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Reshuffling of ministries means Telecom is now under independent charge; other notes


The Indian government made some significant changes to ministries yesterday, including the Union Cabinet of Ministers:

– Ravi Shankar Prasad, though remaining the Minister for Electronics & Information Technology, and gets additional charge as Minister for Law & Justice. Along with this, PP Chaudhary is now the Minister of State for Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology. This leaves us wondering about what is planned at the intersection of Law & Justice and Electronics & IT: a Privacy and Data Protection bill perhaps? Surely not the Communications Convergence bill again…that would need the ministry of Information and Broadcasting to get involved, as well as the Minister of State for Communications (new!).

– What has been culled from Ravi Shankar Prasad’s portfolio is the “Communications” (ie. Telecom) sector, just shy of what is pipped to be India’s largest ever spectrum auctions (also referred to, in accounting terms, as “$$$”). That has gone to Manoj Sinha, who has Communications as an independent charge, along with Railways. Earlier, Sinha just had Railways, so this is an expansion of his portfolio. Prasad leaves behind unresolved issues, and we hope the Sinha remembers assurances given by Prasad on the floor of the house. ET says Sinha might improve ties with the telecom sector, but it doesn’t say how it came to that “considered” opinion. Or is it just hope. Sinha is an engineer from IIT-BHU.

The signal we’re getting from this: Communications is important enough to be carved out from Electronics and Information Technology, but not enough for a single person to take charge of just communications. The other way of looking at it is that Telecom no longer has a Cabinet Minister overseeing it. Which is it?

Jayant Sinha, a former VC, who was Minister of State for Finance, and appeared to be rather participative in events with the Bangalore based technology lobby group ISpirt, has been moved to Civil Aviation, as Minister of State with Independent Charge. Hurrah for airline startups? Oh wait.

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– Nirmala Sitharaman remains in charge of Commerce and Industry, and hence also e-commerce and e-industry.

Venkaiah Naidu adds Information & Broadcasting (popularly known as the Ministry of Truth) to his portfolio of ministries, which also include Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation. This means Arun Jaitley is no longer the I&B ministerCol. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore remains the Minister of State for I&B.

Updates: Added counterpoint to the view on telecom

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