TRAI must have more power: DoT

The government has to engineer new reforms into the telecom sector so that the industry continues to grow.

In his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had spoken about streamlining and strengthening the infrastructure regulators in India. According to a report in The Times of India, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has informed the Parliament that it is currently reviewing proposals for strengthening the telecom regulator, TRAI, as well as making it more accountable to Parliament.

Ever since the 2G scam came into the limelight, DoT has been under pressure to review the workings of the TRAI. In the past there has been a kind of blame-game between DoT and TRAI. DoT has blamed TRAI for not recommending auctions. On its part TRAI has claimed that the government had ignored several of its recommendations in implementing the 2G spectrum policy.

One of Indias earliest infrastructure regulators, TRAI has had a mixed track record. At one level it is seen as being independent by virtue of legislation, but at another level it has had its fair share of controversies since the limited mobility saga in 2001, the UASL (Universal Access Service Licence) migrations in 2003 and more recently its alleged role in the 2G scam. In the past there have been numerous standoffs between the DoT and TRAI on various issues.

In the present dispensation, TRAI is subject to examination/review by various Parliamentary committees such as the Standing Committee on IT, Committee on Subordinate Legislation, Committee on Papers Laid and others. However, the opinion has often been expressed that TRAI should do a more direct, accountable and objective reporting to Parliament.

In 2008, TRAI had sent an independent set of consolidated proposals to DoT to consider various amendments in the TRAI Act of 1997. These proposals had been examined by the DoT in consultation with several other ministries and departments. In August 2010 the DoT finalized its views on the TRAI proposal and sent them back the regulator for its comments and suggestions.

Essentially, TRAI seeks to have greater powers in the areas of spectrum management. It also wishes to undergo an overall restructuring to ensure its financial independence and its ability to hire superior talent.

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