If you are an IAS aspirant wondering about the life of a District Collector or what a District Magistrate do on a regular office day, worry not, you are on the right page! It is only normal for any IAS aspirants to want to know what entails in their career after they clear the UPSC Civil Services Exam. Basically there is no single answer to this question, as the job of a District Collector is one of the most challenging and versatile responsibilities within the Indian administrative system. However, we will try to evaluate this important question by understanding the different roles and responsibilities of the district collector, and how they may feature in his daily work routine.
Who is District Collector / Magistrate?
District Collect is a member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and is appointed as the chief administrative and revenue officer of an Indian district. In other words, he is the foremost authority at the most basic administrative level of a district in the Indian administrative system. District Collectors are also referred to as District Magistrates and Deputy Commissioners depending upon the states they are posted in. They are often referred to as the ‘eyes, ears, and arms’ of the State Government. Being the direct representative of the government puts a DM in direct touch with the general public. This makes the job of a District Collector / Magistrate the most important within the entire governmental administrative setup.
Responsibilities of an IAS as a District Collector
District Collector is a traditional role within the Indian administrative system. The role was carved out by colonial masters and officers appointed as district collectors were in charge of the assessment and collection of land revenue. This is where the ‘collector’ part in the district collector title comes from.
• Post-independence with modernization and expansion of roles, the District Collector has also entrusted the responsibility of tax collection for irrigation dues, income tax dues, agricultural dues, canal dues, sales tax, arrears, court fees, excise duties on various commodities, stamp duties, etc.
• As the chief revenue officer of the district, the District collector also looks after land acquisition for housing and development projects.
• In addition to this, the district collector also has to prepare and maintain the land records within the district jurisdiction
• In case of a natural calamity or acquisition of land or resources, the district collector also assess the amount of relief and compensation to be offered to affected parties
• The district treasury also falls under the jurisdiction of the collector and all officers within the revenue and treasury department report into him.
Responsibilities as a District Magistrate
The District Magistrate is the chief executive officer of the district with all administrative functions at the district level being discharged under his guidance and supervision through the bureaucracy. As the name clearly suggests, District Magistrate is the primary officer in charge of the maintenance of law and order within the district jurisdiction. In other words, he is the chief judicial officer or is the first-class magistrate and head of all magistrates within the jurisdiction of the district. Responsibilities of an IAS officer as a DM are classified into three areas mainly; i.e., Police, Judiciary, and Jail.
• Although the police administration of the district is handled by the superintendent of police, the district level operations are discharged under the guidance and supervision of the DM.
• DM is directly responsible for the maintenance of law and order within the state and has the power to take any necessary action in accordance with the criminal procedure code.
• The judicial role and responsibility of the DM have been diluted severely due to the separation of power between the executive and judiciary. The majority of the powers under the civil and criminal justice system are now handled by the respective courts under the control of the High Court of the State.
• As far as district-level jails are concerned, they come under the general administrative control of the DM.
Responsibilities as the Co-ordinator / Protocol Officer
A District Magistrate is in charge of any official government business within his jurisdiction.
• This includes management and supervision of operations of different government departments like public health, agriculture, public works, irrigation, education.
• He has to co-ordinate activities all the departments and ensure smooth functioning of government machinery within the district.
• He has to act as a supervisor to eradicate any illegal activities/corruption happening within these departments and offer advice and solutions to any conflicts or bottlenecks that may thaw the efficient discharge of functions by government officers.
Responsibilities as a Development Officer
District Magistrate’s role as a development officer is probably the most lucrative and satisfying part of the job as far as IAS officers are concerned.
• As part of his responsibilities, a District Magistrate is responsible for the implementation of development programs and schemes initiated by the state or central government.
• DM is the captain and commander of all development work happening within the state and has to be responsible for the planning and execution of the entire scheme.
• As a development officer, DM also has to solve any conflicts arising within the government machinery and general public by devising developmental programmes for the betterment of the people.
Responsibilities as a Crisis Manager
District Magistrate’s role as a crisis manager is probably the most unpredictable and challenging aspect of the job. The crisis within the government machinery and general administration can range from something as simple as the quality of government services rendered to the public, to something as big as riots or natural calamities. During natural calamities or manmade crises like riots, fire or terrorist attacks; the DM has to pioneer the relief and rescue operations, ensure medical treatment of affected people, prevent further damage and instill confidence among the general public about the governmental administration.
Being such an important governmental functionary at the most basic level, the roles and responsibilities of a DM can’t be confined to a few written rules. His roles and responsibilities change and modify as per the situation and requirement of the administration. Other common functions that DM is expected to perform are:
• Act as Chief Returning Officer and manage election-related operations at the district level
• Act as a District Census officer
• Act as representative of the government at official functions
• Monitor and guide municipal operations within the district jurisdiction
• Manage human resource/ personnel posted within government machinery at district level
• Prepare and submit reports of different kinds to state and central government
A Day in office with District Collector!
With such an extensive job profile, it is very hard to predict the general happenings of a day in the life of a district magistrate. A DM can be chairing meetings with different government departments in one hour and can be prepared to handle law and order situations like riots in the next. He may be woken up in the middle of the night informing him about a visit by a foreign dignitary or a central minister, for which he may have to arrange all the necessary logistical requirements. In case of a natural calamity, he may have to seek assistance from state and central government for help from para-military units or the armed forces for relief and rescue operations.
In other words, there is no defined schedule or a typical day in the life a District Collector. Every day brings new challenges and innovative problems that need to tackled with limited resources within the confines of the law. No doubt, the job of a District Magistrate is extremely tough and challenging, but being able to serve the people of this country, be able to protect the most vulnerable citizens and plan development within the district jurisdiction; makes it one of the most rewarding and satisfying professions in the world.