The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) does not have any statistics on the usage of the retail digital rupee (e-rupee) as per a Right to Information (RTI) response received by Srikanth Lakshmanan from the CashlessConsumer collective. The e-rupee is a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) launched in December 2022. The RTI response was shared by Srikanth with MediaNama.
In his RTI request, Lakshmanan had asked RBI for month-wise or cumulative summary statistics on the usage of e-rupee retail with regards to:
- Number of users having a wallet.
- Number of transactions made between wallets.
- Number of wallet load transactions done.
- Number of redemption transactions done.
“No such information in this regard is available with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI),” the central bank responded.
The central bank has been sceptical and vocally against private cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum because of the lack of ability of the central bank to track or control such currencies and the risks they pose to financial stability. RBI instead wants to promote the digital rupee, which it issues, as an alternative to private cryptocurrency. But if the central bank does not have any information on this digital rupee, then that is equally concerning.
“The retail eRupee pilot began in December 2022 and there has been very little public announcement with respect to it. RBI Deputy Governor Rabi Sarkar reportedly spoke about it in a closed-door IBA meeting – and in June 2023, banks were asked to expand the scope of the pilot and leading banks launched email marketing campaigns.
RBI denying information to RTI saying it does not hold the data is akin to saying it doesn’t know about the money it is issuing.” — Srikanth Lakshmanan told MediaNama
As per the CashlessConsumer tracker, so far, there have been over 2 million installs of CBDC eRupee apps from Google Play, and as per the RBI Annual Report 2023, Rs 5.7 cores worth of eRupee retail has been issued till the financial year 2022-23, Lakshman informed us.
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RBI also refused to respond to the following requests by Lakshaman in the same RTI:
- Please provide a copy of any letter authorizing wallet providers to participate in the CBDC retail pilot and any criteria set by RBI to be part of the pilot.
- Please provide a copy of any letter or communication after 01-04-2023 from RBI to the Ministry of Finance with regards to the CBDC eRupee Retail pilot.
- Please provide a copy of any letter or communication from RBI with respect to expanding the scope of the pilot beyond the initial announcement and any details related to such extension, including details of review meetings and minutes of such meetings before the pilot expansion was approved.
The central bank responded by saying: “The information sought is available to RBI in a fiduciary relationship and is exempted under Sec 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act, 2005.”
“The network is run by NPCI, but letters of authorization have been denied citing fiduciary responsibility while RBI publishes letters of authorization of payment system operators – as mandated by PSS Act 2007,” Lakshamanan told MediaNama. “The lack of transparency from RBI is deeply worrying if it indeed really doesn’t have data about the currency it issues. How did RBI allow UPI interoperability if it did not have data from the pilot?”
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