Regulators

Trai’s Baijal ends tenure; Misra likely successor

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NEW DELHI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman Pradip Baijal retired today from service after an eventful three-year tenure as the chief regulator and a civil services career spanning 40 years.

During his tenure as the Trai chief, Baijal has been instrumental in bringing various telecom services within the reach of ordinary people as prices fell and tele-density increased.
Under him, Trai also stood its ground in guarding the price line of cable TV services and did away with premiums to be paid on exclusive content much to the chagrin of pay broadcasters.

On his last day today, Baijal is said to have told a close associate that he’s going away with a sense of pride for having stood up for consumers’ rights about which much still needs to be done.

Baijal is likely to be succeeded by former telecommunications secretary Nripendra Misra, who presently heads a Centre for Department of Telematics-Alacatel joint venture as its chairman.

Misra, according to telecom ministry sources, is the front-runner for the top post at Trai, though last-minute calisthenics could see a surprise candidate being sprung on the telecom and broadcast industries, which are going through changing times and grappling with introduction of new norms and technologies.

Baijal, a 1966 Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, was a hand-on person taking personal interest in important issues like changes to the access deficit charge (ADC) that punctured mobile phone bills and proposing a comprehensive rollout plan for the vexed issue of CAS, which, however, is gathering dust at the I&B ministry.

“Mr. Baijal was a result driven person, taking personal interest in key issues regarding the industry,” an associates of Baijal at Trai told Indiantelevision.com.

In fact, it was Baijal who is credited with suggesting a reduction in ADC, a fee that private telecom operators pay to the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and its eventual withdrawal by 2009.

Even towards the end of his inning at Trai, Baijal continued to aggressively support and push for unified licensing under which a licencee can offer telecom, infotech and broadcasting services on a single licence.

The new chairman’s name is yet to be notified by the government and could take some days. In the interim, the senior-most member-secretary could function as the head of Trai.

Former secretary of the department of telecom (DoT) Misra is said to be front runner for the top Trai post. The name of GD Gaiha, chairman of Telecommunications Consultant of India LTD (TCIL) is doing the rounds of the media to replace Dr DPS. Seth as a member.

In recent times, Baijal’s stature had risen so much that its parent, the telecom ministry, had started feeling uncomfortable. The government is likely to get a low profile person as Trai chairman to avoid run-ins with the telecom minister.

Misra, a 1967 IAS officer, had worked closely with the present communications and IT minister Dayanidhi Maran whose elder brother and family control the South Indian media power house Sun TV group.

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