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Telangana State Government in India Announces Blockchain Policy

Telangana State Government in India Announces Blockchain Policy

The state government in Telangana in Southern India has announced its initial draft blockchain policy which is expected to be upheld and implemented within a month. The new development will mean that Telangana will become the first Indian state to come up with a pro-blockchain policy.

The capital of the state Hyderabad is aiming to become one of the top 10 blockchain cities in the world. According to the master plan, a blockchain district will be developed in Hyderabad and will invite major blockchain companies from around the world to come and work there. Additional development work will include a world-class incubator, research and development facility, and a blockchain institute.

As per the draft policy, the state will also provide office space at subsidized rates for innovators and students from around the world. A tax break may also be considered to help lure blockchain companies from around the world into the Southern India state.

Speaking with the local publication The Hindu, Jayesh Ranjan, the Principal Secretary to ITE and C Department said:

“The policy will be finalized in about a month after we get feedback. We have called for, and have been receiving good feedback, from industry leaders and experts.”

The Indian government overall is currently in a love-hate relationship with blockchain and its associated technologies. While currently, cryptocurrencies are nearly banned in the country, the government is eager to harness the new sector due to India’s competency in the IT sector and are looking at ways to ease restrictions and help the industry grow in the country. India is also looking to employ blockchain solutions in various fields including agriculture and the public sector.

 

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Indian Bank Closes Influencer’s Account for Making Crypto-Related Transactions

Indian

Indian online bank Digibank has closed down accounts of several people suspected of crypto trading, including that of popular local crypto influencer Indian CryptoGirl, who Tweeted the news.

After India’s Kotak Mahindra Bank, Digibank also starts sending anticrypto notices

“We observed transactions for in cryptocurrencies, hence we are putting a credit freeze in your account. You will not be able to deposit any more funds & within 30 days we will close your account” pic.twitter.com/6eemcOayP5

— Indian CryptoGirl (@DesiCryptoHodlr) January 15, 2019

The crypto owner had Tweeted in the past about messages received from banks to local Indians, warning them that central bank (Reserve Bank of India) rules would lead to banks shutting down accounts suspected of crypto trading.

She made her position clear: “I’ve been a user of DBS’ Digibank for a year. Although I regularly used Kotak Mahindra Bank for my cryptocurrency transactions, I used Digibank only 7 times throughout the year. On January 14th, I received multiple messages from my twitter followers regarding an account closure notice by digibank. I checked my mailbox and found the mail myself.”

In reply to a question, she further said, “Banks have interpreted RBI’s guidelines as per their own convenience. This, however, is tantamount to taking the law in your own hands. RBI has only prohibited banks from working with businesses offering cryptocurrency solutions and NOT individuals from trading cryptocurrencies between them.”

India has been facing a lot of controversy since last year regarding cryptocurrencies. RBI has banned banks from dealing with crypto related transactions. It has even stopped development of its own centrally-backed cryptocurrency.

The issue has been taken up by the local blockchain and crypto association, with the case running in the supreme court. RBI’s stance is that cryptocurrencies provide an easy means of laundering money and helps tax evasion. The industry leaders, however, claim that cryptocurrencies are designed to be censorship resistant and the ban would only lead to a thriving underground marketplace – exactly what the government wants to eliminate.

 

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India May Legalize Crypto but with Strict Conditions

India

The Indian government may be planning to legalize cryptocurrencies in the country albeit with strict conditions.

A government committee has been formed and is reported to have held meetings twice to discuss the issue. It is expected that a comprehensive report will be submitted to the Ministry of Finance by February 2019, reports The New Indian Express. However, it appears that the legalization will be allowed under strict conditions.

The committee has agreed that cryptocurrency cannot be considered as entirely illegal, with current debates going on in the committee.

Apart from these meetings, an inter-disciplinary panel has also been formed. This panel will look into the legal matters and involve the stakeholders such as crypto experts and exchanges to ask for their opinions on the matter.

It is important to note that in March 2017, the first government panel to tackle the crypto issue suggested a complete ban on cryptocurrencies and assets. However, a second committee was formed last year to revisit this issue with the intent of regulation and legalization.

The “ban” suggestion of the first panel led to the decision of the Reserve Bank of India to render cryptocurrencies illegal. This decision was challenged in the supreme court of India and as a result, the second committee was formed. However, as a backlash, some cryptocurrency firms such as Zebpay Exchange closed their businesses in India. Zebpay blamed the Reserve Bank of India for this decision and its representatives claimed that their bank accounts were seized, meaning it could not operate in a reasonable way.

Legalization reports have emerged from India in previous months, so the rumor mill hasn’t let off. For example, in the middle of 2018, media reports came out claiming that the second committee considered cryptocurrencies to be legal assets.

 

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Indian Government Committee on Cryptocurrencies – Considering Legalization

Indian Government Committee on Cryptocurrencies Considering Legalization

Local English news portal, The New Indian Express (TNIE), has reported that a government official from the committee that is overviewing cryptocurrency status has said the panel is considering legalizing digital currencies

The unnamed official, according to the article on TNIE, said, “There is a general consensus that cryptocurrency cannot be dismissed as completely illegal. It needs to be legalized with strong riders.”

Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, had declared all forms of cryptocurrencies illegal in April this year, with a ban on banks and individuals dealing them. This had forced local crypto exchanges to cease operations. A move by the local blockchain company to bring the issue to the legal authorities had led to Indian courts asking the government for clarification on the subject.

Subsequently, the government had formed the team to study and give their findings on it.

The latest team is the second one so far, led by Department of Economic Affairs Secretary, Subhash Chandra Garg. The third meeting is expected to be in January.

The team consists of representatives from different governmental bodies, such as Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Revenue Secretary. According to the official, the committee members “have also taken inputs from cryptocurrency exchanges and experts”

After the initial ban, a government official had suggested a ban on cryptocurrencies but wanted blockchain technology to flourish. Only a few days later, India completed its first blockchain based business transaction.

Later the same month, SWIFT in India had eyed decentralized ledger technology for more secure and fraud-proof banking services.

The love-hate relationship with blockchain and cryptocurrencies seem to be coming to an end. With a large blockchain industry, the positive recommendation of the committee is eagerly awaited.

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India Completes First Business Transaction on Blockchain

The largest private sector company in India, Reliance Industries, has successfully partnered in a blockchain business transaction in a first for the country.

Reliance, an oil and energy conglomerate looked after by the wealthy Ambani family, has completed a DLT-based transaction from US-based Tricon Energy which is a worldwide chemicals provider. The end-to-end transaction used R3’s Corda blockchain system, according to a press release by Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation bank (HSBC)’s branch in India. Corda is a shared platform for transacting partners that can be used across the globe.

The transaction was facilitated by banking giant ING Bank Brussels and HSBC itself through a letter of credit. The letter was a guarantee of the buyer’s payment for a shipment between the two energy giants. Such a large payment normally takes 7-10 days for processing including export documentation but the blockchain solution had it completed within one day.

The HSBC India press release stated: “This transaction validates the commercial and operational viability of blockchain as an alternative to conventional exchanges for paper-based documentation.”

The transaction is the latest example of how blockchain technology is being implemented by banks around the world for improving transaction times and increasing transparency. Digitizing trade is the utmost priority for banking circles and the DLT provides a credible means to that end.

 

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Hitachi and Indian Bank Announce Partnership for Digital Payments Platform

Hitachi’s Payments Division is partnering with State Bank of India (not the reserve bank) to establish a digital payments platform that will work throughout the country, according to a Press Release by Hitachi on 29 October.

Under the agreement, Hitachi will provide the bank with Internet of Things (IoT) platform Lumuda as part of the government’s Digital India reform plan. Lumuda is a new base platform that was developed by the Japanese company as Proof-of-Concept (PoC) for a supply chain management task for Mizho Financial Group based in Japan last year.

State Bank of India is the largest commercial bank in India with 23% share of assets and 25% of all deposits and loan market in the country with over 420 million customers. The government, which owns a majority stake in the bank is looking to revamp the operations of the bank with technology and cut costs on its running.

Hitachi Payments seems to have the solution as it is promoting the acceleration of digitization of financial services in the country with Lumuda and other blockchain-based technological solution for digital services. Hitachi has already been providing payment services to the bank since 2011 but none of them were DLT-related until now. Hitachi is also expected to invest up to 26% in the bank’s payments subsidiary because of India’s big market potential for the financial services industry.

While India is progressing further on blockchain-based solution, cryptocurrencies and ICOs are still officially banned in the country due to the government’s attitude.

 

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