In a written reply to a question asked by Rajya Sabha MP Husain Dalwai, minister of state for personnel and PMO Jitendra Singh on Thursday said the following:
“2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) had made certain recommendations regarding re-defining the collectors’ role, as many schemes/programmes are being executed through the collectors. The recommendations of 2nd ARC have been sent to all the state/Union Territory governments… As a part of the institutional mechanism, a committee has been set up under the chairpersonship of chief secretary/administrator to review and monitor the implementation of reforms.”
In fact, most of Administrative Reforms Commission reports brought out in the year 2009 by a panel headed by Congress’ Veerappa Moily were gathering dust during the UPA-II regime. But the new government has surprisingly shown interests in implementing some of its recommendations, the creation of bigger ministries for better co-ordination being one of them.
In the 15th report of the 2nd ARC, it was recommended that the post of divisional commissioner who comes between the state headquarters and the district be abolished. “Having such a layer in between the two tiers adds only to red-tapism and delays”, the report said.
The report further said that there was a need to realign the functions of the deputy commissioner or district collector so that he could concentrate on the core functions such as land and revenue administration, maintenance of law and order, disaster management, public distribution and civil supplies, excise, elections, transport, census, protocol, general administration, treasury management and coordination with various agencies or departments.
If one goes back to the history of the post of district collector, it all started in 1786 when the East India Company decided to treat district as the focal point of its revenue administration within British India. The following year, collectors were vested with magisterial powers and they could try criminal cases within certain limits. There were a few exceptions though. The Cornwallis Code of 1793, however, divested the collector of his major judicial role, but the collector still remained the most powerful officer in the district. Only in 19th century, the divisional commissioners’ posts were created so that 4 to 5 districts could be supervised by one senior officer.