It is well known that Telecom Secretary JS Deepak, a 1982 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, is a no-nonsense officer. So many were surprised at his appointment as OSD in the Department of Commerce, as it came in the guise of a future plum posting as India’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative to WTO (Geneva), with effect from June 1, 2017, till his retirement on July 31, 2018. When the appointment was announced, Deepak was in Barcelona attending the Mobile World Conference. This is said to be one of the most unceremonious exits of a secretary from the telecom ministry. Deepak’s tenure as Telecom Secretary was quite successful as far as the spectrum auction was concerned. When Deepak joined as Telecom Secretary in January 29, 2016, he had a lot of challenges to face – auction of spectrum, call drop problem, implementation of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN). The real tussle started regarding some TRAI decisions relating to the entry of a powerful new operator. On February 22, one of the last decisions of the Telecom Commission with Deepak its chairman was to apprise TRAI of the “alarming decline” in government revenue due to its recent tariff orders and its overall negative impact on the growth of the industry.
Sources disclosed that the PMO was not satisfied with the progress of laying network in North East, (which is a non-starter) and the second phase of Left Wing Effected (LWE) areas. The North-East project has missed its deadline by many months and its future is not decided. The PMO held a review meeting in February, where it’s learnt, the displeasure on non-performance was conveyed to Deepak. His sudden transfer too is indicative of the government’s displeasure, albeit in a sophisticated way. What was the hurry? Why was he shifted to commerce ministry as OSD, a director level position, upgraded to accommodate him. Why couldn’t the government wait for three months when the tenure of the existing Ambassador to WTO would be over? Insiders reveal that though the NOFN work is going slow, the intricate politics within the ministry and the growing influence of a new operator also contributed to his exit.