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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday announced a pilot for retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) on 1 December. The digital rupee would be in the form of a digital token that represents legal tender, the RBI said.

"The pilot would cover select locations in closed user group (CUG) comprising participating customers and merchants" the RBI said in a statement.

It would be issued in the same denominations that paper currency and coins are currently issued. It would be distributed through intermediaries, i.e., banks.

The central bank also said that users will be able to transact with digital rupee through a digital wallet offered by the participating banks and stored on mobile phones or devices.

"Transactions can be both Person to Person (P2P) and Person to Merchant (P2M). Payments to merchants can be made using QR codes displayed at merchant locations," the statement read. 

What is digital rupee?

A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) or a digital rupee is a digital form of currency notes issued by the RBI. Digital currency or rupee is an electronic form of money, that can be used in contactless transactions.

Presenting Union Budget 2022, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had earlier announced that the central bank would be rolling out its digital currency soon.

Digital rupee features

The digital rupee would offer features of physical cash such as trust, safety and settlement finality. As in the case of cash, it will not earn any interest and can be converted to other forms of money, like deposits with banks.

The pilot will test the robustness of the entire process of digital rupee creation, distribution and retail usage in real time. Different features and applications of the digital rupee token and architecture will be tested in future pilots, based on the learnings from this pilot.

Jaya Vaidhyanathan, CEO, BCT Digital said, "Since it provides a regulated alternative to cryptocurrencies in the market, the CBDC would lead to more robust and reliable payments, lowering the dependency on cash. The underpinning technology would make transaction costs low. Being interoperable with other payment systems, it will complement existing techniques like UPI, thus completing the mobile payments ecosystem."

8 banks identified

As many as eight banks have been identified for phase-wise participation in this pilot, the RBI said. 

The first phase will begin with four banks-- State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Yes Bank and IDFC First Bank – in four cities across India. 

Four more banks, including Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, HDFC Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank, will join this pilot subsequently. 

The pilot would initially cover four cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Bhubaneswar – and later extend to Ahmedabad, Gangtok, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kochi, Lucknow, Patna and Shimla. 

The scope of pilot may be expanded gradually to include more banks, users and locations as needed, the central bank stated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghna Sen

Meghna Sen is a deputy chief content producer at Livemint where she tracks companies, markets, news. She has 5+ years of experience with online and print publications. Email: meghna.sen@htdigital.in
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