Geographical Indications (GI) Tags in India: Pros, Cons, Challenges

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This topic of “Geographical Indications (GI) Tags in India: Pros, Cons, Challenges” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Introduction

Geographical Indications (GI) are signs used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation due to that origin. In India, GI tags are issued under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, by the Geographical Indication Registry. The product must possess reputation and qualities of the place of origin. GI tags give the right to only those registered users the right to use the product name, and prevents others from using the product name that does not meet the standards prescribed.

GI tag mind map

Understanding Geographical Indications (GI)

  • Geographical Indications (GI) are signs used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation due to that origin.
  • GI tags are generally registered on products produced by rural, marginal, and indigenous communities over generations that have garnered massive reputation at the international and national level due to some of its unique qualities.
  • Types of products that can receive GI tags include handicrafts (e.g., Madhubani Paintings, Mysore Silk), food items (e.g., Tirupati Laddu, Rasgulla), wine & drinks (e.g., Champagne, Cognac of France; Scotch Whisky of UK, Tequila of Mexico), industrial products, and agricultural products (e.g., Basmati Rice).
  • GI is not an individual property for use only by the owner but instead a public property, and allows every producer in the specified region to use the said GI as long as the superior quality of the GI goods is attributable to the said region.
  • The main Agreement under WTO for protection of Geographical Indications is the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, enacted by the Government of India, provides a legal framework for the protection of GIs in India.

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The Journey of GI Tags in India

  • The concept of GI tags was introduced in India as a part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement, and the country enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, which came into effect from September 15, 2003.
  • The first product to receive a GI tag in India was Darjeeling Tea in 2004-2005.
  • Other early recipients of the GI tag included Aranmula Kannadi, a handicraft from Kerala, and Pochampalli Ikat, a handicraft from Telangana.
  • Over the years, a variety of products across different categories such as agriculture, handicrafts, food items, and manufactured goods have received GI tags. Some notable examples include Basmati Rice, Chanderi Fabric, Mysore Silk, Kullu Shawl, Thanjavur Paintings, and Kashmir Walnut Wood Carving.
  • As of May 2023, India has registered a total of 478 Geographical Indications (GIs).
  • The state of Tamil Nadu has the second-highest number of GI registered products.
  • In recent years, several new products have been granted GI tags. For instance, in 2023, Yak Churpi, Khamti rice, and Tangsa textile from Arunachal Pradesh received the GI tag.
  • Other recent recipients of the GI tag include Rajouri Chikri woodcraft and Mushqbudji rice from Jammu and Kashmir, and Banarasi Paan, Assamese Gamosa, Kangra Tea, Gondi painting, and Ladakhi woodwork.
  • As of November 2023, the latest products to receive GI tags include Jaderi Namakatti, a type of clay stick from Tamil Nadu, Basohli Pashmina from Jammu and Kashmir, and Marcha Dhan, a rice variety from Bihar.
  • Despite the progress, there have been some challenges and disputes related to GI tags. For instance, India has been seeking sole ownership of the GI tag for Basmati rice in the European Union.
  • The GI tag has helped some products gain recognition in export markets, but it has not been able to create premium valuation for most of the 370 items that flaunt the sign.
  • The journey of GI tags in India reflects the country’s rich heritage and diversity, and there is still a lot of scope to highlight their uniqueness in global markets.

Legal Framework and Registration Process

  • The legal framework for GI tags in India is provided by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, and the Rules on Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection), 2002.
  • The Act defines GI goods under section 2(1)(e) and provides the process for registration under section 11.
  • The registration process begins with ensuring that the product falls under the ambit of the Act. The application for GI Tag can then be filed under section 11 of the Act.
  • The application must be made in triplicate and contain a statement of the case for GI Tag, the class of goods to which GI is applicable, three certified copies of the geographical map of the region to which the GI belongs, and a description of the GI.
  • The application must be signed by the applicant or his agent along with the statement of case and has to be submitted along with the prescribed form GI-1.
  • A single application can be filed for different classes of goods and fees payable shall be in respect of each of such class of goods.
  • Once registered, a GI is legally protected for a period of 10 years initially, which may be renewed as per relevant law at a later date.
  • Violation or infringement of a GI tag involves a heavy penalty and jail term.

Benefits and Impact of GI Tags

  • GI tags help in preserving traditional knowledge and cultural heritage associated with the products.
  • They enhance the reputation and value of local products, supporting local businesses and communities.
  • GI tags provide legal protection to the products, preventing unauthorized use by others and ensuring consumers get quality products.
  • They contribute to economic growth by promoting regional products, fostering local industries, and generating jobs.
  • GI tags can serve as an effective marketing tool for products, increasing their visibility and demand in national and international markets.
  • They help in maintaining quality standards and ensuring that products meet the required specifications.
  • GI tags can also contribute to rural development and sustainable agriculture by promoting traditional and environmentally friendly production methods.

Challenges and Criticisms

  • Lack of awareness among producers, artisans, and farmers about the registration process, post-GI schemes, and subsidies.
  • Inadequate infrastructure and resources for the promotion and marketing of GI-tagged products.
  • Limited reach of GI-tagged products in domestic and international markets due to lack of effective marketing strategies.
  • Counterfeiting and imitation of GI-tagged products, leading to loss of revenue and reputation.
  • Inadequate enforcement of GI rights, leading to infringement and violation of GI tags.
  • Complex registration process and bureaucratic hurdles, discouraging potential applicants.
  • Lack of coordination among various stakeholders, including government agencies, producers, and artisans.
  • Insufficient research and development to improve the quality and competitiveness of GI-tagged products.
  • Benefit Distribution: The major problem in India is that the traders and not the producers capture the largest share of economic benefits resulted from the GI.
  • Quality Control: Lack of quality control mechanisms and scientific rigor post the registration process often leads to the GI remaining somewhat symbolic in nature.

Case Studies and Judicial Pronouncements

  • Darjeeling Tea: The first product to receive a GI tag in India, Darjeeling Tea faced unauthorized use and registration of the name and logo by Japanese companies. The Tea Board of India took legal action to protect the GI, resulting in the cancellation of the unauthorized registrations in Japan.
  • Basmati Rice: India and Pakistan have been involved in a dispute over the GI tag for Basmati rice. India filed an application for the GI-tagging of its Basmati rice, which faced backlash from Pakistan, as it produces its own variety of Basmati rice.
  • Atreyapuram Pootharekulu: A sweet from Andhra Pradesh, Atreyapuram Pootharekulu received a GI tag in 2023, protecting its unique characteristics and production methods.
  • Dholak from Amroha: The Dholak, a musical instrument from Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, was granted a GI tag in 2023, safeguarding its traditional production techniques and cultural significance.

Global Perspectives and Comparative Analysis

Geographical Indications (GIs) have been recognized and protected in various regions across the globe, each with its unique approach and challenges. Here are some global perspectives and comparative analyses:

  • Europe: Europe has a well-established system for protecting GIs, with a significant number of products registered under the system. The European Union (EU) has been a pioneer in recognizing and protecting GIs, and it has a comprehensive system in place. However, there is a lack of economic data to support policies related to GIs, even in the EU, where the most important GI system exists.
  • Asia/Oceania: In Asia, countries like China and India have a significant number of GIs. As of 2021, China held the highest number of GIs in force within its borders with a total of 9,052 GIs. India, on the other hand, has been actively registering its unique products under the GI system.
  • Africa: The African Union has been working on innovative approaches to protecting and promoting GIs in Africa. This includes technical sessions and discussions on the development opportunities at the national, regional, and international levels.
  • A global conference on Geographical Indications: was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) in 2022. The conference aimed to discuss the most recent research and implementing practices for GIs in all regions of the world. It brought together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from around the world to discuss various aspects of GIs, including their nature, legal definition, public and private management, impacts in the marketplace, and sustainable development.

Initiatives taken to promote GI tags

The Government of India has taken several initiatives to promote Geographical Indications (GI) tagged products:

  1. The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act was passed in 1999 to provide a legal framework for the protection of GIs in India.
  2. The ‘Geographical Indications Registry’ was established in Chennai for right holders to register their geographical indications.
  3. The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has conducted various activities to promote GI tagged products.
  4. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has been instrumental in promoting India’s exports, including GI tagged products.
  5. The Government has established various Export Promotion Councils (EPCs) to cater to the specific requirements of different export products, including those with GI tags.
  6. DPIIT organized the “India Geographical Indications (GI) Fair 2022” to promote GI tagged products.
  7. The government has provided financial support to eligible organizations for promoting Geographical Indications.

Way Forward

  1. Increase awareness and education about GI certifications among craftsmen and farmers at both the central and state level.
  2. Issue GI handbooks showcasing the GI tags of the state to promote and educate about the significance of GI products.
  3. Encourage individual states to assist their craftsmen and farmers with the promotion and sales of GI products.
  4. Address the lack of quality control mechanisms and increase awareness among the stakeholders of GIs.
  5. Develop strategies to address the legal, social, economic, geographical, and technical challenges that are currently a hurdle for some states in India regarding GI Registration.
  6. Implement a uniform statutory framework for decentralized mechanisms for different GIs to restore the credibility of many GIs and promote a successful system of GI protection in India.
  7. Encourage the interaction of GI with traditional knowledge and biodiversity and their impact on society.
  8. Highlight the success stories and missed opportunities of different GIs to learn and improve the system.
  9. Focus on the role of geographical indication in the socio-economic development of rural India.
  10. Use GI as an effective mechanism for employment generation and sustainable growth opportunities in different sectors like agriculture, food, and handicraft.

Conclusion

Geographical Indications (GI) tags play a crucial role in protecting the cultural heritage and traditional knowledge associated with unique products from specific regions. They provide legal protection, enhance the value of local products, and contribute to economic growth. Despite the challenges such as lack of awareness, inadequate infrastructure, and enforcement issues, the future prospects of GIs in India are promising. With proactive measures from the government and increased awareness, GI tags can serve as a significant tool for socio-economic development, particularly for rural and indigenous communities.

Practice Question for Mains

Discuss the significance of Geographical Indications (GI) in India. Analyze the initiatives taken by the Government of India to promote GI tagged products and suggest a way forward to overcome the challenges faced in this context.

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