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4:32 am - Saturday November 18, 2017

Over 100 oncologists plead to PM not to go for higher tax on bidi under GST

Agencies, New Delhi

Perturbed over the media reports that bidi may be exempted from the demerit good category and additional cess, oncologists from the country’s 108 cancer centers today pleaded Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop what they called the serious anomaly in the proposed GST structure.

The oncologists, who have joined hands under the umbrella of The National Cancer Grid (NCG) , said bidi alone kills six lakh Indians every year. It was reported by the media that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was likely to chair a meeting of government officials to review the fitment of items in tax slabs before these go to the all-powerful Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council for the final approval.

The Parliament recently cleared the integrated, central and Union Territories GST Bills and compensation Bills, and the next step for the GST Council is to clear the fitment of various commodities and services into five slabs. In their letter to the Prime Minister, Dr RA Badwe, Directror, Tata Memorial Center pointed out to him that Tobacco taxation in India was much lower than the level recommended.

‘’GST is a golden opportunity to correct the historical aberrations in tobacco taxation in India. In the interest of citizens of India, especially future generations, we sincerely urge you to put all tobacco products, including bidis in the category of demerit goods in the proposed GST structure and rates,” he said Dr R Venkatraman, Managing Trustee of Tata Trusts underlined that the human and financial losses due to tobacco were staggering.

‘The battle against cancer cannot be won unless we curtail tobacco addiction in the society. For the benefit of future generation, we must stop this man-made disaster that is number one preventable cause of non-communicable diseases,” he said. Pointing out that tobacco killed every third user prematurely and unfortunately every third Indian adult used some form of tobacco, he said ‘’Nearly 40 per cent of the cancers in India are attributable to Tobacco usage.

High taxation will certainly curb this epidemic. Dr Harit Chatryvedi of Max hospital said, “Considering the political clout of the Bidi lobby, honorable Prime Minister is our only hope. He has already expressed his strong anti-tobacco sentiments in various platforms. I am sure he would take steps to save bidi workers and rollers from centuries of exploitation by the tobacco lobby.”

The NCG is a large network of 108 cancer centres, research institutes, patient groups, professional societies and charitable organisations from across India and works towards uniform quality of cancer care throughout the length and breadth of India. It is estimated that approximately 600,000 patients with cancer are treated annually in the NCG centres, which amounts to 60 per cent of all patients with cancer in India.

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