SpicyIP Tidbits: GIs from the deserts and the hills

There are two updates on the GI front from very different parts of the country – the desert sands of Kutch and the languorous hills of the Nilgiris.

In an article replete with (standard) misreporting, the Indian Express informs us that Kutchi weavers, bandhini artists from Jamnagar and Ajrak printing craftsmen have applied for GIs, and expect to be granted their respective tags soon. There is a slight possibility (and this is entirely my own speculation) that issues may arise, here too like in the northern reaches of the country, of cross-border issues in the Kutch and Sindh regions. This has been brought up in previous posts on the blog here and here.

As a secondary indicator, I came across this Wikipedia entry on the craft of “Ajrak” printing which does not read like it has been scripted by an Indian, and clearly hints at potentially contentious issues of ownership about the craft. As it is, the murky tales of Basmati acquire increasing foulness by the day, which I shall try to touch upon in a separate post. One wonders if the Indian system is armed to take on more than it can handle at the moment.

Elsewhere, the New Indian Express informs us there was a grand little tea party in Coonoor some days ago, celebrating the grant of the GI tag for Nilgiri tea. Nilgiri tea reportedly has more connoisseurs abroad than with the country, and as a result, the Nilgiri Tea Fest,intends to go on a nationwide tour, Chennai being the next immediate stop. So the party will continue, eh.

As a tailpiece, it is sheer coincidence that I happened to visit an institute last week which has been key in helping obtain the GI for Kangra tea – the country’s only variety to have obtained organic certification. Like Nilgiri, Kangra is an infusion tea, which is ill-favoured by most Indians, fond as they are of “kadak chai”! And it faces perhaps a worse fate than its southern relative, practically disappearing in daily local use, and a dramatic fall in production over the years, reaching near-insignificant levels. (At present, it hovers at around 0.1 % of India’s total tea production).

Indeed, it was a struggle to find a dhaba that would serve Kangra tea on home turf. We had to return disappointed, with the chortles of the tea-shop owners ringing in our ears, laughing at the latest lot of out-of-towners. The tea was finally bought in a touristy shop in town, but there was something dispiriting about the entire incident. This is one of the challenges of the GI system itself – to not only ensure that the tag is not misappropriated by profit-seekers, but also, that it remains in healthy use, to prove that the GI was warranted at all.

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