Emerging Issues in G.I:Muga Silk@ Assam

Emerging Issues IN G.I: Muga Silk@ Assam.

Environmental Concerns cloud the Muga Silk Industry of Assam.

‘Round and round the mulberry bush’, sing children in praise of the fine art of silk weaving. If only it were so simple to weave silk by going round the mulberry bush, we would all be clad in the finest of silks fit for the king. And if royalty were to indulge their tastes, it would be nothing less than the Muga Silk of Assam.

Muga silk popularly referred to as the ‘King of Silks’ is traditionally produced in the Brahmputra Valley of Assam. A traditional craft that has been practiced for centuries provides a great fillip to the socio-economics of the state. Traditionally a green agrarian society, western consumerism and faulty urban living have taken a toll on the sericulture industry of Assam. Environmental Pollution and negligent waste disposal mechanism threaten to disturb the fine balance of the ecological mantle and industrial well being of the region.

An application for the G.I rights of the Muga silk has been filed by the Assam Science and Technology Council based on the data generated by the Institute of Advance Studies in Science and Technology (IASST), a premier institute engaged in R&D of Muga Sericulture.

An extract from the G.I journal reads:

Muga the golden yellow silk produced by the Antheraea assama is found only in the BrahmaputraValley of India. The shimmering yellow golden silk is referred to in literature from as long as 1662 B.C.The Anthraaea Assamensis is cultivated especially in the BrahmaputraValley because its characteristic ecological requirements are found only in its natural abode.

As the name suggests, the people of Assam have been traditionally engaged in the cultivation of Muga Silk. Historical Records indicate the presence of Muga Silk in the BrahmaputraValley since 321 B.C which was also on the silk route.

At a time when the industry can rest on its laurels and take comfort in the fact that a G.I right is on its way, environmental pollution emanating from the Gawhati Municipal Corporation (GMC) is likely to affect the fate of the G.I or for that matter the continuance of sericulture industry in the area. On investigation it was found that toxic fumes from the burning of urban waste at the GMC has stunted the growth of the silkworms and the Som plants reared at the IASST. As a result, the Muga silkworms failed to attain maturity for three consecutive seasons. Long and short, R&D efforts in this direction have slowed down, that is likely to act as an impediment to the G.I process.

A fit case for environmentalists to make a strident statement. A greater cause for activists of IP rights.

Mother Nature envisaged a web of interdependence in her panorama of creation. Wise and quirky she embedded a domino effect amidst constituents, to ensure a harmonious interplay. Thus a tectonic plate shift off the coast of Malibu could render asunder the economy of Maldives. Creation and survival was essentially intended to be a combination of the various sciences-pure, natural and social that spans boundaries.

The problem faced by the Muga sericulture trade is largely a ecological menace. Nonetheless, this is likely to have a cascading effect on the G.I Rights to be acquired which in turn would have an adverse effect on industry and socio-economics of the state.

The case in point established here is that any IP right cannot be examined in isolation, whether it is a product of the mind, process, or land. Broadly speaking a trademark is a combo of IP and commerce, copyright arises of art, patent from industry and G.I from the characteristics of the land .An analysis of any contentious IP matter is likely to throw up an array of underlying factors ranging from public health, environmental, regulatory, sociology, sustainable development, and the entire gamut of issues that govern society at large.

As is the case with all other IP rights, G.I rights can be established in purpose and spirit only if other surrounding factors are addressed. Geography is not a stand alone science either. If the exercise is aimed at conserving products of geographical origin, it is imperative that we look at the associated factors that go with it however disparate or remote they seem.

Post GI legislation, there has been a renewed interest in the direction of craft revival. Much debate has been aroused, both at Mandi house and at coffee tables. I don’t discount the importance of any debate- all debates lead to the solution and help to further the case.

Here I seek to make a difference between a case and a cause- and for those who know the difference there is one. Laudable coffee table banter add to the case no doubt, but if hearts bleed over a cause then it is worth the effort to walk the extra mile and get your hands dirty with the grime of the cause.

In the context of Muga Silk, we need to act before the fine silk curtains go down on Muga sericulture and the silkworms get smoked out their habitat. …in which case the G.I right may stand reduced to a mere document on the wall and the nursery rhyme is sung as an eulogy to the dying silkworms of Assam.


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