Mumbai 21st April, 2017: Alarmed by the media reports that bidi may be exempted from the demerit good category and additional cess,Oncologists from India’s 108 cancer centers came together to plead with Honorable Prime Minister to stop this serious anomaly in the proposed GST structure. Needless to say, bidi smoking alone kills 6 lakh Indians every year.
It was reported by the media that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is 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 Rajya Sabha had recently cleared the integrated, central and Union Territories GST Bills and compensation Bills after the Lok Sabha passed it earlier. The next step for the GST Council is to clear the fitment of various commodities and services into five slabs. It has been reported by the media that Bidi is unlikely to be in the slab of demerit goods category. Hence, the oncologists of India (under the aegis of National Cancer Grid) have taken this unprecedented step of raising their collective voice as a final salvo.
The National Cancer Grid (NCG) is a large network of 108 cancer centres, research institutes, patient groups, professional societies and charitable organizations 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% of all patients with cancer in India.
R Venkataramanan, Managing Trustee of Tata Trusts said “The human and financial losses due to tobacco are staggering. The battle against cancer cannot be won unless we curtail tobacco addiction in the society. We must stop this manmade disaster that is the number one preventable cause of non-communicable diseases.”
Dr RA Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Centre mentioned in his letter “Tobacco taxation in India is much lower than the recommended level. 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.”
Dr Pramesh CS, Cancer Surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital and Coordinator of NCG said “Tobacco kills every third user prematurely and unfortunately every third Indian adult uses some form of tobacco. India witnesses about 10 lakh deaths from tobacco-related diseases each year. Nearly 40% of the cancers in India are attributable to Tobacco usage. High taxation will certainly curb this epidemic”