Ram Sewak Sharma, a 1978 IAS batch officer of the Jharkhand cadre who is currently serving as secretary in the department of electronics and information technology, has been appointed as the new chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
“The appointments committee of the cabinet has approved RS Sharma as chairperson of Trai for three years or till the age of 65 years, or until further orders, whichever is earliest,” a government notification dated July 27 stated.
FE was the first to report in its May 17 edition that Sharma had been selected by the panel and his name would be announced shortly.
Sharma, who worked in the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) before moving to the IT department, holds a Masters degree in mathematics from IIT Kanpur and in computer science from the University of California.
Since he’s a member of the full telecom commission, he’s familiar with all telecom issues and is understood to have a good rapport with PM Narendra Modi as well as his current boss, communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Like his predecessor he would be taking charge at a time when the sector is gripped in major turmoil with the emergence of Over-The-Top operators who are eating into the revenues of the mobile operators.
The Trai in March initiated a consultative process to ascertain whether OTTs need to be brought under some kind of a regulatory mechanism to bring about a level play field with regard to telcos. Erstwhile chairman Rahul Khullar could not complete the process of mining through the responses the regulator has received in response to the consultation paper, a task which Sharma would have to complete.
A department of telecommunications-appointed committee has already submitted its report on the subject, which has favoured partial regulation of OTTs and a case-by-case approach with regard to sponsored data platforms like zero rating plan like the one which was announced by Bharti Airtel.
A search committee, headed by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, was in-charge of shortlisting and interviewing candidates for the Trai chairman’s post. In all, 7-8 candidates were interviewed apart from Sharma.
They included Bimal Julka (I&B secretary), Rajeev Kher (commerce secretary), RK Mathur (defence secretary), Rakesh Singh (steel secretary) and former telecom secretary, M F Farooqui. Sources said a former Trai secretary, Harshavardhan Singh who had moved on to the World Trade Organisation, was also in the fray and was interviewed.