An old open letter by Dr Devi Shetty, the founder of Narayan Health, opposing the service tax on healthcare, is being falsely shared on social media as a recent opposition by the doctor-entrepreneur against healthcare service tax by the Narendra Modi-government.
BOOM found that the letter dates back to 2011, with Shetty opposing the service tax on healthcare introduced by the UPA-2 government. Furthermore, service tax has been phased out in India since the rollout of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2017.
The open letter was shared widely my multiple Twitter users, including Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar, who purportedly shared the letter as an opposition to a healthcare service tax introduced by the Modi-led government.
In the letter, addressed to 'aam aadmi' or the common man, Shetty spoke about the introduction of 5% service tax in healthcare in a 'recent budget', which he called as 'misery tax', and drew out its implications for patients availing major surgeries.
A screenshot of the letter was shared by Sircar with the caption, "Agree fully with Dr Devi Shetty that Modi-Nirmala’s service tax on health services will devastate the middle class and poor. Withdraw this tax! @AITCofficial @MamataOfficial"
Click here to view an archive of the tweet.
Following the introduction of the GST in 2017, the service tax has been phased out in India. BOOM took this as an evidence suggesting that the letter is old, and does not talk about the recent budget by the Modi-led government.
Furthermore, several responses to Sircar's tweet suggested that the letter dates back to 2011.
We did a keyword search with "devi shetty healthcare service tax misery tax", and changed the search parameters to look for posts from 2011.
We were led to an article by Money Life from March 8, 2011, which reported on Shetty's open letter highlighting the issues with the introduction of a 5% service tax on healthcare, and urging people to observe March 12 as 'misery day' to protest against the healthcare tax.
Another article by the Deccan Herald from March 9, 2011, also highlighted Shetty's campaign to urge the government to withdraw the healthcare tax, while referring to the open letter which is now going viral.
The article read, ""This is not 'Service Tax', it is a 'Misery Tax' since the government wants to make money out of your misery", he had said in an open letter posted on the website of the Narayana Hrudayalaya."
Looking through the 2011 Union Budget speech by then-Finance Minister Pranav Mukherjee, we found (in page 29) that a 5% service tax was indeed added to healthcare services.
According to a Times of India report, dated March 23, 2011, Mukherjee withdrew the healthcare tax following criticism from hospitals and members of his own party.
We have reached out to Narayan Health for a comment, and the article will be updated upon getting a response.
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