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India To Bring In New Bill To Make Even Possessing Cryptocurrency Illegal

India To Bring In New Bill To Make Even Possessing Cryptocurrency Illegal
A new law to ban cryptocurrencies with fines for anyone found trading in the country or even possessing such digital currencies, according to local reports quoting a senior government official. This could be a major blow to millions of investors who are eying to invest in the asset that is currently among the hottest investment assets in the world.
Possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets will be criminalised under the new proposed law which would make it one of the strictest ones against cryptocurrencies in the world, said reports quoting the official who reportedly had direct knowledge of the government’s plans.
In January, the Indian government had released an agenda which called for a ban on private virtual currencies such as bitcoin while also urging for development of a framework for an official digital currency and this latest new law seems to be in line with that line of the government. But hopes of investors about easing of government stance on the issue were raised by some recent government comments.
Under the new proposed law, holders of cryptocurrencies will have  up to six months to liquidate the assets while penalties will be levied on the holders after that.
Since the Indian government holds a comfortable majority in parliament, it is expected that the new proposed bill will easily be enacted into law.
If the government eventually implements the law, it will make Indian the first major economy in the world to criminalise holding of cryptocurrencies. Possession of cryptocurrencies is not penalised even in China where the government has banned mining and trading in the digital currencies.
There were no comments from the Indian government in the reports. 
This news from India comes at a time when the value of bitcoin hit a new record as it surpassed $60,000 this last Saturday which was almost double the value that the largest cryptocurrency of the world had started the year with. This was driven by reports of greater acceptance of bitcoin as a mode of transaction and payment by major companies including the United States based electric car maker Tesla and payments giant Mastercard.
While no official; data is available, industry estimates puts the number of investors in cryptocurrencies at about 8 million and they together hold about 100 billion rupees ($1.4 billion) in investments.
"The money is multiplying rapidly every month and you don't want to be sitting on the sidelines," said Sumnesh Salodkar, a crypto-investor. "Even though people are panicking due to the potential ban, greed is driving these choices."
Gaurav Dahake, the chief executive of a local crypto-exchange Bitbns said that compared ot the year ago, there has been a 30 fold rise in the user registrations and money inflows at the exchange. And despite worries of a ban, 20,000 new users in January and February were added by Unocoin, one of oldest exchanges of India.
ZebPay "did as much volume per day in February 2021 as we did in all of February 2020," said Vikram Rangala, the exchange's chief marketing officer.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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