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NGO unhappy for excluding bidis from excise

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, March 2 - The Voluntary Health Association of Assam has expressed its dissatisfaction over the exclusion of bidis from excise duty in the Union Budget that was tabled on Monday.

In a statement, the organisation said while the excise duty on cigarettes and other tobacco products is proposed to be increased by 10-15 per cent, this unfortunately does not include bidis.

�Only the additional excise duty on cigarettes is being increased. But since there is no increase in the basic excise duty, it will not make much difference to tobacco prices. Besides, the excise duty on bidis has not been increased since 2013, which should have been done considering the contribution of bidis in spreading cancer,� said Ruchira Neog, executive secretary, Voluntary Health Association of Assam.

The excise duty on gutkha, chewing tobacco (including filtered khaini) and zarda-scented tobacco is being increased from 70 per cent to 81 per cent. Excise duty on unmanufactured tobacco is being increased from 55 per cent to 64 per cent and excise duty on pan masala is being increased from 16 per cent to 19 per cent. Accordingly, the deemed production and the duty payable per machine per month for each of these tobacco products is being notified, the statement said.

�The proposals on tobacco taxes in the Union Budget are, in effect, prescriptions to make tobacco products more affordable and boost the tobacco industry profits. The effective increase in total excise on cigarettes has only been 10 per cent. This is disappointing compared to the 15-25 per cent increase that was witnessed in the last year�s Budget and 11 per cent to 72 per cent increase in the year before. Neither has the Budget made any proposal to simplify the complex cigarette tax structure that is only helping the tobacco industry in India. This is also the third Budget in a row with no changes on bidi taxes,� the statement quoted Rijo John, assistant professor of Economics, IIT-Jodhpur, as saying.

Rijo has been working on tobacco taxation and has been the co-author of various reports and studies on tobacco taxation.

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