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New TRAI chairperson likely to be named by month-end

The government is expected to appoint the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairperson latest by the end of the month, sources in the know said. The position has been lying vacant for more than three months now.

Four former bureaucrats are in the fray, and have been interviewed after applications were invited for the second time in December, they added.

Among them, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Railway Board, Anil Kumar Lahoti, and former secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, are seen as frontrunners to take over as the next regulator, sources said. When contacted on Wednesday, both declined to comment on the matter.

The other two candidates are former power secretary Sanjiv Sahai, and former member, technology at the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) A K Tiwari. Both could not be reached for comments.

On December 8, the DoT had invited applications for the position for the second time in six months. The last date of submissions stands at 22 December. TRAI is the autonomous regulator for both the telecom and broadcasting sectors. The last TRAI chairperson P D Vaghela retired on September 30. TRAI member Meenakshi Gupta is currently handling the additional charge of chairperson. TRAI is led by the chairperson, alongside two whole-time members, and two part-time members appointed by the Centre. In the absence of a full-time chairman, important decisions such as whether satellite spectrum would be auctioned in India or allocated administratively remain pending.

The DoT had first advertised the position on June 22. Sources said that several candidates had been interviewed by the search-cum-selection committee, without a positive outcome. However, the committee is also free to identify and recommend any other person who has not applied for the position based on merit. The applicant must have special knowledge of and professional experience in telecommunication, industry, finance, accountancy, law, management or consumer affairs. Candidates also need to have spent at least 3 years as secretary or additional secretary to the Centre or state governments, it added.

The tenure of the post is for a term not exceeding three years or till the age of sixty five years, whichever is earlier.

Since 2018, the position comes with a consolidated salary of Rs 4.50 lakh per month. The TRAI Act, 1997, which governs appointments to the position, was amended in the Telecom Bill to allow senior private sector corporate executives to be tapped for the role.

It has allowed the hiring of non-government executives “if such person has at least thirty years of professional experience and has served as a member of the board of directors or a chief executive of a company in certain areas”. Business Standard

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