India to ban 138 betting apps, 94 loan-lending apps with Chinese links

By DECCAN CHRONICLE | Madhusudan Sahoo

6 February 2023

New Delhi: In a bid to check fraudulent practices by some 'fake' mobile applications or apps in India, the government has initiated the process to ban 138 betting apps and 94 loan-lending apps with Chinese links on 'urgent and emergency' basis. It is also learnt that the action is being taken by the ministry of electronics and information technology on the recommendation of the ministry of home affairs on 'emergency blocking' of these apps, a source privy to development said on Sunday.

The move of the government comes at a time when some instances of fraudulent practices by loan lending apps have  been noticed as a major crackdown in some parts of the country. The matter refers to the extortion and harassment of the general public who had availed small amount of loans through the mobile apps being run by those entities or individuals.

As per the source, almost all these apps are learnt to be the brainchild of Chinese nationals who hire loan seeking desperate Indians and make them directors in the operation. "Promising fake assurances and luring them into taking on a loan, they jack up the interest by up to 3,000 per cent annually," the source said.

"After an official communication between ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) and ministry of home affairs — the action was initiated after confirming that these apps attract Section 69 of the IT Act as they contain "material which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India," the source added.

The source further said that the modus operandi of these apps was very simple. "When the debtors were unable to repay the interest, let alone the entire loan, individuals representing these apps started harassing those in debt. They sent them lewd messages, threatening to release their morphed photos and shaming them with messages to their contacts," it said.

Six months ago, the home ministry had started the analysis of 28 Chinese loan lending apps. However, it was discovered that 94 apps are available on e-stores and that others are working through third-party links. Even the states like Telangana, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, along with central intelligence agencies had asked the home ministry to take action against such apps.

It has been observed that several apps are now not available to download on smartphones, but many apps on betting and games are being downloaded through independent links or websites and even can be played online directly. Besides, some of these also accept cryptocurrencies as payment.

An advisory issued by the ministry of information and broadcasting also stated that since betting and gambling is illegal in most parts of the country, advertisements of these betting platforms as well as their surrogates are also illegal under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2019, Cable TV Network Regulation Act 1995 and the IT Rules, 2021.

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