Indians Want Bitcoin Despite Government Stance

Bitcoin has a tendency to show up the weakness of governments in the face of technology. This is nowhere more true than in India.

AccessTimeIconMar 30, 2021 at 4:20 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:33 p.m. UTC

You can’t keep bitcoin down. 

That’s true in a lot of places around the world, from Belarus to Nigeria, where crypto is a workaround for dissidents and a substitute for unreliable monetary systems.  

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But it’s especially true in India, a market that has lots of cryptocurrency activity (and masses of potential) despite a decade of government confusion, inconsistency and delay. 

Just recently, India’s Parliament was rumored to be about to pass a bill banning crypto outright, only for that body to postpone the measure and go on a three-month holiday. 

In 2018, the Reserve Bank of India sought to ban banks from dealing in crypto. Then last year, the Supreme Court overturned that ban, raising hopes of a boom. 

Nobody – even the so-called experts – knows what will happen now. The official government stance has been overwhelmingly negative over the years. But some factions are more supportive than others, and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently left some wiggle room. “We will allow certain windows for people to do experiments on the blockchain, bitcoins or cryptocurrency,” he said. 

The consensus speculation is that the government may eventually ban payments in crypto but preserve the ability of people to hold crypto as an investment (as long as they pay taxes). India wants to retain power over its money and plans to issue a digital rupee in due course. 

But, in some fundamental sense, the exact government position may not matter. India’s crypto industry is building, whatever the formulation of policy, and that’s because demand among India’s bulging demographics appears enormous. 

As CoinDesk’s Anna Baydakova reported yesterday, powerhouses like Coinbase and Binance both have footholds in the market. And tech-savvy Indians with international connections don’t want to miss out on the bitcoin boom.   

“India is one of the youngest countries in the world, and these 28- to 29-year-olds are people who want to be a part of the revolution,” Indian crypto advocate and YouTube influencer Kashif Raza told Baydakova. (28 to 29 years old is India’s median age). 

Younger Indians see bitcoin as an alternative to gold, which traditionally has held special allure. “Gold would be the investment of choice for the older generation. The young generation sees the advantage … to buy bitcoin, because gold became more stable and bitcoin is so fast-moving,” said Nischal Shetty, CEO of WazirX, an exchange with 1.8 million users.

Bitcoin has a tendency to show up the weakness of governments in the face of technology. It is something they can deflect and make harder to use. But it has cultural strength that’s hard to budge. It is a brand and a movement that’s unstoppable. 

And in fact, all the back-and-forth from Indian officials over the ban only seems to be burnishing BTC’s image. 

“The rumored ban is stimulating a lot of conversation among the population about cryptocurrency,” Shetty said.

While governments vacillate, younger internet users just want to get on with the future. 


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