As a debate rages across state borders and on Twitter about the true origins of the rosogulla and Mysore pak, a long-drawn bureaucratic process of stamping state ownership over a commodity has become an unlikely talking point.
Over the past 13 years, as many as 28 Indian states and seven countries have registered for a Geographical Indication tag with the Indian Patent Office, the government agency that recognises the origin of a product. This status allows a state or a geographical region to lay an exclusive claim over a product, gives an assurance of quality, and is often an alibi for producers to command a higher price in the market.
So far, 301 products have been registered with the Indian Patent Office since April 2004. The list – typically made up of agricultural, manufactured or natural goods – is broad, varied and dominated by South Indian states.
Karnataka has successfully applied for GI certification at least 11 of the past 12 years, and notched 39 GI tags for everything from Mysore Sandal Soap to Udupi Sarees. Jharkhand is the only Indian state that doesn’t have a GI-tagged product against its name.
Though handicrafts dominate nearly 60% of the list, there is no dearth of agricultural products on it, especially rice. Thirteen variations of rice have been granted the tag, five of which belong to Kerala. In the case of Basmati rice, seven states share the certification. Eight varieties of mangoes, six kinds of banana and five types of chillies have made it to the list, just over the past 10 years.
Last year, over 33 products were granted GI status, notable among which were three products from Italy – Prosecco wine, and Parmesan and Asiago cheeses. Italy, in fact, has been the most active among foreign nations in getting the exclusive status – most others, such as Peru, France, United States, United Kingdom, Portugal and Italy, have gained Indian GI tags for their respective alcohols.
Here are some lesser-known Indian products that enjoy GI certification:
Solapur terry towel
Made with cotton yarn, the towel is manufactured in the Solapur district of Maharashtra. Its application for GI certification said: “Solapur is historically well known and owns unbeatable reputation for its uniqueness in terry towels allied product of Jacquard Chaddar. The fabric used for manufacturing terry towels…with its unique characteristics has created a demand in global market... (sic).”
The embroidered handicraft from Chamba in Himachal Pradesh has a long history. It is believed that Guru Nanak’s elder sister Bebe Nanaki made one in the 16th century. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has in its collection a Chamba rumal from the 18th century that depicts “Hindu god Krishna in a variety of poses – playing his flute or talking to the female cow-herds (gopis)”. The handicraft lost its royal patronage after Independence, although it’s still a common item of gift at weddings.
These scissors from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh are made entirely with metal scrap – according to a report in The Hindu, the blades are fashioned from carbon steel sourced from metal found in automobiles and the handles are made of alloys and plastics recycled from old utensils.