Government appoints Senior IAS PD Vaghela as TRAI chairman

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) on Monday appointed P.D. Vaghela as the chairman of the Telecom Regulatory of India (TRAI).

Vaghela was the secretary, pharmaceuticals, since August 2019. He played a crucial role in regulating prices of medicines and medical goods. Vaghela is also considered one of the foremost bureaucrats to have rolled out the goods and services tax (GST) in 2017.

Vaghela’s term as chairperson of the telecom body will last for three years or until he turns 65.

Vaghela will succeed RS Sharma, whose tenure as chief of TRAI lapses on September 30. Prior to TRAI, Sharma led the creation of Aadhaar as the director general and mission director of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) during 2009-2013.

However, when RS Sharma’s three-year tenure ended in August 2018, the government offered him a fresh term of two years, that is till he turned 65. This way, he became the first TRAI chairman to have a tenure of five years.

Sharma has seen massive disruption in the telecom sector due to the entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd in September 2016 that offered almost free voice and data services, leading to a sharp fall in revenues of other companies.

The telecom sector has been witnessing several changes, a key one being the issue of the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues and its subsequent unravelling in the Supreme Court. Despite an extended 10-year time frame granted to telecom companies for the repayment of their dues, the situation for leading players Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel remains grim.

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