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PD Vaghela appointed as TRAI chairperson, will succeed RS Sharma

The central government has approved Dr. PD Vaghela as the next chairperson of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, All India Radio reported. Vaghela, a 1986 Gujarat cadre IAS officer, will succeed RS Sharma, whose five years at TRAI will end on September 30. His appointment is for a period of three years. Vaghela is currently the Secretary of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers’ Department of Pharmaceuticals, according to the department’s website. Vaghela led one of the eleven “Empowered Groups” constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs to synchronise efforts among different ministries to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. He was due to retire on September 30.

Prior to the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Vaghela was the commissioner of commercial tax in Gujarat. Prior to this, according to a government record, Vaghela served as the chair of the Kandla Port Trust, and before that, as joint secretary at the Gujarat State Tourism Corporation.

The telecom industry looks significantly different from when Vaghela’s predecessor was appointed: the number of wireless operators has effectively reduced to three (Jio, Vi and Airtel), with Jio’s entry consolidating the industry, which continues to struggle to compete with the new entrant, or even stay afloat financially. The Cellular Operators Association of India, an industry body representing telecom operators, welcomed Vaghela’s appointment. In a statement, its director general, Lt. Gen. Dr. SP Kocchar, had this to say:

“We heartily welcome Dr. PD Vaghela as the new TRAI Chairman and look forward to working with him for taking forward the Telecom Industry’s critical role in nation-building. The industry is keenly looking for the leadership and support of the regulator and government for creating a more stable regulatory environment which is essential for further growth of the Digital Services sector. This is essential to enable the realisation and timely achievement of the Government’s targets specified in the National Digital Communications Policy, 2018.”

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