Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday (November 29) said that the government has no plans to recognise Bitcoin as a currency, neither is it collecting data on Bitcoin transactions.
Bitcoin, a digital currency that allows people to buy goods and services and exchange money without involving banks, credit card issuers or other third parties was introduced in 2008 by an unidentified group of programmers as a cryptocurrency and an electronic payment system. It is known as the first decentralised digital current which helps facilitate peer-to-peer transactions without any intermediary.
Sitharaman’s reply comes at a time when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed to include digital currency under the definition of a ‘banknote’.
The government also plans to table the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill 2021 in the ongoing winter session of Parliament. The bill envisages banning a few private cryptocurrencies while allowing an official digital currency by RBI.
Replying to another question, the finance minister said ministries and departments have spent ₹2.29 lakh crore as capital expenditure during the April-September period of the current fiscal.
“This is 41 per cent of the Budget Estimate (BE) of ₹5.54 lakh crore for 2021-22. The actual expenditure during current fiscal is about 38 per cent higher than the corresponding expenditure in FY 2020-21,” she said.
“To accelerate capital expenditure for creation and upgradation of infrastructure in the economy, the government of India had launched the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) with projected infrastructure investment of ₹111 lakh crore during the period 2020-2025 to provide world-class infrastructure across the country, and improve the quality of life for all citizens. NIP was launched with 6,835 projects, which has expanded to over 9,000 projects covering 34 sub-sectors. NIP is expected to improve project preparation, attract investments into infrastructure, and play pivotal role in economic growth,” she said.
National Monetization Pipeline (NMP) was also launched on August 23, 2021 to unlock the value of investments in public sector assets by tapping private sector capital and efficiencies for delivering infrastructure services, she said, adding, the monetization proceeds are envisaged to be ploughed back to augment existing/create greenfield infrastructure to boost the economy. Subsequently, she said, Gati Shakti (National Master Plan for Infrastructure Development) was launched on October 13, 2021 as a digital platform to bring ministries/departments together for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects. It will also facilitate the last mile connectivity of infrastructure and also reduce travel time for people, she added. On inflation, the Finance Minister said price situation of major essential commodities is being monitored by the government on a regular basis and corrective actions are taken from time to time.
“The uptrend in inflation has been largely led by exogenous factors viz. increased international prices of crude oil and edible oils which have an impact on domestic inflation due to India’s import dependence on these items,” she said.
The rise of WPI inflation is also mostly driven by fuel and power and manufactured products inflation, once again driven by increased global prices of crude oil and increase in international commodity/input prices, she said.
“Several supply side measures have been taken by the government to curb the inflationary pressures,” she said.
The minister also said that the government has also cut down the central excise duty on petrol and diesel by ₹5 and ₹10 respectively with effect from November 4, 2021 to check the prices of petrol and diesel prices. “In response many states governments have also reduced Value Added Tax on petrol and diesel. Consequently, retail prices of petrol and diesel have sobered down,” she said.
(With inputs from agencies)