Dilli Ka Babu: ‘Collector’ to be history?

Columnist  | Dilip Cherian

Opinion, Op Ed

The panel has been tasked with giving recommendations after consulting all stakeholders, including members of the public.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has overruled a recommendation of his chief secretary Tom Jose and extended the suspension of IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman by another three months. (Photo: ANI)

Historically, since Warren Hastings introduced collectors for revenue collection in the 18th century, the term 'collector' has denoted the state’s power in the hinterlands. Since Independence, the role of the district collector has grown even more significant with multiple powers conferred upon the official under numerous Central and state laws on a wide range of subjects.

But the term “collector” may be on its way out in Madhya Pradesh. The Kamal Nath government has constituted a high-level committee to suggest an alternative for the designation of “collector”. It believes that due to the multidimensional regulatory and developmental role of the collector as the administrative and executive head of the district, a new term is needed for the position.

Sources say that I.C.P. Keshari, additional chief secretary of the commerce tax department, heads the three-member committee also comprising Malay Kumar Srivastava, Manish Rastogi and Vishesh Garhpale. Preeti Maithil, the district collector of Sagar, is the member secretary of the committee.

The panel has been tasked with giving recommendations after consulting all stakeholders, including members of the public. It will also explore the contours of the jurisdiction of the executive head of the district.

The new term will be incorporated in the land revenue code and developmental schemes which state the collector as the district head. However, the police manual, CrPC and Arms Act remain unchanged which “district magistrate” as the district head and not “collector”.

An accident, then a suspension
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has overruled a recommendation of his chief secretary Tom Jose and extended the suspension of IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman by another three months.

The IAS officer was on suspension as he is accused of hitting and killing Kerala journalist K.M. Basheer in a road accident in August last year while driving his car in an inebriated state.

The panel headed by Jose had recommended the chief minister to not extend the suspension period further citing that the police had not filed the chargesheet even six months after the accident. Apparently, it was conveyed to the chief minister that the IAS officer could not be kept on suspension beyond six months on the basis of an FIR.

But, sources say, the chief minister has decided to ignore the recommendation in view of the widely held public view that there was a concerted effort on the part of senior bureaucrats in the state administration to rescue the errant officer.

Air India’s new captain
After the end of Ashwini Lohani’s tenure as chairman and managing director (CMD) of Air India, the appointment of Rajiv Bansal as his successor is being viewed as a renewed divestment push by the government. This would be Bansal’s second stint at Air India, having served as interim CMD for three months in 2017. Then also, he had replaced Lohani, who had been appointed chairman of the railway board. Bansal, a 1988-batch IAS officer of the Nagaland cadre, is currently additional secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas.

Bansal takes charge at a time when the financially strapped national carrier is looking to get new wings for the future. According to sources, Mr Bansal has a reputation for being focused and decisive. During his earlier stint at Air India, the airline’s on-time performance was 95 per cent, and he drew up a phased plan to get aircraft grounded due to lack of spare parts back in the air.

These talents will be much needed during the critical divestment period as the airline looks for new suitors.

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