Indian Tax Breaks for Asbestos Producers
In his budget speech on July 8, 2004, P. Chidambaram, Finance Minister of India, announced a 15% reduction on custom duties for asbestos, a raw material mostly used by the Indian construction industry in the production of water pipes and roofing materials. The tax break continues the trend which saw reductions on asbestos import tariffs in the 1995-96 and 1999-2000 budgets of 78% and 25% respectively. The price advantage of these cuts has spurred the expansion of the asbestos industry in India.
Although the consumption of asbestos, an acknowledged carcinogen, has drastically reduced in developing countries, its popularity has been growing in Asian countries. In India, the majority of asbestos used is in the production of asbestos-cement materials, 50% of which are destined for rural areas, 20% for towns and 30% for industrial consumption. Estimates made based on American and European studies suggest there are 30 deaths per day from asbestos-related diseases in India.
Ban Asbestos India, an NGO founded in 2002, roundly condemned the Government's continuing support for this killer industry. BANI spokesperson Gopal Krishna said:
the budget has ignored both global and national movements demanding a ban on the continuing use of killer asbestos in India. India faces a massive and completely preventable epidemic of early, painful death and suffering caused by asbestos. Our goal will be to encourage the Finance Minister to reconsider the Government's position on asbestos.
July 15, 2004