Oncologist’s desperate call to PM Narendra Modi to put all tobacco products including bidi in the demerit goods category

It is estimated that approximately 600,000 patients with cancer are treated annually in the NCG (National Cancer Grid) centres, which amounts to 60 per cent of all patients with cancer in India

Oncologist’s desperate call to PM Narendra Modi to put all tobacco products including bidi in the demerit goods category
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Alarmed by the media reports, that ‘Bidi’ may be exempted from the demerit goods category, Oncologists from India’s 108 cancer centres have joined hands together. The oncologist, have written a letter to the Prime Minister, pleading with him, to stop this serious anomaly in the proposed GST structure. Needless to say that ‘Bidi’ alone kills 6 lakh Indians every year.

The director of Mumbai’s iconic, Tata Memorial Centre, Dr R A Badwe, has written a letter to PM Narendra Modi, on behalf of the directors of the National Cancer Grid.

Oncologist’s desperate call to PM Narendra Modi to put all tobacco products including bidi in the demerit goods category
Dr RA Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Center

Dr RA Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Center mentioned in his letter “Tobacco taxation in India is much lower than the level which is 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.”

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. Media reports say that Bidi is unlikely to be in the slab of demerit goods category. Hence, the oncologists of India (under the banner of National Cancer Grid) took this unprecedented step of raising their collective voice as a final salvo.

Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Professor and Surgeon Tata Memorial Hospital said, “Considering the political clout of the Bidi lobby, the honourable 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”

R Venkatraman, Managing Trustee of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust 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. For the benefit of future generations, we must stop this man-made disaster that is number one preventable cause of non-communicable diseases.”

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.

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 per cent of the cancers in India are attributable to tobacco usage. High taxation will certainly curb this epidemic”