefit immensely from this experience
  • After 73rd and 74th amendments
    • Role of the collector has been transformed into that of a coordinator, facilitator and a person who is responsible for inter-sectoral coordination of various activities that characterise the work of our grassroot administration

Till 1960s

  • Land reforms, revenue collection, law and order, food and civil supplies, welfare and relief/rehabilitation
  • Limited needs of the people, less interaction with the government
  • Development programs at nascent stage
  • Office of collector was a strong and effective institution


  • Large number of new development projects came up
  • Collector was the notional head of the District Monitorin Committee for these programs
  • Apart from formal review, collector had limited role in these matters


  • Further increase of development programs
  • Collector was in most cases, given the overall supervisory charge of the programmes in the districts
  • Collector and his administration were expected to be omniscient and omnipotent; capable of providing solutions to all the problems

Post 1992

  • Most development functions have been taken away from the Collector’s domain
  • State governments though use this institution to exercise control over the PRIs

Significance of district admin (significance of collector)

  • As the role of the government gets redefined and its becoming more and more citizen centric, the cutting edge of a government’s function is at the district and lower levels
  • India lives in its districts. District is the basic unit of administration.
  • Provision of education and health facilities, infrastructure, improving equity
  • DC has a role in ensuring good governance at the grassroots, in promoting innovation, in improving service delivery, in enhancing public private partnerships and in ensuring outlays become outcomes

Should the office of the district collector be retained in its present form?

  • Against the office
    • View that with the empowerment of the PRIs there is a need to devise an environment in which the institution of DC gradually loses importance and ultimately recedes into a district land revenue functionary, responsible to the local bodies
    • This is because the belief that strong traditions linked with this institution and its recognition in the public minds as a prime mover of governance at the district level may impede the growth of any other authority at that level
  • Counter view
    • Office of the DC has risen to this level of importance and utility through many national and local crises and it should not be weakened
  • Balanced view
    • Though PRIs have come up they do not totally remove the Collector’s responsibility in matters of local development.
    • The declining importance of land revenue has not lessened the importance of the Collector in the management of land records, the maintenance of law and order and general administration and as an effective grievance redressal authority
    • Collector will continue to be responsible for a multiplicity of tasks at the district level such as improving human capabilities, creating physical infrastructure, improving economic opportunities for marginalised sections of society and facing challenges posed by disasters
    • He has new role in the role of a coordinator, facilitator and a person who is responsible for inter-sectoral coordination of various activities that characterise the work of our grassroots administration
    • Provide overall leadership in the district in the task of nation building
    • Representative district government should be empowered while fully utilizing the institutional strengths of the District Collector
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