ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Is the Institution of District Magistrate Still Necessary?

Created in the mid-19th century by the colonial rulers to manage their affairs in India, the district magistrate was in charge of administration and collection of revenue. Today, the post has created a dichotomy between the district administration and various self-government institutions at the village and district levels. Given the administrative and bureaucratic problems that arise from such a structure, a pertinent question is whether this office is still functionally valid.

T he institution of the district magistrate (DM) as an essential ingredient of the Indian governance and polity has been embedded in the Indian psyche for over a century and a half. The Indian rural populace being accustomed to the autocratic and arbitrary rule of the zamindars, jagirdars, petty chieftains and local overlords accepted it with some relief that this autocracy was at least to some extent governed by imperial laws. The institution was able to give an impression that it would dispense justice (insaf) fairly and evenly. As a result, during our freedom struggle the entire vitriolic rhetoric of the movement was directed against the imperial power in England and its representatives in India the viceroy and governor general and the provincial governors. The leaders hardly ever talked of the autocratic system of district administration through which the raj controlled the Indian empire. People came in touch with the empire through this non-responsive apparatus. This was taken for granted as a normal phenomenon.

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