In a major crackdown, the Central government has initiated the process to ban and block 138 betting apps and 94 loan lending apps with Chinese links on an “urgent” and “emergency” basis, top government sources said on February 5.
The move was taken after confirming that these apps attract Section 69 of the IT Act as they contain material which is prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India.
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The action behind the move is based on several complaints of extortion and harassment of common people who had availed small amounts of loans through the mobile apps being run by those entities and persons.
It is learnt that these apps are the brainchild of Chinese nationals who hired Indians and made them directors in operation. As per inputs, desperate individuals are lured into taking on a loan and then jacked up the interest by up to 3,000% annually. 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.
The matter came into the spotlight after a spate of suicides, particularly in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, by those who opted for such loans or lost money to betting apps. States like Telangana, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh as well as central intelligence agencies had then asked the Union Home Ministry to take action against these apps, sources said.
Based on these inputs, the MHA started analysing 28 Chinese loan lending apps six months ago. However, they found that 94 apps are available on e-stores and that others are working through third-party links. It is learnt that many apps are now not available to download on smartphones but sources say the betting apps and games are being downloaded through independent links or websites.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued an advisory, stating that since betting and gambling are 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.