Four days of great outing to Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar, Corbett National Park and Nainital
The first day was the day of celebration. It was my nephew’s birthday. I was with my family and we had some real good food and fun. I had good chat with my teenaged nephews and niece. And they were as usual dismissive of me in most loving way. Blessed I am.
Visiting family friend Pankaj Kumar, who is now the district magistrate of Muzaffarnagar, was pleasurable. He explained the complexities of running a district. We visited his ‘English’ office in the collectorate. There was no method in the madness in the way records were kept. They were covered with thick, almost impregnable, multiple layers of dust that perhaps prevented corrosive effects of the climate.
This office was designed as a focal point of colonial administration at the local level to control the denizens of the Raj by extracting land revenue from them to fund a sizable part of romanticised industrial revolution. lot of blood and sweat of a huge population of exploited people supported the industrial revolution in England that is famed to be carried out by the classical forces of growth; it is in fact comparative to ‘Annals of Soviet exploitation.’
This same office is now the most powerful facilitator of development and growth at the local level under a liberal constitution that is committed to the welfare of the masses. A district magistrate or collector or deputy commissioner in charge to carry out all the initiatives, schemes and projects of both the state and the central governments at the local level.
Over the years, the local self-government under Panchayati Raj has gained the political space at the district and lower levels of governance. In the three-tier democracy, that office of district magistrate now is like an agent of the state government. The state government is paranoid to lose its influence and therefore this office has remained powerful.
Despite the inherent contradictions, this office has not done so badly. The alarming development is that this office has not remained apolitical. Over the years people who get to man these positions have generally been identified with a certain political outfit. A helpful district magistrate can be very handy for political masters at the state capital, because despite plethora of laws, rules and regulation, the element of discretion in the hands of a district magistrate has actually gone up. I will leave at that.