A group of Tabinaj members including some members from the district level such Comilla, Jamalpur and Tangail and Ahsania Mission and the members from the secretariat Narigrantha Prabartana and UBINIG had a fruitful dsiscussion with Mr. Muhammed Najibur Rahman, Chairman, National Board of Revenue (NBR) on 25th May, 2016 at the meeting room of NBR. The team visited NBR on the occasion of the national budget (2016-17) to express Tabinaj position on the collective demand of increasing taxation on tobacco products. However, Tabinaj members specifically highlighted on the increased taxation on the smokeless tobacco products such as Jarda, Gul, sadapata which are included in the definition of tobacco products in the amended TC law (2013). Such a meeting of “women-only delegation” on demands for smokeless tobacco taxation is first of its kind in Bangladesh. The members included Sayyida Akhter, Shima Das Shimu, Muhmuda Nargis, Sharmin Rahman, Munjushree Pramanik were there. Tabinaj members presented a written memorandum to the Chairman.
The NBR Chairman gave a patient hearing on the issues raised by Tabinaj members. These included the extent of smokeless tobacco use among women (higher than men), the harmful effects that it can cause to the users and the way smokeless tobacco products are produced that pose threats to the health the workers who are mostly women and children. It is also a matter of concern that the Jarda, gul, sadapata are available at a very cheap price of Tk. 2 to Tk. 5.
The revenue earned from smokeless tobacco products has been very low. During 2014-15 only Tk.14.36 crore were raised as revenue which is less than 1% of the total revenue from tobacco. There is no sign of tax collection procedure from the smokeless tobacco products leading to extensive tax evasion by the producers. The non-uniformity of the size of the packages of smokeless products also helps in the evasion of taxes. Tabinaj members presented reports on Jarda-gul production and other Fact Sheets.
NBR Chairman Mr. Rahman said that other groups have met him with their demands including those demanding rehabilitation of the biri workers. Tabinaj members however, opposed the fact that it should not be a matter non-taxation on biri, but to take effective measures on alternative employment. The Chairman suggested that in future they should organise meetings to meet together with all the relevant groups in a bigger forum.
In the end Tabinaj members pointed out few points for the next budget. These are
- Imposing 70% tax increase on smokeless products like other tobacco products.
- Introducing uniform system of packaging of SLT with 100 gram so that tax can be imposed on each package size.
- Introducing revenue earning stamp or bandroll on the packets of SLT.
- Increasing the surcharge to 2% for health care costs.
- Introducing licensing system on production and selling of smokeless tobacco products. There are enormous numbers of SLT producing factories and home-based production centres which have remained outside the monitoring of the national revenue board.
[It may be noted that Tobacco Control groups such as Progga, Ahsania Mission and the CTFK supported and facilitated the visit with information]