As India suffered under the second wave of Covid-19, we saw donations from all around the world pouring into the country’s relief funds. And help came in all forms. One of the most eye-catching phenomena was the heap of donations made through cryptocurrency, which, by the way, has not yet been legalised in India. Big names in the crypto-trading front and entrepreneurs announced monetary help for India to tide over the crisis.
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin donated dogecoins worth $1 billion (roughly Rs 7000 crore) and later added more worth $3 million (roughly Rs 44 crore). Former Australian cricketer Bret Lee also donated one bitcoin (roughly Rs 45 lakh). Entrepreneur and angel investor Balaji Srinivasan donated $50,000 (roughly Rs 36.68 lakh) worth of Ether. Later, he planned to double his donations to $100,000.
Ethereum-linked Polygon (previously Matic) co-founder Sandeep Nailwal started Crypto Relief as a COVID-19 relief initiative for India in April this year. He set it up with the help of some volunteers. He also figured ways to collect the cryptocurrency in UAE in crypto wallets, convert them into fiat currency and transfer them through the US to India in ways that most suited Indian legislation.
Nailwal’s relief fund has collected donations worth approximately $6 million (roughly Rs 44 crore) in 10 different cryptocurrencies. Crypto Relief has reportedly disbursed over $999,900 (roughly Rs 7.4 crore) already. This was done through United Way of Bengaluru to ACT Grants, which supports demands for medical oxygen in India.
Crypto Relief also tied up with tech-enabled healthcare supply platforms like Medikabazaar and Aknamed.
Cryptocurrency is still a grey area in India as far as legislation is concerned. Cryptocurrency has not yet been brought under any legal regulation yet. The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 is underway. There are also reports that the government is planning to launch its own official Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) that will be backed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). In March 2020, the Supreme Court quashed the RBI ban on virtual currencies but the bank hasn’t yet clarified its stand. The confusion can cause an upheaval in the Indian market, where investments in cryptocurrency can be pegged at almost $1.5 billion (roughly Rs 10,000 crore).