Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar has been appointed the chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or Trai. The 1975-batch Indian Administrative Service Officer will take charge on Monday, succeeding J S Sarma, who completed his tenure on Saturday. Khullar has got a three-year tenure as Trai chairman. In the normal course, he would have retired as commerce secretary on attaining the age of 60 next year.
Khullar, who was personal secretary to Manmohan Singh as finance minister in the early 1990s during the heady days of economic reforms, will have the onerous responsibility of regulating the telecom sector currently embroiled in its worst mess ever.
Khullar is known for his quiet aggression as an administrator and reluctance to mince words. An IAS officer belonging to the Union Territories cadre, Khullar played a crucial role in facilitating the Delhi government's transition from the sales tax regime to a state value-added tax regime that proved to be a success.
Just before being named the Trai chairman, Khullar had been appointed as India's ambassador at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, an order that was rescinded subsequently. A strong contender for the post of the finance secretary, when it fell vacant late last year, Khullar was, however, retained in the commerce ministry. Now, as Trai chairman, his skills will be on test as a regulator of a sector in trouble, following the spate of cancellation of licences and the controversial Trai order on reserve prices for spectrum auction and refarming of spectrum already allocated.