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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This report was first published in thewire.in and has been posted here without any alterations or editing. To read the original report, CLICK HERE

New Delhi: Over 650 members of civil society have demanded a stop to the ‘vendetta politics’ against Harsh Mander and other activists, adding that the Centre has been “misusing” regulatory institutions and laws like the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to harass civil society institutions.

The statement comes after a case was registered under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act over alleged violations by two shelter homes in South Delhi which were established by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), an NGO that Mander is associated with.

In the statement, the signatories said that the Centre’s targeting of Mander, a former IAS officer, and the CES is a continuation of the “politics of vendetta” and is symptomatic of how “those who dissent are being dealt with in India today”.

“The egregious attacks on the Centre for Equity Studies ranging from wild accusations of sexual misconduct in two of the children’s homes run by the organisation to the fishing expedition being undertaken by the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police are but two examples of the recent attacks on Harsh Mander and the institutions associated with him,” the statement says.

Condemning “the attacks on Harsh Mander and the Centre for Equity Studies”, the signatories demanded an end to “vendetta politics” and that regulatory institutions and laws should not be “misused” to harass civil society institutions. “Allow democratic spaces for civil society to operate and give due recognition of their role in nation-building,” the added.

The full statement, along with the list of signatories, has been reproduced below.

Civil Society statement for Harsh Mander/Centre for Equity Studies

Stop vendetta politics against civil society and persecution of citizens associated with civil society

One of the most disturbing trends in India in the recent years, along with the decline in Constitutional values and shrinking space for civil society, is the demonisation and persecution of activists and organisations. The active hounding of Harsh Mander, a former bureaucrat and one of the most respected names in civil society, and the institutions he is associated with like the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) is the most recent example of the vendetta politics of the government.

An officer of the Indian Administrative Service, Harsh Mander quit the civil service in 2002 in the wake of the Gujarat riots and has since then been a part of significant civil society initiatives. He has served as the head of ActionAid India, co-founder of the Centre for Equity Studies, co-founder of Karwan-e-Mohabbat – an initiative to promote love and communal harmony, and was member of the National Advisory Council chaired by the Chairperson of the UPA. His close association with people’s movements including the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) amongst others, gave him a unique perspective on social changes processes that is rare amongst social activists. Throughout his career, Harsh Mander’s central concerns have been the most marginalised people in India – the urban homeless, leprosy patients, Dalits and Muslims, and children living on the streets.

It is this aspect of his work that encapsulated the activities of the Centre for Equity Studies since it was founded more than two decades ago. Over the years, CES has emerged as one of the leading pro-poor policy institutions, bridging grassroots actions with constructive engagement on social policy. Till 2014, CES ran a network of 51 children’s homes across the country covering hundreds of children and was responsible for the Central Government’s guidelines on the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for street children. CES brings out the annual India Exclusion Report which has emerged as one of the most authoritative report on social exclusion covering the most marginalised communities in the country. Between 2004 and 2014, CES was part of many of the processes for landmark rights-based legislations like the National Food Security Act and the Right to Information Act.

That the current regime has now chosen to target a distinguished civil society organisation like CES in the continuing politics of vendetta to silence Harsh Mander is symptomatic of how those who dissent are being dealt with in India today. The egregious attacks on the Centre for Equity Studies ranging from wild accusations of sexual misconduct in two of the children’s homes run by the organisation to the fishing expedition being undertaken by the Economics Offences Wing of Delhi Police are but two examples of the recent attacks on Harsh Mander and the institutions associated with him.

As civil society leaders representing a very wide range of constituencies and work across the country, we unequivocally condemn the attacks on Harsh Mander and the Centre for Equity Studies and demand:

  1. An end to vendetta politics towards Harsh Mander and the Centre for Equity Studies
  2. Stop misusing regulatory institutions and laws like the FCRA to harass Civil Society institutions
  3. Allow democratic spaces for civil society to operate and give due recognition of their role in nation building