New Delhi: WhatsApp on Friday said it is rolling out its payments services in India after receiving nod from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

In 2018, the Facebook-owned company had started testing its UPI-based payments service in India, which allows users to utilise the messaging platform to send and receive money. The testing was limited to about a million users as it waited for regulatory approvals to come in.

On Thursday, NPCI - which runs the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) used for real-time payments between peers or at merchants' end while making purchases - allowed WhatsApp to start its payments service in the country in a "graded" manner, starting with a maximum registered user base of 20 million in UPI.

"Starting today, people across India will be able to send money through WhatsApp. This secure payments experience makes transferring money just as easy as sending a message. People can safely send money to a family member or share the cost of goods from a distance without having to exchange cash in person or going to a local bank," WhatsApp said in a blogpost.

It added that the payments feature has been designed in partnership with NPCI using UPI, an India-first, real-time payment system that enables transactions with over 160 supported banks.

In June this year, WhatsApp had launched 'WhatsApp Pay' in Brazil - making it the first country where the service was widely rolled out.

In India, WhatsApp - which counts India as its biggest market with over 400 million users - will compete with players like Paytm, Google Pay, Walmart-owned PhonePe and Amazon Pay.

"Payments (service) on WhatsApp is now available for people on the latest version of the iPhone and Android app... We're excited to join India's campaign to increase the ease and use of digital payments, which is helping expand financial inclusion in India," it said adding that users will need to have a bank account and debit card in India to send money through the platform in India.

WhatsApp said it is working with five banks in India - ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, the State Bank of India, and Jio Payments Bank - and people can send money on WhatsApp to anyone using a UPI supported app.

"In the long run, we believe the combination of WhatsApp and UPI's unique architecture can help local organisations address some of the key challenges of our time, including increasing rural participation in the digital economy and delivering financial services to those who have never had access before," it added.

WhatsApp noted that its payments service is designed with a strong set of security and privacy principles, including entering a personal UPI PIN for each payment.

"There is no fee... because its WhatsApp, you know its secure and private too. With UPI, India has created something truly special and is opening up a world of opportunities for micro and small businesses that's the backbone of the Indian economy," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video message.

He added that the payments service will be available in 10 Indian language versions of WhatsApp.

Interestingly, the approval for WhatsApp came on the same day as NPCI limited a single third party like WhatsApp or its rivals like Google Pay or Walmart's PhonePe to handle only 30 per cent of overall UPI transaction volumes by putting a cap. This is expected to allay fears of potential monopolisation.

Recently, PhonePe had announced crossing the 250 million registered user milestone and over 100 million monthly active users (MAU), and had 835 million UPI transactions in October with a market leading share of over 40 per cent.

Google had 67 million monthly active users in September last year, and on the merchant side, it had over three million active merchant's data for June 2020. Google Pay has not shared any updated stats since September 2019.

UPI processed over 2.07 billion transactions in October (worth Rs 3.86 lakh crore), up from over 1.8 billion in the previous month, as per data from NPCI.

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New Delhi(PTI): The Union Home Ministry has asked all states that there should be no delay in registration of FIRs in cases of crimes against SCs and STs and closely monitor such cases where investigation goes beyond two months.

In a communication to all states and Union Territories, the home ministry also said that the district Superintendent of Police (SP) must ensure timely attendance and protection of all prosecution witnesses including police officers and official witnesses for speedy trial of cases related to crimes against Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

"There should be no delay in the registration of FIR in cases of crimes against SCs and STs. Ensure proper supervision at appropriate level of cases of crimes against SCs and STs, from the recording of FIR to the disposal of the case by the competent court," it said in the communication accessed by PTI.

The home ministry said the delays in investigation (beyond 60 days from the date of filing of FIR) shall be monitored at the district and state level in every three months, and wherever required, special DSPs shall be appointed to expedite the process of investigation.

"The authorities concerned in the state governments must ensure proper follow up of reports of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs received from various sources, including the National Commission for SCs and STs," the communication said.

The home ministry said atrocity-prone areas may be identified for taking preventive measures to save life and property of the members of the SC and ST communities. Adequate number of police personnel, fully equipped with policing infrastructure, should be posted in the police stations in such vulnerable areas.

"Delay in trial of cases of crimes against SCs and STs may be reviewed on a regular basis in the monitoring committee or monthly meetings chaired by district and sessions judge attended by District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and Public Prosecutor of the district," it said.

The union government attaches the highest importance to matters relating to the prevention of crime, and therefore, it has been advising the state governments and UT administrations from time to time to give more focused attention to the administration of the criminal justice system with emphasis on prevention and control of crime including crimes against SCs and STs, the communication said.

The government of India is deeply concerned with the crimes against the weaker sections of society, particularly the SCs and STs and would therefore re-emphasise that urgent action should be taken by the state governments and UT administrations in such cases, it said.

The home ministry said the administration and police should play a more proactive role in detection and investigation of crimes against SCs and STs and ensure that there is no under reporting.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (POA Act) has been amended in 2015 to make it more effective.

New offences such as tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts, which are derogatory to the dignity of members of SCs and STs have been added. The punishments have also been enhanced. Provisions of special courts and speedy trial have been added.

The Act was further amended in 2018. Section 18A has been inserted whereby conduct of preliminary enquiry before registration of FIR, or to seek approval of any authority to arrest an accused is no longer required.