FEB 7, 2024
India moves cautiously on CBDC to address privacy concerns
India is strategically navigating the development of its digital rupee, with the Reserve Bank (RBI) actively addressing privacy concerns through technological solutions in its central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot programs.
According to a recent report by CoinDesk, a senior official with insights into these initiatives revealed that while progress is evident, the RBI is proactively exploring ways to ensure privacy in the use of the digital rupee.
Pursuing mechanisms to maintain anonymity
The RBI has introduced a new dimension to the discourse on privacy concerns associated with CBDC usage. The central bank official suggested that the RBI may seek legal backing from India’s finance ministry to enact legislation allowing customers to delete transactions for the purpose of maintaining anonymity.
Public statements from the RBI suggested a lack of urgency in implementing a full-scale retail CBDC, coupled with a reluctance to provide a specific timeline. However, recent events indicate that an underlying sense of urgency may be emerging. In the past month, the retail CBDC achieved a notable milestone, processing one million transactions in a single day, with support from various banks.
Several banks, including HDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Axis Bank, Canara Bank, IDFC First Bank and Union Bank of India, reportedly encouraged their employees to deposit funds in CBDC instead of fiat currency, contributing to this achievement.
The official overseeing the CBDC development emphasized the necessity for experimentation and substantial efforts to ensure the security of the digital currency. While the settlement aspect is considered straightforward, addressing latency remains a priority for the RBI.
No mandate on tax
The RBI, historically known for its opposition to crypto both domestically and globally, clarified that crypto taxation is not within its mandate. This clarification suggests that the RBI might not object if the Indian government decides to reduce the stringent taxes currently imposed on cryptocurrencies.
The central bank clarified that it lacks the mandate to express a viewpoint on reducing a contentious tax that has stirred debate within the crypto industry. The RBI has been a driving force behind the adoption of wholesale and retail CBDC since late 2022 when it initiated pilot programs.
The official emphasized that taxation matters fall under the government’s purview, reinforcing the RBI’s focus on its designated responsibilities. Similarly, the country’s judiciary recently turned down a plea to have it formulate a crypto regulatory framework, outlining that this too is up to the government to address.
The central bank has a historical context of attempting to ban cryptocurrencies, with effective prohibitions in place between 2018 and 2020 until a Supreme Court order overturned the ban. Since then, the RBI has consistently expressed concerns about cryptocurrencies in various forums, including the Group of 20, where India played a leading role in coordinating global regulation in the crypto space.
Recent utterances from the RBI governor, Shaktikanta Das, suggest that the regulator is disinterested in seeing the offering of spot crypto exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in India despite that eventuality coming to pass last month in the United States. Das also spoke positively recently about the tokenization of real-world assets using blockchain technology.