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Geographical Indicators - Wake up Call!

Gupta, Manisha is an M.Sc- Maths , PGD-Computers with a long standing passion for the arts & crafts has done extensive research on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues related to traditional arts & crafts- creative and cultural industries. She conducted a study and created a strategy for protection of Traditional Knowledge & IPRs of artisans for an international development organization. She has written for reputed development magazines & leading national dailies and presented papers at national & international conferences.

While everybody’s attention is focused on the Sariska issue, which is being called the “biggest wakeup call”, there’s yet another issue which needs to be addressed by the state of Rajasthan. Since even “protected tigers can disappear and be lost forever, what about things left unprotected?

The reference here is to the various products of the state which are specific to it by virtue of their being linked to the geographical and regional factors-be they natural, climactic or even human. Such products, which owe their basic characteristics to the geographical region, are protected by the Indian Geographical Indications Act, the most appropriate Intellectual Property (IP) tool, to begin protecting community owned brands. Under this newly operational act in India, such ‘geographically indicated’ products can be registered and they then have the advantage of competing fairly and stemming the fake market to a large extent.

In this culturally rich state, the land of folklore and cultural expressions, there is a tremendous amount of intangible heritage. From the typical varieties of folk music & dance to the specific arts & crafts, weaving & embroidery, painting styles and many other such cultural manifestations of its colorful and lively existence, the range is enormous.

Everybody is familiar with the "Basmati controversy", which wouldn't have taken place if India had had a relevant act in place, on time. Now since we do have one, we should move fast and register such products, especially those with a greater commercial and employment generation potential. Steps have been taken to identify the relevant Geographical Indicators (GI) products at state levels, but the more crucial next step still needs to be expedited. The states have to get their respective products registered, so as to really start making a positive difference to the genuine producers and help them counter the problem of counterfeits.

"Mysore silk", "Chanderi silk", "Pochampally Ikat" and "Solapur fabric" are already registered GIs. This registration will benefit the producers, since, for example, now any silk produced outside Mysore cannot be called "Mysore silk", a registered GI.

Talking of Rajasthan, the once popular "Kota Doria" fabric is in the doldrums now because it is facing unfair competition on many quarters - powerlooms being one of the major threats. Due to the absence of any sort of "protection", in the sense of brand name, the weavers of the original fabric are finding it hard to 'weave' a decent life out of their traditional occupation and hence shifting to other jobs such as those of rikshaw-pullers or laborers. If a GI is secured for this product, then atleast most of the fabric sold by the name "Kota Doria" in the market will actually be Kota Doria! Ditto for "Sanganeri & Bagru prints", "Rajasthani Bandhej", "Jodhpuri mats" or "Jodhpuri jutis". Hence the genuine, special hand crafted products will receive a boost and the craftsmen will have an incentive to continue with their traditional craft practices and also be able to earn a livelihood based on these. GIs will thus make a positive difference to the special, ethnic products market, prevent misuse of the "indication" and bring more jobs and sustainable income to the deserving artisan community. Also, a brand being established will boost exports and earn revenue thereby promoting the overall economic wellbeing of the state.

GI Registration will thus go a long way in establishing brand, enhancing export potential, preventing misuse of brand name and prevalence of fakes, thereby bringing about economic prosperity to producers of 'original' products, especially from Kota-Doria, Sangeneri & Bagru clusters. This will also be in keeping with the state's priority for cluster development.

What is actually required is but a little push and a 'GI wake up call' to the state to speed down the 'GI registration path' and secure its hidden, intangible cultural treasures and special geographically indicated products. This would not only bring sustainable income, prosperity and pride to its living human treasures, like the artisans and craftsmen and other producers of genuine stuff, but also help revive a number of vanishing traditional crafts of our country.



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