significant number of agricultural goods or handicraft goods are eligible or
recognised under the Geographical Indication (GI) of Goods Act, 1999
as GI, but either their implementation or recognition processes are ineffective
for the actual recognition. The government of India launched 'Make in India' in 2014
to boost local production, but in fact the initiative seems to be unfavourable
to local production, as it has opened the door to 100% foreign direct investment
(FDI) in most of the sectors. However, there is tremendous
potential associated with it for generating sustainable employability, or a
source of stable income for residents of India.
sectors have found a place in the grand 'Make in India' initiative, but there
are hardly any initiatives to incentivise the utilisation of local potentiality
in the agricultural sector or in handicrafts. However, two sectors indirectly
linked to the agricultural and handicraft sectors have found a place in 'Make
in India' â€“ food processing and textiles and garments â€“ but the policy mandate
does not include small-scale industries in these locally driven sectors.
50% of the total working population in India works in agriculture or allied
activities. Census 2011 reported that 968 villages are
uninhabited and 3.36 lakh houses are locked in 13 districts of Uttarakhand.
This report highlights the lack of employability and basic facilities (the lack
of a stable source of income) as the main causes of rural to urban migration.
So any action for the betterment of these sectors will have a direct impact on
half the working population.
to the TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement, "Geographical indications are indications which identify a good as originating
in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where
a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially
attributable to its geographical origin" (Article 22.1, World Trade
present times, people are obsessed with brand consciousness because a brand is
seen as a carrier of quality and value. Whenever a customer buys a product of a
specific brand, the value of the brand is always kept in mind. If the value is
not intact with the products, it means that the producer will lose customers.
For example, Darjeeling tea and Banarasi sarees are two world-famous items
known for local quality or local brand.
is evident that agricultural products or handicraft goods, termed as 'experience goods' because their quality cannot be judged before using them, are
best suited to geographical indications. In the case of experience goods,
asymmetric information exists between buyers and sellers, which causes the
problem of 'adverse selection', where low-quality products drive out
high-quality products from the market (Akerlof 1970). This can be termed a specific
type of market failure, which needs some sort of government intervention. India
will benefit from significant government intervention in this issue that would
give more accurate information on the attributes of such products, so consumers
can make better purchasing decisions. In this regard, geographical indications
can function as an important method of market signalling, to assure the quality
of the product, and thus reduce the degree of asymmetric information between
buyers and traders (Josling et al 2004, Rangnekar 2004).
has been recognised as property rights under the
WTO's TRIPS agreement. Within it, states have been given rights to bring legislation
for defining GIs. Unless a state brings legislation for protecting a particular
GI domestically, it will not be able to claim protection for it in other parts
of the world. There is a provision in the TRIPS agreement saying that products
will not be protected as GIs unless or until they are registered within their
respective country. Under Article 23 of the TRIPS agreement, however, wine and
spirits have been given universal coverage, which means they no longer need to
register in a respective country for protection. The formation of a multilateral register is mentioned in
the agreement, but a lack of procedural clarity among member
countries over keeping a register at the WTO has delayed the same. The carrot
and stick policy of developed countries and unprepared developing countries did
not allow them really to negotiate better GI protection for agricultural and
handicraft goods. Since India enacted the law in 2003, it has been seen that a
lack of supporting documents is typically the cause of rejection. Handicrafts
workers or even those who are doing agricultural work are either just literate
or largely illiterate. As a result, their level of awareness about legal
protection of their traditional knowledge is very limited. Those who do know
are not able to provide enough justification for registration. A current
example is Merrut scissors community,
which submitted an application that was rejected due to insufficient documents.
Currently, the intellectual property appellate board shows 264
pending applications, 13
withdrawn, and 12
refused, while 323 have been registered.
central government should bring in legislation to strengthen the GI Act. A
system should be created for strengthening the documentation process, so that concerned
communities are not denied GI registration. The central and state governments
should take part in providing selling platforms for these indigenous products,
because leaving them to the market system will not help them find their place.
These goods are less competitive in comparison to those of corporate companies,
it terms of marketing, advertising, and reach among potential customers.
Leaving the documentation processes in the hands of the concerned communities
only discourages them from reaching the markets. Even filling the application
at the Geographical Indications office is costly, along with the bureaucratic
hurdle in finalising the process of registration. Unless the government is
pushed for a quick solution to these problems, bureaucrats tend to delay.
understand how government initiative would be helpful for cultivating a
community of agricultural or handicrafts producers, or any other products, we
can look at the Ethiopian government's initiative, which has been benefiting
the indigenous community. The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) is the
centralised trading agency that regulates coffee marketing in the country. It
was established in 2008, and is mandated and required to generate a marketplace
all market actors, from farmers to traders to processors to exporters to
consumers." The Exchange looks after quality control and works as a channel
between local collectors, wholesalers, exporters and foreign importers, through
a competitive command system (ECX, 2011b).
the ECX has provided a trading mechanism for selling all types of coffee,
whether made by producers large or small, it has been bypassed by some farmers' cooperatives and large-scale producers (Oguamanam & Dagne 2014, 84).
However, a report by the ECX in 2011 reflected that prices of coffee range
between US $2.01 and 2.04 per pound, when sold by the ECX system, whereas
coffee sold outside (by cooperatives or large scale growers) was only getting
US $0.20 (ECX, 2011a).
centralised agency will be beneficial to Indian producers of GI products
because it would signal the rights of products of specific regions and
recognise traditional rights. At present, small-scale producers of these goods
are unable to reach the market as they are located at a distance from it. As a
result they can't reach consumers directly. Middlemen for these goods either
delay their quick delivery, or mislead consumers, because there is no guarantee
producers of GI are unaware of the advertising system, except for Darjeeling
tea and basmati rice. So their packaging, processing and selling system are old
which can't stay in competition to the substitute.
although a Darjeeling Tea Board has been created, it is not taking care of
workers in the sector. The Darjeeling Chronicle reported
on September 2, 2018 that workers were working in a feudalistic bonded labour
system, where they are being paid just Rs 132 per day. This completely destroys
the concept of geographical Indication, whose purpose is to empower workers,
meet the needs of small-scale producers, including individual family-based
productions, the Indian government should create a platform involving the
states. It will be a step forward for the GI Act of 1999, as government
agencies will assist in the required documentation process for GI recognition,
as well as advertising and selling in the market. Not only would such an agency
document the historical factsheet of particular products, it would bring them
into the market from remote areas. In this way, the government will be able to
generate sustainable employment, meet the rising demand for local and organic
foods, and reduce rural to urban migration.
2014, the people of India elected the Bharatiya Janta Party led by Narendra
Modi to power, with the hope of seeing a better future for employment,
development and the eradication of poverty, yet the government has not tapped
this incredible opportunity. While the Commerce
Ministry of India has come up with the idea to install GI product stalls
in all Indian airports, the initiative represents only a partial fulfilment of
the goal, as it will help only those GI products that are already on the
market, without government support, such as Darjeeling tea, Tirupati laddus,
Banarasi sarees, and Basmati rice.
vast, abundant "Invaluable
Treasure of Incredible India" is left in darkness, with no
hand to support them. The use of GI with a rigorous government system in place
would improve the lives of many Indians by providing them much needed support.