The Fat Tax

The Indian Government is beginning to take on the role of the quintessential Indian mother. Since GST is anyway bringing multiple reforms, top bureaucrats have recommended introduction of a “Fat Tax”.

Let’s face it.

At least once in your life you have had that phase where your increasing waistline has attracted Pammi Aunty’s “concern”.  It is even worse when your mother takes up the constant comparison of your bulging belly with that of Sharmaji’s off-spring’s toned abs. You know your mother’s heart is in the right place (can’t say much about Pammi Aunty though) and yet there is minimal motivation to stop your hand from inching towards the bowl of chips.

The intake of junk food on a regular basis has increased by folds’, courtesy of the breathtakingly delicious advertisements that adorn every possible screen. Vivid and photoshopped posters of scrumptious burgers, mouth-watering pizzas with four diverse types of cheese, and freshly prepared french fries with peri-periare strategically placed to garner maximum attraction – right from the billboards at major traffic signals to the flat LCDs and plasmas. These methods work like a charm.

 

A study reveals that the number of obese people in India has doubled in the last decade. Another study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that about 22% children in India were obese. India stands as the third most obese country in the world. Since it is not a feat we can take pride in (obviously), there have been discussions to impose a Fat Tax to discourage the consumption of junk food which is one of the major reasons of obesity. The term ‘junk food’ has not been defined under the Food Safety and Standard Act but generally refers to packaged food with low nutritional value, including but not limited to eatables with excessive amounts of sugar, salt or saturated fats.

If you’re of the opinion that the government cannot put this appalling thought into action, you’re in for a shock. Last June, the Kerala government imposed a 14.5% tax on food items such as pizza and burger served in branded restaurants. Even in USA, where a considerable number of people face this problem, the states of California and Philadelphia levy tax on sugary beverages. Mexico and Hungary also have the same practice in place. While you try to appease yourself with the thought that Fat tax is barely a proposition, I would like to bring to your notice that a similar group’s recommendations to make Aadhar a money bill were adopted last year.

So, basically, there are strong chances that a Fat tax could be a reality under GST.

Don’t jump to the conclusion that this is just another money-making scheme of the government. The group of 11 top-bureaucrats, led by Union health secretary CK Mishra, has suggested that the additional revenue generated be diverted to the health budget. It seems kind of ironical to me that the third most obese country in the world is also the home to 102 million men and 101 million women who are underweight. A Fat tax would ensure that there is a control in the gobbling up of food items high in sugar, salts or saturated fats. At least the folks who love their money more would be discouraged from eating uncontrollably. At the same time, if people consume fatty food they’ll have to pay up and that money could be used for the betterment of the underweight population. Sounds like a win-win?

The team has also suggested restricting endorsements and advertisements of the aforementioned products on TV and other platforms. Another recommendation is to increase public spending on health to 1.5% of the GDP. Currently it is a meagre 1.16% of the gross domestic product. So far, no comments have been made on the progress of this suggestion of introducing a Fat tax but you never know, our PM could be in the mood for another surgical strike. The question would then be – to eat or not to eat?

 

Sources:

1) Hindustan Times

2) Business Standard