Rahul Khullar set to take over as Trai chairman

MUMBAI: Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar is replacing J S Sarma as the new Trai chairman for a three-year term.

The Prime Minister‘s office seems to have cleared the appointment of Khullar, a 1975 batch IAS officer of Delhi cadre.The tenure of Khullar, who was due to retire in April next year, will be till May 2015.

Sarma retires after having passed recommendations on spectrum allocation that won the opposition of the telecom operators with the base price being increased 13-fold.

Sarma also issued the tariff and interconnect order for digital addressable cable. Television news broadcasters have particularly opposed the legitimisation of carriage fees while a section of the multi-system operators (MSOs) have found certain clauses in the order not favourable for them. Local cable operators are also demanding more revenue share from the MSOs.
Khullar, an economist, will have to carefully balance these burning issues. The telecom operators have been lobbying for a change in regime as Sarma has been firm on the formula Trai has recommended for the auction of 2G airwaves.

The television industry will anxiously wait to see if the new chairman will defer the digitisation deadline of 30 June for the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

Khullar had worked closely with then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh during 1991-1993 as his private secretary.

As commerce secretary, Khullar worked for trade normalisation between India and Pakistan. He had been successful in implementing measures that helped exports cross the $300-billion mark in 2011-12. He has also negotiated India‘s stance at WTO and various other multilateral pacts.

It is understood that former DIPP Secretary R P Singh, Defence Production Secretary Shekhar Agarwal, Fertiliser Secretary Ajay Bhattacharya, former Department of Telecom member (Technology) Chandra Prakash, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner Subodh Kumar, former Secretary (Defence Finance) Indu Liberhan and Vijayalakshmi K Gupta were also in race for the post.

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