Seek to decolonise: Why we need to restructure the district collector’s role

Source:The post is based on the article “Seek to decolonise: Why we need to restructure the district collector’s role’ Under Arth Ganga” published in Indian Express on 10th December 2022

What is the News?

The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy has released a book titled “From Rule by law to the Rule of Law”, with a subtitle “25 Reforms to Decolonise India’s Legal System”.

One of the reforms suggested by the book is the role of the district collector. 

Who is the District Collector?

A District Collector, often abbreviated to Collector, is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer in charge of revenue collection and administration of a district in India.

What does a District Collector do?

The 15th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) lists the following: One, head of land and revenue administration; Two, district head of the executive magistracy and overall supervision of law and order and security and some say, police matters; Three, licensing and Regulatory Authority (such as Arms Act); Four, the conduct of elections; Fifth, disaster management; Sixth, public service delivery; and Seventh, Chief Information and Grievance Redressal Officer. 

What does the Vidhi Centre book say about the District Collector?

As opposed to the popular democracy that is envisaged in the Indian Constitution, State laws promote ‘Collector Raj’. The lack of devolution of powers and responsibilities to local governing bodies is an indication of the vested interest in mystifying governance.

Hence, for decentralization to realize its true potential, the following reforms need to be considered: 

Firstly, reconfigure the role of the district collector as a district-level land revenue functionary by devolving their powers to responsible local bodies. 

Secondly, empower representative local bodies while continuing to utilize the administrative skills of the district collector. 

Thirdly, rework relevant land revenue laws at the State level as well as the laws that empower PRIs, so that they can function more effectively as units of local self-government.

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