Communication and IT ministry splits, Manoj Sinha takes charge as telecom minister

New Delhi: The high-profile Communications and IT ministry has been split with Manoj Sinha on Wednesday taking the charge of the telecom ministry, which is all set to conduct the largest-ever spectrum auctions in the country.

Union Minister Manoj Sinha.

Union Minister Manoj Sinha.

Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is the new Minister for Law and Justice, will continue to look after
Department of IT and Electronics. So far, Prasad was handling both Communications and IT portfolios.

"I will share my views (on telecom) day after tomorrow," Sinha told reporters after assuming the charge at his new
office as Minister of State (Independent Charge).

He is a Lok Sabha MP from Ghazipur constituency of Uttar Pradesh.

Sinha, an M Tech in civil engineering, will have his hands full as the new minister for the telecom sector which boasts of the world's second largest mobile subscriber base and the lowest tariffs, and where the biggest corporate houses - RIL, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular - are slugging it out for market dominance.

While on the one hand, Telecom Department is gearing up for the mega spectrum auction, where airwaves worth Rs 5.66
lakh crore will be up for bidding, on the other, Sinha will have to address issues such as call drops wherein the Supreme Court has struck down telecom regulator Trai's plans of making operators compensate mobile phone users for call drops.

In fact, to check call drops, Trai has demanded more teeth, including imposing fine of up to Rs 10 crore on
operators and jail term of up to two years for their executives, prompting the telecom companies to term such
powers as 'draconian'.

Sinha will also have to handle framing of regulation on the much-debated net neutrality issue, where battlelines are already drawn between telecom operators and internet based content providers. As such, Trai has started pre-consultation process on net neutrality, and has already got written comments from industry stakeholders and members of civil society.

Former telecom minister Prasad had earlier said that the government will take a view on net neutrality after receiving Trai's recommendation.

Sinha will have the challenging task of protecting consumer interest for affordable telephony services while
maintaining investor confidence in the sector.

The IT-BHU pass-out minister will also look after the Department of Posts which is undergoing massive reforms to
start 650 payments bank branches by September 2017.

It is after 20 years, the telecom ministry has been handed over to an MoS (Independent Charge). Before this, former
telecom minister Beni Prasad Verma, also from UP, handled the ministry with independent charge between 1996-98.

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Updated Date: Jul 06, 2016 21:39:31 IST

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