Category Archives: india

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Kerala Using Blockchain to Drive Food Supply Chain in India’s Deep South

The state of Kerala, in India’s extreme south, is adopting blockchain in order to update and streamline its food supply chain to customers.

The blockchain is increasingly aiding food production and the flow of food from growth to table around the world, with new concepts appearing almost weekly. Raja Ramachandran, CEO for ripe.io, a company currently developing blockchain for the food industry, says that blockchain’s recent popularity is because it is trustworthy and verifiable.

“The blockchain is really this fabric and code automation that binds all that together, and more importantly asks each of the participants to effectively provide a consensus that the claim or assertion is true… If someone certifies something, you typically rely on a third party. Now, the entire supply chain can self-certify because it’s looking to agree with each other.”

Kerala’s latest project wants to offer customers this level of stability to its food supply chain. The Kerala Development and Innovation Strategic Council (K-DISC) will now be ensuring that goods now include RFID tags and the use of IoT devices to monitor transportation and delivery, primarily of milk vegetables and fish.

Kerala will now be monitoring milk being delivered to millions across the state on a daily basis in fully refrigerated trucks using RFID tags and IoT equipment. All components of the milk supply chain will be strictly monitored and recorded on the blockchain.

Fish will now be receiving similar attention with farms linked to geo-coded imaging, enabling real-time monitoring following catch-to-table verification systems on the blockchain.

The Kerala government is looking to extend the success of these projects and says it is considering to branch into farming crop insurance, in order to enable faster, smart claims of farming crop losses. Kerala also has its own educational program run from regional capital Thiruvananthapuram, where students can learn about how to utilize blockchain in the health and banking sectors.

 

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India on the Back Foot over Crypto Ban as Central Bank Admits Lack of Research

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s central bank, has admitted that it did not undertake a thorough enough research of cryptocurrencies before issuing its ban earlier this year, writes Bitcoin.com.

This was the bank’s response to a Right to Information query filed by an Indian blockchain lawyer, which has since been distributed to news outlets.

All financial institutions were instructed to cease cryptocurrency business across the sub-continent on 5 April and were given three months to comply. The move, like others in various countries attempting to legislate cryptocurrency, was designed to prevent money laundering and to protect consumers. RBI gave banks and financial institutions notice that it would put a working party into place to look at the feasibility of issuing a state-backed cryptocurrency.

It appears that RBI did not study the nature, principles, and usage of cryptocurrencies before issuing the ban, and no committee was formed for this purpose prior to the ban. The ban has since been challenged in the Supreme Court, seeing some investors moving their business overseas.

The Supreme Court challenge was put in place partly due to a petition supporting blockchain that gained 17,000 signatures, largely driven by younger users employed in the industry, citing youth unemployment as a major concern.

The initial two writ petitions filed in public interest with the Supreme Court are still pending but will decide the legal status of cryptocurrencies in India. They are representative of the enormous public outcry against RBI’s dictum, as the population of India is both highly aware and active in the cryptocurrency market.

According to Kunal Barchha, co-founder and director of the company behind the upcoming crypto exchange Coinrecoil, the author of the query is Varun Sethi, an Indian blockchain lawyer.

Sethi’s questions to the RBI focused on why a body or panel of inquiry hadn’t been formed to investigate and research any extant cryptocurrency risks prior to the bank’s ban, and no foreign sources had been contacted to gain further information about the technology.

The bank’s response was that it “was a member of the Inter-Disciplinary Committee constituted by the Finance Ministry and the Indian government in March 2017, to examine the status of virtual currencies and suggest regulations”.

Although central banks do have authority to ban or restrict commercial banks from a certain industry when it is declared as completely illegal, this was not the case regarding the decision, said Barchha.

“In the case of Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies, that process is completely missing, as the government of India has not yet declared cryptocurrencies illegal and so we have challenged the RBI’s circular,” he explained.

 

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Crypto Skeptic India May Apply Tax Laws on Crypto in Possible Turning Point

Anonymous sources in India are suggesting that the crypto-sceptical nation may be at a turning point with the possibility of a goods and service tax (GST) on cryptocurrency trading.

Bloomberg reported that the government might be applying an 18% GST as there is a chance that the Indian government could classify cryptocurrencies as a supply of “intangible goods” and, therefore, making them subject to the tax levy with separate laws to be introduced that address the use of cryptocurrencies for illicit activities.

The proposal is reportedly being considered by Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs which, according to the anonymous source, will be presented before the GST council one it is finalized.

The source makes the case that the income tax department had realized critical nature of taxing digital currencies sooner than later. This is due to the digital asset markets growth which can build up significant liabilities, making recovery difficult in the future.

Early turbulence

The news is oddly contrasting with previous reports that have emerged from India, with April a particularly turbulent period. Earlier in the month, Bitcoin News reported that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was prohibiting all banks and financial entities from “facilitating transactions involving cryptocurrencies”, a move that sparked a petition that received 17,000 signatures, backed mostly by younger users who were employed in the blockchain industry.

Bitcoin bull Tim Draper chimed in during the April maelstrom, suggesting that the Indian government’s prohibitions against cryptocurrency would be “stifling innovation”. With that said, in May, Bitcoin News reported that despite the clampdowns, India has a wealth of crypto-savvy software developers that are more than capable of pushing innovation in the country. A study made by Indian HR company, Belong, brought to light the 5,000-strong developers who could drive the industry forward for India.

Efforts to create the taxation and regulatory frameworks were underway in late March when the largest tax filing platform began making inroads toward building appropriate regulations; the attempt to clarify cryptocurrency laws came shortly after exchanges and cryptocurrency traders came under significant pressures from the RBI and other banks.

Tackling cynicism

The decision to apply the taxation laws on cryptocurrencies hinges largely on the outcomes of the ongoing regulatory efforts being made by the department of economic affairs. Indian crypto exchanges believe a complete ban would be “futile” as the RBI not allowing for banks to transact with them would force buyers and sellers to other means of settling trades. This could contribute to illegal activities and, therefore, cause the ban to come down even harder on the industry.

Treating cryptocurrencies as goods and services may allow for the undeniably lucrative market to stay in force in India. Classifying them as currencies, however, would require changes in the law.

Should a positive consensus be reached through the appropriate classification, taxation and consequently, regulation standards, then India could soon follow in the footsteps of other countries embracing the technology.

 

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Coinsecure Exchange Remains Closed After Losing All of Its Bitcoins

Indian cryptocurrency exchange Coinsecure has remained closed, after a hack on 9 April led to a loss of over BTC 438 worth usD 3.3 million at the time. Coinsecure bought and sold Bitcoin against the Indian Rupee (INR).

Its chief security officer, Amitabh Saxena, claimed that the Bitcoins were stolen when he was extracting Bitcoin Gold to distribute to customers. He had saved the private keys in plain text format and was online during the extraction process, which was against standard security protocol, considered very risky when dealing with such large amounts of bitcoin. All of the Bitcoins were transferred to a single wallet address.

The parent company of Coinsecure, Bitcoin Traders Pvt Ltd, however, doubted Amitabh Saxena’s story and suspected intentional theft. It filed a complaint stating this on 10 April to police unit Cyber Cell and requested that Saxena’s passport be revoked so he could not flee the country.

Coinsecure is now sending emails to customers to facilitate the distribution of refunds. Customers have been told that they would be compensated with locked-in rates from 9 April, at a ratio of 90% INR to 10% BTC. According to Coinsecure, authorities have made the refund process very slow since the investigation is ongoing; direct permission from the police is required before any refunds can be sent.

It is not clear whether Coinsecure will ever re-open. If the stolen funds are not recovered, they will likely have to go into bankruptcy.

Coinsecure made news earlier this year by negotiating with the Venezuelan government to be the main exchange for state-backed crypto Petro. This was a risky decision since the president of the United States, Donald Trump, signed an executive order on 19 March, making all Petro dealings illegal. Therefore, Coinsecure could not legally operate in the United States anymore.

The close timing between Petro being made illegal and the Coinsecure exchange being compromised and shutdown raised suspicion in some observers that these events were related.

 

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7 Banks Join Infosys Blockchain Trade Finance Solution

Multinational technology service and consultancy corporation Infosys, has created a blockchain-based finance solution utilizing a document tracking system.

The platform is currently used by seven banks in India. This includes Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, IndusInd BankNSE, Kotak Mahindra Bank, RBL Bank, South Indian Bank and Yes Bank.

India Trade Connect

As reported by the Economic Times, the solution has been entitled India Trade Connect, providing a facility for banks to track shared documents on the blockchain via an accessible platform. Several of the banks involved with the scheme have already reached the production-phase, while the rest are still testing the project.

Speaking to the news site, the chief business officer at Infosys Finacle, Sanat Rao, commented: “Trade financing is document-heavy and process-heavy. The blockchain solution allows this to happen in a digitized manner. Because of the network effect, where a buyer, the buyer’s bank, the seller and the seller’s bank are all on the platform, it creates a single source of truth.”

Rao continued to discuss the future prospects of the solution, outlining Infosys’ plans to include other lenders in the network, such as the Indian arms of international banks. International trade transactions are also on the cards in the foreseeable future, with talks already in motion with entities in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Infosys executives said that work on the India Trade Connect platform began last year. Rajshekhara Maiya, associate vice-president of Infosys Finacle product strategy, told the Economic Times: ”We are also in talks with the Reserve Bank of India for [the platform]. Regulatory overview of transactions typically happens as a post-mortem but if the regulators are party to the network, they can have a real-time view.”

It is still early days for the blockchain platform, with Infosys noting that the banking model is still flexible. Financial institutions involved are required to pay an initial fee when they enter the testing stage, with the latter stages necessitating either a purchased license or subscription revenue.

 

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First Large-Scale Crypto Jacking Strike in India Targets Conglomerate

The third largest conglomerate in India, Aditya Birla Group, was targeted in what is believed to be the first large-scale crypto jacking attack of its kind in India.

 Over 2,000 computers affected

Hackers were able to gain access to over 2,000 computer systems belonging to various companies governed by the Aditya Birla Group, taking over the computers’ terminals and processing power to illegally mine cryptocurrency.

While the attack was first detected last month, reporting from the Economic Times notes that it took just a few days for the malware to infect areas of the manufacturing and additional services belonging to the Aditya Birla Group.

A person familiar with the attack spoke to the Economic Times, describing the attack as one in which ”the primary intention of the hackers is not to steal information and cause business disruption. Rather, they hijack the target’s computers and tap the power supply to the organization to mine crypto coins”.

Addressing reporters, a Birla Group spokesperson said: ”Recently, the advanced threat detection systems of our Group alerted us of suspicious activity on some desktop systems. Based on this, our internal team immediately carried out an investigation and deployed countermeasures to isolate and eliminate the cause of this activity.”

Bigger enterprises mean bigger gains for hackers

The Birla Group spokesperson was able to assure the public that with the comprehensive investigation nearly being complete, the hack was not subject to any data loss. Hackers were instead able to mine what has been described as a substantial amount of Monero.
It is common for hackers to target larger establishments, as they are able to provide the potentially largest gains. Universities are known to be another target rich environment hit by hackers.
It is important to note, however, less than 1% of Bitcoin transactions involve illicit activities. While in this case, Monero was the cryptocurrency mined in the illegal process, there is no specific data indicating how frequently it is involved with fraudulent activities.

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India Rich in Crypto Skills Despite Government Hard Line

A recent study in India by HR company Belong has revealed that over 5000 Indian software developers have the necessary skills to work on blockchain and cryptocurrency projects, reports Inside Bitcoins.

The study claims that out of an estimated two million software developers, 0.25% of them have the skills required for blockchain development and cryptocurrencies, such as data science, algorithms, and cryptography.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently mandated any financial institutions and banks that fall within its regulatory jurisdiction to terminate any association with individuals or businesses dealing with virtual currencies. Although the mandate will dissuade many crypto investors, there are still channels open for traders and investors to circumvent the system.

Despite this, there are still a number of companies looking to move into the cryptocurrency space. Belong co-founder Rishabh Kaul suggests that India does have the potential to train another 10,000 developers with prior fintech experience, although he suggests another 30,000 would still need extensive training or refining of current skills. The local cryptocurrency market has been rapidly growing, with investor numbers reaching 5m and bitcoin investments in India approaching $2bn.

Adversely, Market Mogul reported recently the difficulties that new and existing cryptocurrency companies may face, apart from lacking qualified staff, due to the government’s recent tough stance on virtual currency. Investors in India will no longer be able to go through established financial institutions to transfer money from their bank to a crypto wallet. This is seen by some as part of a move by the government to eliminate cryptocurrencies from the investment space altogether.

Cryptocurrency in India has had to endure government criticism from very early on. The country’s finance minister has warned that it can never become legal tender, and India’s Central Bank has continued to caution users, suggesting cryptocurrency’s price volatility can cause financial instability.

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New Survey Reveals Diminishing New Interest in Crypto

Dalia Research has just published the results of its latest survey on global cryptocurrency adoption, reports Cointelegraph. which reveals a diminishing of new interest in cryptocurrency across major countries across the world.

The report, published on 9 May, shows differences in crypto ownership and knowledge along lines of education, gender, and nationality, and attempted to “measure the spread of awareness, knowledge, buying intention and ownership of cryptocurrency” in a survey of over 29,000 people in eight countries, comprising the US, UK, Germany, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, China, and India.

South Korea and Japan returned the most significant numbers in terms of awareness and knowledge on the subject of cryptocurrency, and globally 75% are at least “aware” of digital currency, although only 50% of respondents attested to an understanding of what cryptocurrencies were.

The research showed that on average, only 4% of people who do not already own crypto intended to invest within the next six months, and notably in Japan and South Korea, there was now little intention to buy cryptocurrency, at 3% and 2% respectively. This seems to indicate that those with the intent to trade or hold cryptocurrencies are already well established in the space. China’s particularly low rate of ownership can be seen as the result of strict government measures in recent months. Japan rated as having the highest ownership of digital currency at 11%.

In terms of gender, the survey revealed that men were more likely to buy cryptocurrencies than women and that the UK, US, and Germany had higher gender gaps than Asian countries. The gender gap in the US was 13%, compared to 4% in China and  India.

Higher levels of education correlated directly to higher levels of crypto ownership, according to the survey, with 12% ownership by more educated owners against 4% by less educated respondents. These were reflected again among those intending to purchase cryptocurrency with a 67/33 percentage split.

Pro-BTC Wall Street analyst Nick Colas cast a pessimistic tone over crypto adoption recently, suggesting that there was evidence of weak public interest indicators, including fewer Bitcoin Google searches and low crypto wallet growth. This was reflected in the survey.

 

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Crypto Exchanges Challenge India’s Banking Restrictions in Supreme Court

Four more exchange platforms have challenged Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) prohibition of facilitating Bitcoin and other digital currencies transactions.

This is the third and most significant challenge yet to the ban that has seen banking services to cryptocurrency exchanges entirely blocked off. The platforms that filed the case include Coindelta Exchange, Koinex ExchangeThroughbit Exchange and CoinDCX.

As reported by Mohammed Danish, a practising lawyer at the High Court of Delhi in India, the case has been filled as a Writ Petition (Civil) no. 373 of 2018 under Article 32 of the Constitution, challenging the constitutional validity of RBI’s case.

The new policies adversely affect the business interests of exchanges and start-ups; the first two Writ Petitions came from two such entities that are seeking to protect the right to carry on trade, and rights to equality that are guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.

The initial two Writ Petitions filed in public interest with the Supreme Court are still pending, but will decide the legal status of cryptocurrencies in India. They are representative of the enormous public outcry against RBI’s dictum, as the population of India is well known for being both highly aware and active in the cryptocurrency market. It was reported by Finance Magnets in January this year that India was responsible for 10% of all Bitcoin transactions worldwide.

All three of the Writ Petitions are likely to be heard in Court on 11 May 2018.

The initial restrictions to crypto services

Last month on 6 April, RBI officially directed regulated banks and payment platforms to no longer provide services to cryptocurrency operations, effective immediately. The reasoning from RBI behind this move cited digital currencies as ”[coming] with associated risks‘, following the restrictions from HDFC and Citibank both restricting clients from purchasing Bitcoin via their debit and credit cards.

The initial statement from RBI reads: ”Such services include maintaining accounts, registering, trading, settling, clearing, giving loans against virtual tokens, accepting them as collateral, opening accounts of exchanges dealing with them and transfer/receipt of money in accounts relating to purchase/ sale of VCs.”

 

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Asia and Australia: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 13th to 19th April 2018

Asia and Australia

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

 

Japan

Central bank not interested in state crypto: The Bank of Japan has said in a blanket statement that it has no plans right now to issue a central bank-issued cryptocurrency. The policy came forward during a recent conference between the International Monetary fund (IMF) and Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) in which the bank’s deputy governor Masayoshi Amamiya said that such a currency could undermine the bank’s two-tier system and destabilize it.

Amamiya said: “…the issuance of central bank digital currencies for general use would be analogous to directly allowing households and firms to have accounts in the central bank.”

Yahoo Japan set to be 40% stakeholder in crypto exchange: Yahoo Japan plans to purchase almost 40% minority stakes in the cryptocurrency exchange named BitARG which is based in Tokyo. BitARG will only be launched later this year. The whole deal, according to a report from Reuters, cost between USD 18.5 million and USD 27.8 million. BitARG has recently been granted a license to operate a domestic cryptocurrency trading platform.

Crypto traders cross 3 million mark: Japanese cryptocurrency traders are growing in number with the latest figure reportedly around 3 million people, according to the data from Japan’s FSA. The figures show that as of 31 March 2018, around 3.5 million people traded cryptocurrencies and around 90% of the population are in the age bracket of 20-40 years.

The release of this data is the agency’s latest move to bring greater transparency in Japan’s ever-developing cryptocurrency environment.

South Korea

Financial watchdog to investigate banks based on new crypto rules: The South Korean Financial Services Commission (FSC) will investigate three of its banks to see if they are complying with the latest rules against anonymity. The new regulation enforced by the agency means that traders have to use bank accounts on their own names to buy cryptocurrencies through exchanges. The rules were enforced to stop money laundering in the country.

 

India

Over 17,000 sign petition against crypto ban: Over 17,000 crypto traders and industry workers have launched a combined petition against the Indian Central Bank’s move to close crypto-related accounts on 5 April, 2018. The petition was started by a few younger traders but was soon co-signed by thousands across the country. It states that cryptocurrencies are here to stay and prohibition of business activities affects the country’s growing market.

 

Vietnam

Vietnam tightens  crypto regulation after ICOs scam over 32,00 investors: Vietnam has recently announced that it is tightening regulations on cryptocurrencies after two initial coin offering scams affected more than 32,000 investors resulting in losses of up to USD 660 million. The two ICOs, Ifan and PinCoin, bore the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme and have attracted official investigation into them in the Asian country.

The ICOs were launched through conferences in Hanoi and remote parts of the country in order to lure unsuspecting customers. Both of them promised hefty profits and activity but were soon exposed as scams.

 

Philippines

Philippine boxing great Manny Pacquiao said last Wednesday that he would soon launch a cryptocurrency to connect with fans. He is the third famous athlete to have talked about launching a cryptocurrency with the previous moves of Michael Owen and Floyd Mayweather also making headlines.

However, Pacquiao is cautious as compared to the other two as he is vocally in favor of regulating cryptocurrencies and taking it slow and moving forward organically.

 

Australia

New power plant announced for “Blockchain Silicon Valley”: An Australian tech firm called IOT group has partnered with an energy provider Hunter Energy to reset up a power plant in the country to offer pre-grid cost effective prices to blockchain businesses nearby.

The Redbank power station near Singleton, which is rated at 150 megawatts, was closed back in 2014 when it incurred a debt of over USD 192 million. Hunter Energy has reportedly acquired the station and it is in “care and maintenance mode”.

The company is aiming to provide the basis for a blockchain Silicon Valley in Australia. The plan is to offer space to host data centers and even miners with direct access to electricity from the power plant.

 

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