An open letter to actor Vijay who gave wrong facts to criticize PM Modi

“Singapore has 7% GST and India has 28% GST. But Singapore offers free world class healthcare facilities, while in India children die due to lack of oxygen (referring to the Gorakhpur tragedy in UP in August this year), people die due to lack of electricity during operations in hospitals. Government imposes 12% GST on medicines, but alcohol is out of GST.” This is an english translation of a dialogue from Tamil movie ‘Mersal’ spoken by actor Vijay’s character in the movie. The dialogue is being touted and shared by those who hate PM Modi, as an excellent satire and criticism of his government’s policies. However, there are many holes in the dialogue when it comes to hard facts. Here’s what we found after our research.

Singapore does have 7% GST , but when you consider some of these facts, you’ll understand why India cannot afford the luxury of such low GST rates. Out of Singapore’s 5.6 million population, more than 1.7 million people or 30.3% of its population pays income tax. While in India only 6.2 crore people or 4.7% of India’s 130 crore population, paid income tax in FY 2016-17. Ironically, actor Vijay is himself a ‘Tax Defaulter’ with IT sleuths reported to have found Rupees 3 Crores in cash, when they raided his premises back in 2015. As far as 28% GST is concerned, more than 80% of 1,700 items are in the slab of 18% GST. Those in 28% slab are also being reviewed periodically by the GST council, based on the feedback from the state governments. One needs to understand that such a huge tax reform, in a country of demographics like India, will take atleast a year for everyone to be comfortable with it. Singapore has GST since 1994.

Coming to world class free healthcare. Singapore does provide world class healthcare, but it’s ‘Not Free’. In fact, Singapore’s healthcare system is financed through a combination of resources, which includes a fund like PF, for which there are deductions from salary of working Singaporeans. Along with this, each citizen needs to have a health insurance plan, like ‘Medisave’, ‘Medishield’ ‘Medifund’, ‘Eldershield’ etc. Premiums for these, are financed from the citizen’s fund and government’s contribution in the form of subsidy. Simply put, it’s your money plus government subsidy from which you pay for healthcare. So it is clearly not free.

As far as the Gorakhpur tragedy and the role of UP government led by BJP’s CM Yogi are concerned, facts speak for themselves. It was a clear case of corruption in procurement of medical supplies, by the hospital administration. The only fault of the government, was that it tried to cover the cause of death. Add to it, the annual occurrence of an epidemic of Japanese Encephalitis (JE), post monsoon in eastern UP. The disease has been difficult to eradicate, mainly because of unhygienic and unclean conditions which have prevailed in the region for decades, along with poor and insufficient healthcare infrastructure. The Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College, is the only tertiary care hospital in the 300 sq kms region around Gorakhpur, handling patients from neighboring Bihar and even Nepal.  It must be noted, that number of child deaths from JE, and the total number of child deaths, have reduced significantly this year. Under the previous, Akhilesh led SP government, the number of JE related child deaths were 557 in 2012, and 650 in 2013, which has come down to 163 in 2017 under Yogi government. Total child deaths have reduced from 5,850 in 2014 to 1,317 in 2017. To counter these issues, the Yogi government as part of PM Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission, has planned to make UP completely Open Defecation Free (ODF) by October 2018. An AIIMS is being built in Gorakhpur, to ease the pressure on the BRD Medical College. Apart from this 5 more AIIMS and 25 new medical colleges have been planned in the next 5 years. The issue has been close to Yogi’s heart and he has continuously raised it as a 5 time MP from Gorakhpur since 1998, inside the parliament and out of it as well.

Dear Mr. Vijay, it seems either you are ignorant about facts, or you have an agenda. Not all medicines are under 12% GST. Medicines for Diabetes, HIV and Cancer are under 5% GST slab, and have become cheaper than before. Modi government has also heavily decreased the prices for coronary stents (upto 85%) and implants for knee replacements (upto 69%). Lastly, Alcohol is out of GST only for the first year. Even then, the raw materials like Ethyl Alcohol and Denatured Spirits are under 18% GST slab. One also needs to know that imported alcohol is taxed at a whopping 150%. To conclude, it’s because of tax evasion that honest taxpayers and the government have to deal with such complex issues, when it comes to the taxation system.

(The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect The Youth)

Mr Sushant is an intellectual with corporate work experience in reputed international companies. He has a wide spectrum of interests and knowledge on subjects ranging from contemporary geopolitical environment to history, sociology, economics and beyond. He pens down exciting and inspirational stories and shares his views on various issues exclusively for The Youth's readership. You can follow him on Twitter @OfficeOfSA