India’s Crypto Industry Finally Sees Lawmakers Engaging

The event managed to bring senior leaders from India’s ruling party and the opposition benches.

AccessTimeIconMar 14, 2023 at 7:12 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 14, 2023 at 3:28 p.m. UTC

On Saturday, India’s crypto industry pulled off a near-coup by bringing lawmakers and members of India’s ruling party to a conference discussing Web3.

Indian exchange CoinDCX, backed by the industry’s policy body, Bharat Web3, and media outlet Forbes brought lawmakers to an event titled “Namaste Web3” at one of New Delhi’s five-star luxury hotels, to discuss India’s G-20 presidency and potential opportunities for India in the Web3 sector.

The conference managed to bring senior leaders from India’s ruling party – National Vice President Baijayant Panda and former Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad – to an event. From the opposition benches it brought a chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on commerce and a deputy leader of the parliament’s lower house.

While lawmakers and government officials have privately had wide ranging consultations with the industry, this was a rare occasion where they’ve publicly shown up lending the space a fresh legitimacy.

“Web3 is important with a caution … come out of the shadow of crypto,” said Prasad, who has also been a former information technology minister.

"I am a great supporter of blockchain. But crypto is a different ball game altogether. Let me be very clear about it. Because in crypto there are issues of financial sovereignty of India,” Prasad said, adding Web 3 needs to find its own ways of decoupling from crypto.

The opposition’s Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who chairs the country’s parliamentary committee on commerce, said he wasn't on the stage as chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on commerce but as a Web3 enthusiast.

“Web 3 can be one of the biggest factors in bringing to fruition India’s dream of becoming a $5 trillion economy. Negative focus on cryptocurrency, a bit obsessive in the earlier years, has affected the perception about Web3 and its usage. The blockchain narrative needs a paradigm shift from the crypto to the transformative changes that can be brought about with the application of Web3,” he said.

A ‘little caution’

India’s crypto industry remains heavily stifled by a 30% tax on profit and a 1% tax deducted at source that led to volumes plummeting, and a recent move to bring the industry under India’s rules to prevent money laundering.

“A little bit of caution isn’t unreasonable,” said BJP Vice President Baijayant Panda, who is considered the ruling party’s expert on technology.

Panda said Indian policymakers would update rules and regulations based on feedback during a fireside chat on leveraging India’s G-20 presidency to advance the development of Virtual Digital Assets regulatory principles through international cooperation.

“As far as blockchain and bitcoin is concerned, this is the cutting edge of the regulatory questions that need to be answered throughout the world. You are beginning to see a level of consultation that is more than what used to be before,” Panda said.

Gaurav Gogoi, a parliamentarian from the opposition, said the crypto ecosystem has a lot to do to remove the perception of being used mainly for money laundering and terrorism financing. He added he was worried about the government’s true position on crypto.

“I hope our government is not telling others (in the G-20) to put a 1% TDS [on crypto transactions][. That could be the global consensus as well, or it could be a ban,” he said.


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Amitoj Singh

Amitoj Singh is a CoinDesk reporter.