RBI’s Initiatives in Adoption of Cryptocurrency: Sitharaman Sends Warning

RBI’s Initiatives in Adoption of Cryptocurrency: Sitharaman Sends Warning

RBI is on its way to make digital currency
RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said last month that the central bank may launch a pilot of its digital currency by December this year. Das said in an interview that the RBI is working on a phased implementation strategy for the same. He also said that the RBI is “extremely careful” about the central bank digital currency (CBDC), which is a new product for it. The RBI defines CBDC as a legal tender issued by a central bank in a digital form. It is the same as a fiat currency and is exchangeable one-to-one with the fiat currency. Only its form is different.

Virtual private currencies like Bitcoin have gained wide acceptance in the last few years. These are digitally encrypted, decentralized but not linked to or regulated by any government. A CBDC, on the other hand, will be a digital version of the fiat currency – one backed by the government. Earlier this month, former RBI deputy governor R Gandhi said that people have fully understood that crypto cannot be a currency because the fundamental element of a currency – that it should be a legal tender – is missing in this case. He made a case for treating and regulating crypto as a separate asset class with a view to enabling governments around the world to effectively deal with illegal activities associated with virtual currencies.

An inter-ministerial panel on cryptocurrency, under the chairmanship of Secretary (Economic Affairs) to study the issues related to virtual currencies and proposed specific actions, has already submitted its report. It has been recommended that all private cryptocurrencies, except any virtual currencies issued by a state, should be prohibited in India.


Cryptocurrency Draft Bill
The much-awaited cryptocurrency draft bill may propose to define cryptocurrencies and classify them based on usage. The move is likely to benefit Indian cryptocurrency investors who have been waiting for a concrete law to regulate virtual coin trading. Cryptocurrencies could be defined as commodities or assets in the new draft bill, reported The Economic Times after speaking to people aware of the development. The draft bill may also propose taxation for cryptocurrencies including laws for payments, investments, and other utilities added to the report. While the government had earlier said it would not go for an outright ban on cryptocurrencies, it has not yet provided any clarity on how it plans to deal with virtual coin trade in India. However, cryptocurrencies may be categorized as per the technology they use in the new draft bill. But the primary focus of the government will be based on end-usage of the assets for regulatory purposes, according to the ET report.


The Take by Finance Minister
Amid the growing hold of cryptocurrencies across the world and suggestions that India could develop its own digital currency, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that such a decision has to be thought through. Citing the example of El Salvador, which adopted bitcoin as a legal tender, she said that the public took to the streets against the move.

“It’s not a question of literacy or understanding – it’s also a question of to what extent this is a transparent currency; is it going to be a currency available for everyone? El Salvador may be an exceptional place where they tried some experimentation. There are other countries that are talking about the central bank having a legitimate cryptocurrency. That could be a possibility,” Sitharaman said in an interview with Hindustan Times’ Editor-in-Chief Sukumar Ranganathan.

The finance minister said that a lot of consultation has taken place on the issue of cryptocurrencies in India, adding that the views of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) were also taken. “This is not an era where you can say I don’t care about what’s happening, or we don’t want to do anything. At the same time, are we yet ready to go the El Salvador way? We have to be sure that a futuristic thing can’t be shut out,” said Sitharaman.