• Shaurya Shukla

What is the GI tag and why is it so important that it caused a battle between Bengal and Odisha?


If a person is an avid news reader he would have noticed many times a piece of news displaying on the screen on his mobile or laptop that a state gets a GI tag for something. So what is a GI Tag and why is it so important that it is displayed on various news websites.

A geographical indication tag is also known as GI tag is a symbol of geographical importance and if any particular item receives a GI tag from the geographical indication registry which is headquartered in Chennai, then that GI tag gives it recognition that it is originated from a particular place only. A GI tag prevents a particular item to be sold by the outsiders in the name of its place of origin, for example, Darjeeling tea has got the GI tag so, if any outsider sells it with the name of Darjeeling tea he would be punished.

Telling the place of origin of a product is that the only thing that makes a GI tag so important. Well, no there are many other benefits that GI tag confers on a GI tag holder like:

  • When any product gets a GI tag it is termed as an “exotic” item and that is why its price gets increased in the International market.

  • It boosts the export sector of a place and it also boosts the tourism of that particular place.

  • The farmers and artisans of that particular place will face less competition from the people selling fake products with their names.

  • And most importantly it also leads to sustainable development indirectly because of the boost of the tourism and export sector.

Having these benefits a GI tag becomes very crucial and important for a particular place.

People often get confused between trademark and GI tag. Though both are a type of IPRs they have some difference. If we talk about trademark, a product comes from a particular company and the rights under trademark are individual rights which are enjoyed by a particular person or company but on the other hand, the product of GI tag comes from a particular place/region and the rights conferred under a GI tag are community rights which are enjoyed by a particular community. A GI tag is given for physical stuff but a trademark can be given for both physical goods like mobiles, PCs, etc or a service like music or any cinematographic film, etc.


Section 22, 23, and 24 of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement deal with protection, enforcement, and exceptions related to the GI tag. WTO(World Trade Organization) member nations are also been mandated to respect geographical indications. And the member countries are required to take measures like orders, custom authorities seizing the product, etc. to avert GI tag violations. If a product enjoys a GI tag in a member nation then other member nations should not give the trademark for the same products.

If we talk about the GI act of India there are some major problems that India should deal with. The first problem with India is the diverse and varied culture of India and their diverse food and art forms that can be eligible for getting a GI tag and it will not be feasible to grant this much GI tags and another problem is lack of awareness as many people in India are not yet aware of the GI tag and that’s why they can’t even apply for the GI tag registration.

After understanding the meaning, importance and legal implications of a GI tag lets get to a battle for the GI tag of “Rasgulla” which ended recently. The war for the GI tag of the famous slurpy sweet is not a recent matter the war began in 2015 when Odisha claimed for GI tag of Rasgulla but the war became more heated when the GI tag for the Banglar rasgulla was given to West Bengal in 2017 and the chief minister of West Bengal tweeted “Sweet news for us all. We are very happy and proud that #Bengal has been granted GI status for Rosogulla”. After happening of this event the Odisha Small Industries Corporation (OSIC) filed a rectification petition demanding the geographical indication registry to change the name of the Banglar rasgulla to Jagannath Rasgulla. OSIC claimed that lord Jagannath existed even when there was no Kolkata city and the rasgulla was an offering given to Lord Jagannath in the puri temple, so the name of the Banglar rasgulla should be changed to Jagannath rasgulla.

Finally, the battle for the GI tag of Rasgulla ended in the year 2019 when the geographical indication registry granted a GI tag to Odisha for its version of Rasgulla named ‘Odisha Rasgulla’ under the Geographical Indication of Goods(Registration and Protection ) act 1999. The tag will remain valid until 22 February 2028. The Chief Minister of Odisha i.e. Naveen Patnaik showed his happiness by tweeting “ Happy to share that #Odisha Rasagola has received GI Tag in Geographical Indication Registry. This mouth-watering culinary delight made of cottage cheese loved across the world, is offered to Lord Jagannath as part of bhog for centuries.”

A researcher on Jagannath cult named Asit Mohanty, who submitted a report to state government added to this matter by saying that word ‘Rasgulla’ was written in ‘Dandi Ramayana’ by Odia poet Balram Das in the 15th century but the Kolkata - based Rasgulla was introduced by a confectioner named Nobin Chandra Das in the year 1868.      

This event very much depicts the value of a GI tag and it also shows up to what extent two states can go to get a GI tag because a GI tag is not about having a recipe of something, it means way more than that. A GI tag gives a vital recognition to a place and its people and that is the reason why Bengal and Odisha indulged in a 26 month long battle for the GI tag of Rasgulla.  

 

References:

  1. [ Economy] Geographical Indication GI Tag: Features, Issues, benefits, Madurai Malli, Meerut Scissors, 29 May 2020, 3:56 pm, https://mrunal.org/2013/02/economy-geographical-indication-gi-tag-features-issues-benefits-madurai-malli-meerut-scissors.html

  2. Geographical Indication, 29 May 2020, 3:57 pm, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographical_indication

  3. Ujit Nath, Battle over Origin Of ‘Rasgulla’ continues, After Odisha files Petition demanding change of GI tag, 29 May 2020, 5:03 pm, https://www.news18.com/news/india/battle-over-origin-of-rasgulla-contines-after-odisha-files-petition-demanding-change-of-gi-tag-2056055.html

  4. Jhimli Mukerjee Pandey and Minati Singha, Victory for Bengal in the bittersweet battle as state wins Geographical Indication Tag for ‘Banglar Rasogolla’, 29 May 2020, 5:14 pm, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/victory-for-bengal-in-bitter-sweet-battle-as-state-wins-geographical-indication-tag-for-banglar-rasogolla/articleshow/61650997.cms

  5. If you thought the battle over rasgulla is over, think again, 27 May 2020, 5:06 pm, https://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/if-you-thought-the-battle-over-rasogolla-is-over-think-again-119030501146_1.html

  6. ‘Odia Rasagola’ gets GI tag in battle with Bengal, 29 May 2020,  5:39 pm, https://www.thestatesman.com/bengal/odisha-rasagola-gets-gi-tag-battle-bengal-1502783380.html


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