India: Media Reports Central Bank Has Postponed ‘Crypto-Rupee’ Plans

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is pausing its plans to release a digital currency, Indian business news outlet the Hindu Business Line reported on Jan. 1.

India’s central bank had originally announced its intentions to consider a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in April of this year, at the time noting the establishment of an interdepartmental group to look into potential advantages and feasibility.

In August, RBI confirmed the creation of the group, specifying that it was researching a CBDC that would be backed the rupee for reasons including the cost of printing paper and the rising popularity of using digital tokens.

Now, amid confusion over the group’s exact findings, which remain a mystery, Delhi has apparently had a change of heart.

“The government doesn’t want the digital currency any more. It thinks it is too early to even think about a digital currency,” Hindu Business Line quotes an unidentified source as saying.

The hesitancy echoes that which the government displayed last week on the topic of cryptocurrency regulation. Non-CBDC assets such as Bitcoin (BTC) will remain in a gray area for the foreseeable future, one state minister told parliament, saying the issue was being approached with due caution.

Expectations had been that India would put some form of regulatory framework in place in 2018, amid anger over RBI’s ongoing ban on crypto transaction processing by banks.  

The government, meanwhile, continues to seek ways of reducing cash usage in India while attaching transactions to consumers’ biometric data via the Aadhaar scheme — reportedly the world’s biggest biometric ID system, which contains the records of more than one billion people.

Some parties appeared relieved at the shelving of the CBDC option.

“It is premature for RBI to launch crypto-rupee, as more understanding of the crypto economy need to be achieved,” local cryptocurrency exchange Belfrics founder Praveen Kumar told Hindu BusinessLine. He added:

“It is a right decision to delay the process and see how the publicly traded peer-to-peer economy is shaping up.”

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New Indian Governmental Committee Favors Legalizing Cryptocurrencies, Media Reports

A governmental committee in India has reportedly suggested that cryptocurrencies be legalized in the country, English-language local media TheNewIndianExpress (TNIE) reported on Dec. 26.

According to the article, an unnamed senior official who reportedly attended the panel’s meetings on cryptocurrencies stated:

“There is a general consensus that cryptocurrency cannot be dismissed as completely illegal. It needs to be legalized with strong riders.”

Previous Indian government panel meetings had reportedly suggested a complete ban on cryptocurrencies in the country earlier in December, stating that “any kind of dealing in such currencies should be treated as ‘illegal.’”

India’s government reportedly set up this most recent second inter-ministerial committee, which is led by Subhash Chandra Garg, the Department of Economic Affairs secretary, after the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) ban on banks dealing with crypto businesses and persons in April of this year.

While a previous committee had recommended a total crypto ban in March 2017, the new committee, TNIE writes, was set up to deal with the conflicting opinions on the RBI ban.

According to the TNIE, the committee has already had two meetings, and the next one is expected to take place in January.

This committee includes members of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, RBI, Securities and Exchange Board of India and the revenue secretary.

The official also noted that the members of the committee “have also taken inputs from cryptocurrency exchanges and experts,” concluding by stating that they will work on the legal aspects with India’s law ministry.

As Cointelegraph reported at the beginning of the current month, G20 countries have called for the taxation of cryptocurrencies and regulation preventing their use for money laundering, according to a document stipulated during a Buenos Aires summit.

Some of the members of the second Indian governmental committee, such as the RBI executive director Ganesh Kumar and Ministry of Finance officials, participated in those G20 meetings. Because of this, according to the article, “they are expected to include insights they gained from the global deliberations in their report.”

In October, news broke that the developers of India’s first Bitcoin (BTC) “ATM” were arrested on criminal charges. According to local mainstream media, the two — who are also founders of India’s first crypto exchange Unocoin — were booked for criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery.

A press statement from India’s Central Crime Branch noted that since the ATM had not been approved by the government, it should not have been called an ATM. Prashant Mali, a cyber lawyer, explained that if “kiosk” had been written instead of “ATM,” the installation would have fallen into a grey area of the law.

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Media: Crypto Exchange Huobi’s OTC Trading Platform to Support India Rupee Transactions

Huobi, currently the world’s third largest crypto exchange by daily trading volumes, is set to support Indian rupee (INR) transactions on its proprietary peer-to-peer trading platform, according to an email cited by Crypto News India July 26.

Huobi, whose over-the-counter (OTC) service will reportedly offer Indian users zero-fee trading on Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Tether (USDT) using rupees, noted in the email that:

“We do think it’s time that we provide a solution of buying/selling digital assets with INR for all Indian users…every registered Indian user of Huobi can log in to https://otc.huobi.com to trade digital assets with INR.”

The email reportedly goes on to advise customers that they can transfer to Huobi Global if they want to trade more cryptocurrencies with “high liquidity.”

The OTC option for Indian traders has yet to be confirmed in an official announcement beyond Crypto News’ cited correspondence, although the platform did reach out to a spokesperson who has allegedly confirmed that INR trading will be supported.

Huobi has not responded to Cointelegraph’s request for confirmation by press time.

News of Huobi OTC’s reported support for rupee transactions is especially significant for the Indian crypto space in light of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) controversial ban on banks’ dealings with crypto-related businesses and persons, which came into force July 5.

On July 4, one day prior to the deadline for the ban’s implementation, local crypto exchange WazirX revealed it would itself be transforming into a peer-to-peer platform so as to avoid in-house crypto-fiat conversion.

The central bank’s crypto dealings ban — first announced in April 2018 — has prompted both public and industry-led petitions, with some appealing to the courts on the grounds that the decision is unconstitutional.

Ongoing hearings on the ban at the Supreme Court have seen the judiciary refuse to grant interim relief to those that purport to be affected. Ten days ago, the court deferred the final hearing on the ban — originally scheduled for July 20 — until September 2018.

Alongside this most recent bid to reach out to an Indian user base, Singapore-headquartered Huobi has been rapidly expanding overseas throughout 2018. Trading has recently opened on its new “strategic partner” platform in the U.S., having launched a South Korean subsidiary this spring as well as unveiling a London-based operation, with OTC trading tests for the U.K. market expected to begin in the third quarter of this year.

Huobi has seen $968.7 million in trades over the 24-hour period to press time, according to CoinMarketCap.

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Hong Kong: 100 ‘Mainstream Media’ Establish ‘Global Media Blockchain Alliance’

The Global Media Blockchain Alliance has been established in Hong Kong to create a “healthy public opinion environment” for the blockchain industry, Taiwanese newspaper China Times reports July 20.

At the 2018 Global Media Blockchain Summit, held in Hong Kong July 19, the Global Media Blockchain Alliance released its “Hong Kong Initiative.” In it, they underlined the unique role of the media in providing high-quality information about the blockchain industry to the public, People’s Daily reports

The Global Media Blockchain Alliance has been established by an association of more than 100 mainstream media, according to China Times. The Alliance plans to provide an open membership entry mechanism for new media, also built on blockchain.

Blockchain technology will bring new social changes, according to Ding Laibin, the secretary general of the Global Media Blockchain Alliance. People’s Daily reports him as saying that the media should fully play its role by tapping into the value of the blockchain industry, cracking down on fraud, and contributing to the industry’s long-term success.

Hong Kong continues making steps towards becoming a global leader in the development of blockchain tech, as Cointelegraph reported earlier this month.  

On Wednesday this week, Cointelegraph reported that China will lead an international research group focused on the standardization of the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain tech. This group was established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

Hong Kong’s Monetary Authority is set to launch its own blockchain trade finance platform in August this year, Cointelegraph wrote July 16.

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