Tim Draper may pull out of India over Citizenship Act concerns and currency after-effects
Tim Draper, American venture capitalist and Bitcoin bull has come out in vocal opposition to India’s citizenship act, claiming Bitcoin could see collateral damage. For the past week, protests have been raging across major Indian cities around a recent amendment to the country’s Citizenship Bill, which according to critics is discriminatory on the basis of religion.
In a December 19 tweet, Draper stated that he was reconsidering his plans of funding businesses in the country over its alleged stance on ‘choosing one religion over another.’
— Tim Draper (@TimDraper) December 19, 2019
According to PRSLegislative, a tracker for the Indian Parliament, the 2019 Bill “seeks to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.”
The fervor around the act, which was passed in the second house of the Indian Parliament on December 11, took the entire country to a tipping point. Initially, the protests were confined to the north-east regions of the country but soon spilled over into major cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Earlier this week, several universities in the country’s capital erupted in protests, which was met by police-resistance. A growing number of universities and activist groups have been rallying with the protesters, resulting in a national outcry against the citizenship act.
However, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has maintained that there is ‘misinformation,’ spreading around the act, led by the opposition party, the Indian National Congress [INC].
The protests, in many parts of the country, have resulted in violence, causing the local authorities to suspend the Internet services. Reports have suggested that major cities in the National Capital Region [NCR], and other north-Indian states have suffered hours of ‘Internet shutdown,’ concerning India’s Internet entrepreneurs.
Draper Venture Networks, an ‘alliance of VC funds,’ has major investments in India through Blume Ventures, a VC-fund focused on investing in India’s growing start-up network. Headquartered in Bangalore, another flashpoint for the citizenship protests, Blume Ventures has, in its portfolio, popular Indian companies like Mech Mocha, HealthifyME, Dunzo, Unacademy and Railyatri.
While there was no mention of an immediate Bitcoin effect, Tim Draper did go into detail in a subsequent interview with TheWire. On asked what does this say about “India’s recent policy environment,” especially on the “bitcoin front,” Draper suggested that India could miss the bus as currency advancements go. In his words,
“Governments that mess with currency advancements like bitcoin run the risk of being left behind.”
The stance by the government on Internet shutdown has got the venture-capitalist concerned. Bitcoin, being the currency of the internet, cannot run without it, but will outsize the world-wide-web predicted Draper. “Bitcoin promises to be 10 times as big as the Internet,” he said while adding that India does not want to be left behind ‘once again.’
While other countries are very unclear on their crypto-regulatory stance, India is quite forthright, much to the displeasure of the larger cryptocurrency community. In a February 2019 report by the Ministry of Finance, the committee stated that private currencies have “no underlying intrinsic value,” have not been “recognized as legal tender in any jurisdiction” and hence all private cryptocurrencies “be banned in India.” The report even added criminalization of activities involved in cryptocurrencies,
“The Committee has recommended a law banning the cryptocurrencies in India and criminalising carrying on of any activities connected with cryptocurrencies in India.”