"Aunty, tell me about the ‘Collector’. Why is that post so much coveted? Who can become a collector? Only IAS officers? What are the power and responsibilities? Why they are called as DM in some states and as DC in some states?”
“I am glad that you asked this question Raju! Many of us don’t ask questions that are around us! Now let me explain!
Let’s go into a bit of history, as history helps us to understand things better! In 1764 AD, after the battles of Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764), The East India Company (EIC) got vast area, encompassing the present states of Bihar, West Bengal and Bangladesh, under its control. You can see in the attached map how vast it was!
Now, what is the use of huge land under your control?! Simple! You get so levy and collect tax!! Remember what we discussed about tax last week? Now, in the place of the king who used to levy and collect taxes, we have the EIC. And that would mean huge amount of money for the company! However, unlike a small village, we have huge area almost covering 3 states! So, how do you put up a mechanism to collect taxes?
If you had been the chief of the EIC in India, how would you have gone about it?!”
“Simple Aunty, I would have divided the huge area in smaller areas and appointed one person for each zone for collecting the taxes!”
“Good! That’s what EIC also did! The chief of the EIC in India at that time, called as the Governor General; by name Warren Hastings, divided the area into 6 parts, called them as ‘districts’, and appointed one officer each, to collect the taxes! That officer was called as ‘Collector’.
“Oh, I got Aunty! But, then how it become DC or DM?!”
“That was much later! Almost after 100 years! In 1858, the British government took over the administration from the EIC, and started administrating India directly.
They appointed one senior officer at each province (which is equivalent to the present state), and made him incharge for collecting all taxes and also for land administration. This officer was called as ‘Commissioner for revenue collection’, or simply, as ‘Revenue commissioner’. And the collectors at the districts were brought under his control. Hence, they came to be called as ‘Deputy commissioner’ or simply, DC! Please note that DC is NOT district commissioner, as some refer to!
“Ok! Then what about the name DM? How did that come?!”
“DM means ‘District Magistrate’. The word magistrate means, an official who is given the power to arrest and punish anybody. In the year 1861, the British govt passed a law, called as Criminal Procedure code, (CrPC), that defined the procedures for dealing with crimes.
This act mandated the govt, to appoint magistrates who can arrest the suspected people. There shall be also a magistrate for the entire district, and he/she shall be called as District Magistrate. He will be responsible for law & order of the district, and will have the control of the police in his district. He was given the powers to arrest any suspect and keep in in the jail. He was also given wide ranging discretionary powers to ensure nobody revolts against the British or creates any problem to peace.
The then British govt, instead of appointing a separate officer as district magistrate, asked the collectors to work as District Magistrates too! Because, they had good understanding of the land administration and also had the police force with them. So, they made perfect choice for district magistrates.”
“Ah! No doubt that the collector is seen so powerful!! Aunty, these powers are still with the collectors, even after 100s of years?!”
“Interestingly, all the powers still exist even now, as still we are using the same CrPC even now! Thus, the collector post combined with the District magistrate post, has enormous legal authority. On the issue of collection of tax, the collectors no more collect any tax. Because, tax on agriculture has been abolished. The other taxes are collected by separate depts. However, the term ‘collector’ remained."
“Got that aunty! The collector also is the head of all the officers in the districts? How does that work? And why is only IAS are appointed as collectors?
“Ok, I will explain the duties and responsibilities of the present-day collector in the coming week!”
(Thanks to my batch-mate in 1998 batch IAS, who reviewed the historical facts.)