The headline suggests the focus is on the capture of regulatory agencies by retired IAS officers. But it is more, a wide-ranging discourse on problems of regulatory governance. It is a pity that the arguments are harmed by sloppy blame attribution: how can TRAI be blamed for spectrum auctions, when the article itself recognizes that is in the province of the Department of Telecommunications?
So how do we reverse this capture of important decision-making bodies by the bureaucracy? In 2006, the Planning Commission published a report (Approach to Regulations: Issues and Options) with some suggestions. The report highlights the fact that there is no uniformity in thinking behind setting up independent regulators. It points to the fact that many of them differ in terms of the extent of powers, tenure of members, selection procedures, and more. The petroleum regulator, for instance, can issue licences but has no say over tariffs. CERC fixes tariffs and issues licences, while trai has only recommendatory powers. To fix these things, it suggests setting up a regulatory affairs department in the Ministry of Personnel and having a minister for regulatory affairs. The idea was to bring in some oversight.