Was letter to TRAI seeking action on RJio’s offers behind Deepak’s transfer?

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on January 13, 2018

Succession talks JS Deepak, Rita Teaotia and Aruna Sundararajan

He had expressed fear that tariff war may lead telcos to default on loan repayments

The Wednesday late evening announcement of Department of Telecom (DoT) Secretary JS Deepak taking over as as India’s representative at the WTO created a flutter in the power corridors. The WTO position has been till now held by lower ranked officers — Joint Secretary and above.

What was obvious was that it had to do with the ongoing war between telcos.

Deepak has been appointed as “Ambassador/ Permanent Representative of India to the WTO, Geneva with a tenure starting from June 1, till the date of his retirement on July 31, 2018”.

The transfer apart, what surprised many is that he has also been posted in the Department of Commerce on special duty (OSD) till May, in the rank and pay of Secretary, a post temporarily created by the upgrading of a vacant director post.

When the drama was unfolding, Deepak was in Barcelona, attending the Mobile World Congress. He is yet to return. For a while now there have been rumours about his transfer, but the way it was done surprised many.

Although it is not clear what spurred the government to issue the order suddenly, sources said Deepak’s letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) seeking action against RJio’s ‘promotional offer’ could be one of the many reasons.

He had written that the ongoing tariff war in the industry, triggered by new entrant Reliance Jio’s promotional offers, may impact the sector, which may in turn default on its loan repayments if the ongoing financial stress continues. Telecom operators cumulatively owe over ₹4.5 lakh crore to various banks.

“While we congratulate Mr Deepak and wish him well in his new position, the industry is sorry to see the departure of such a dynamic and action oriented DoT Secretary,” said Rajan Mathews, Director General of Cellular Operators Authority of India.

A 1982 batch IAS officer, Deepak was appointed DoT Secretary in February 2016.

Who next?

So, who will replace Deepak? According to various sources, Rita Teaotia could be the nominee. She is at present Secretary, Department of Commerce. A 1981 batch officer, Teaotia had worked as a Special Secretary with DoT earlier too.

Also in the reckoning is Aruna Sundararajan, who is currently serving as Secretary to the Ministry of Electronics and IT. A 1982 batch officer, Sundararajan has also worked with DoT as Additional Secretary and held various other positions such as Administrator of USOF and NOFN projects.

Meanwhile, official sources said that Aruna Sundararajan has been given the additional charge of DoT Secretary till a new order comes.

Published on March 02, 2017

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