Medical activists to observe 12th March as ‘Misery Day’ to protest against proposed service tax, demand rollback
The Union Budget proposal to levy 5% service tax on healthcare services has been severely criticised by the medical community, which has described it as a "misery tax". The community says the proposal to tax healthcare adds to the concerns of the common man, and it has demanded that it be scrapped.
Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, chairman of Narayana Hrudayalaya, has in an open letter addressed to the aam aadmi, said, "This is not a 'service tax', it is a 'misery tax' since the government wants to make money out of your misery. Please do not think that only rich people will be taxed since the proposal says only air-conditioned hospitals need to pay the tax. No surgery, simple or complex, can be performed without an air-conditioned operation theatre. Legally, a blood bank cannot get a licence without air-conditioning. CT, MRI and catheterization labs do not function without air-conditioning. Simply put, hospitals cannot function without air-conditioning!"
"British Raj taxed salt and our government taxes our miseries", Dr Shetty said.
The medical fraternity has called on people to observe 12th March as "Misery Day", to protest against the proposed service tax and demand that it be rolled back.
Presenting the Union Budget for 2011-12 last week, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee proposed a 5% service tax on medical services, including diagnostics, provided at centrally air-conditioned clinical establishments, having more than 25 beds for in-patient treatment. The service tax is to be levied also on services provided by consultant doctors operating from such hospitals.
Nagesh Kini, chartered accountant and Mumbai-based social activist, said, "Ultimately, it is the common man who will have to pay this. I do understand that air-conditioning is required for MRI, blood bank and such other facilities, but the taxes will only burden the common man. I agree totally with Dr Shetty's statement. "
Dr Shetty said in his open letter that taxes would only increase the already high cost of healthcare in India, putting quality treatment out of the reach of the common people. Therefore, "service tax, both old and new, must be withdrawn for all variety of services including diagnostic services, payment by insurance companies, etc. Also all varieties of taxes like central sales tax, customs duty, VAT on health sector to be withdrawn for at least ten years, till all citizens have access to affordable healthcare."
Dr Gustad Daver, director professional services, P D Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, told Moneylife, "The more the taxation, the more the cost of treatment. This directly affects common people. The cost of high-end treatment is already unaffordable and adding to it is the service tax, which will increase the burden on people. We are working to bring the cost of treatment down and such taxes will make it impossible for us. I sincerely hope that the government rolls back the service tax."
On Monday, a Press Trust of India report quoted S Dutt Majumder, chairman, Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), as saying that "as far as the CBEC is concerned, we think health services will also have to be brought under the (tax net) and it should not affect the common man. We are talking about central air-conditioning, not air-conditioning. And even private hospitals (with) central air- conditioning and more than 25 beds will be covered."
Mr Kini responded to Mr Majumder's statement saying, "This is totally incorrect. No one but the common man will suffer because of this service tax."
Cisco and Mahindra will explore opportunities to collaborate on comprehensive differentiated offerings in the sports and entertainment market to provide a range of industry-specific offerings
Mumbai: The Anand Mahindra-led Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) on Tuesday said it has inked a strategic alliance with global networking company Cisco to provide a host of services, including cloud computing, entertainment, smart cities, virtual dealerships and sports, reports PTI.
The joint venture intends to collaborate on a global platform and has a target market of $5 billion in five years.
"I am absolutely delighted that the first project under this initiative is intended to be the Mahindra Innovation Park, which will create new benchmarks through its smart solutions," M&M vice-chairman Mr Anand Mahindra told reporters here.
"This is a partnership not just of one contract but involving many contracts between Mahindra and Cisco, not just in India but across the world," he said.
"Initially, we have invested Rs10 crore in the global partnership and will continue to invest in the coming days," Mr Mahindra said. With this JV, M&M and Cisco will focus on the Internet.
Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) and Mahindra have initiated the collaboration on a pioneering virtual sales experience as a complementary channel to Mahindra dealerships.
The innovative sales experience will aim to expand M&M's customer touch-points, enhance brand visibility and provide customers with a superior experience.
Cisco and Mahindra will explore opportunities to collaborate on comprehensive differentiated offerings in the sports and entertainment market to provide a range of industry-specific offerings.
These include the Cisco connected stadium platform and the StadiumVision solution using the network as a platform, with additive elements for access control, wireless, smart-card ticketing and loyalty programmes, points of sale and hospitality.
India Against Corruption to hold public meetings on Sunday, to mobilise for countrywide fast from 5th April
With the ruckus over Hasan Ali Khan's Swiss bank accounts and the Supreme Court quashing the appointment of PJ Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner, one would have expected the government to implement some strict measures to root out corruption. But it seems that prime minister Manmohan Singh has refused to initiate any changes till the state assembly polls, scheduled next month, are over. Now, activists, seeking immediate action on this festering issue, are planning to go on a fast next month.
Members of India Against Corruption (IAC), among them Dr Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh, met the prime minister and Union law minister Veerappa Moily on Monday, urging the government to undertake some anti-corruption measures immediately. However, the prime minister expressed his inability to take any specific measures before the completion of the state polls. Dr Singh also refused to include activists in the committee to draft the Lokpal Bill, which is expected to create an independent vigilance authority at the centre. Mayank Gandhi, spokesperson of IAC, said the movement would be intensified with activists scheduled to go on a fast from 5th April.
"The prime minister said the government has no time to consider the issue of corruption till the 13th May due to the ongoing Parliament session and the impending elections in five states," Mr Gandhi said. In view of the government's attitude, Anna Hazare, an activist of IAC, will launch the indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
The forum has planned public meetings nationwide on Sunday to raise awareness on the issue and mobilise support for the hunger protest. "Some 20,000 people will participate, distribute pamphlets in the meetings," Mr Gandhi said. "On 5th April, more than 100,000 people across the country will go on a fast in solidarity that will be led by Annaji in New Delhi."
Last week, Mr Hazare had warned that he would go on a fast if the meeting with the government turned out to be fruitless, and if the government did not agree to enact a strong anti-corruption law along the lines of the Jan Lokpal Bill, which has been drafted by IAC.
"After much persuasion, he (the prime minister) agreed to bring a Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament," Mr Gandhi said. "He was informed that the government Bill was poorly drafted. The prime minister suggested that a sub-committee of the group of ministers (GoM) would be constituted and it would have two meetings with representatives of IAC after 13th May. The GoM will draft the bill accordingly after the interaction."
But the IAC had decided not to wait that long, and it has demanded that instead of a GoM, a joint committee be set up which will have equal representation from the government and activists. But the government has rejected the proposal. Mr Gandhi said, "In effect, we stand where we were before the meeting. The meeting served no purpose except that it made the intention of the government clear."
The poorly drafted Lokpal Bill, which the government plans to introduce in Parliament, places several restraints on the Lokpal and hinders its independent functioning. Hence, the Jan Lokpal Bill which has been drafted by the activists that gives more power for effective vigilance.
(To read the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill log on to http://www.indiaagainstcorruption.org/.)