Friday 24 May 2019

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Pay double to die with gutkha

 

The massive hike on sales tax on gutkha in Goa has sparked a new controversy. The Congress government is caught up between contradictory demands of the gutkha dealers and the anti-tobacco citizens' groups.

The public at large however is very happy with chief minister Pratapsing Rane's step to hike the sales tax on gutkha from eight per cent to 100 per cent.

In a tiny tourist state, its annual turnover is considered to be around Rs 96 million. The sales tax department was annually earning around Rs 7.7 million from gutkha alone.

But the hike would not reduce consumption rate, feels Shripad Pai, the gutkha dealer. On the contrary, he feels it would lead to black-marketing of low quality gutkha, imported from the neighbouring states.

They suspect hand of tobacco and cigarette lobby behind it since the small gutkha pouch would now cost Rs three, costlier than a cigarette. They also charge the state for knowingly encouraging corruption.

They appreciate Maharashtra government's decision to reduce sales tax on gutkha from 20 to 12 per cent while it is 13 per cent in Karnataka. They are however prepared for additional eight per cent hike in Goa, making it double.

"I appeal to the chief minister not to succumb to such pressures as the present step would tremendously reduce gutkha consumption among children and others", states Dr Sharad Vaidya, chairman of the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication.

On the contrary, he feels the government should implement Maharashtra government's proposal to increase gutkha packet size to not less than 500 gms. He totally disagrees with the argument that it would lead to black-marketing.

Meanwhile, the state Assembly has also passed a bill banning chewing or smoking all tobacco products in public places and its sale near schools etc. But it is still awaiting the Presidential assent for last nine months.






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