Ahead of the annual budget, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has written to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seeking to remove tax exemption granted to bidi manufactures, who produce around 2 million sticks in a year, besides suggesting a steep increase in taxes on cigarettes.
The minister has called for new taxation points for the politically-influential bidi industry to ensure that it is properly regulated and does not thrive on the exploitation of bidi rollers. In his letter to Jaitley, highlighting the need for higher tobacco taxes in the upcoming budget, he advocated a substantial hike in the taxes on cigarettes so that for every stick the buyer pays a tax of Rs 3.50. “Raising the proportion of specific tax on cigarettes as a percentage of their retail price from about 45 per cent to over 60 per cent of the retail price of cigarettes would — conservatively — lead to about 3 million smokers quitting and nearly three million children not starting. This in turn would save at least four million lives. The increase would raise at least Rs 3,800 crore more from cigarette revenue.”
The Minister’s stand on bidi industry may cause some concern for the government as the bidi lobby is known to be politically influential, especially in Maharashtra, and any move to regulate the industry is likely to be opposed at all levels.
… Writes to CMs for sites’ list to set up AIIMS-like bodies
New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has written to as many as 13 chief ministers to identify three or four suitable locations in their states for the construction of a new AIIMS-like institute. The states have to respond within a month.
The Health Ministry is planning to set up 10 new AIIMS-like institutes across the country. The letters have been sent to the CMs of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra. The UPA government had set up the institutes in six states — Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.
The minister’s letter has spelt out the requirements for setting up the institute. Approximately 200 acres of land with road connectivity and water and electricity connections will be required for the purpose.