The government has appointed commerce secretary Rahul Khullar as the chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to succeed J.S. Sarma and deal with telcos who are on the warpath with the regulator.
The 1975 batch IAS officer, who will take over the hot seat on Monday, has the reputation of deciding issues on. He will be confronted with the tough task of working out the nearly ten-fold hike in the reserve price for the forthcoming 2G spectrum auction, recommended by his predecessor.
The recommendation has evoked sharp reactions from telcom companies. Sarma has desisted from issuing clarifications and tried to keep his hands clean even as the Telecom Commission sought clarity from Trai on issues relating to the calculation of the reserve price, its impact on phone tariffs, refarming of the 900 MHz spectrum and the quantum of spectrum to be auctioned.
Khullar, who has a good grasp of economic issues, was personal secretary to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when the latter was the finance minister in the early 1990s.
Khullar will have to face the Telecom Commission and explain the logic behind the Trai recommendations. Telecom ministry sources said Trai could be asked to rework the reserve price of 2G spectrum.
But senior officials further pointed out that the reserve price would not be much cheaper and could be brought down at the most by 20 per cent as it is a very sensitive political issue. "The spectrum issue has ended in serious political trouble for the UPA. The government will not burn its hands by offering rebates and discounts to the corporates as they wish. That would be only to the extent that it really does not affect the auction of spectrum. After all, the government has to rake in funds to bridge the ever growing fiscal deficit also," the official said.
Khullar will also have to face the telecom operators with the responsibility of regulating them as the sector is currently embroiled in its worst mess ever. The telecom players have warned the government that there might be a 100 per cent tariff hike while Trai has been arguing that the change might be just two to three paise after the acceptance of its recommendations.
Courtesy: Mail Today