CHENNAI: Forget the LOC, cross-border skirmishes and nuclear threat. Pakistan has opened a new warfront against India — rice. And the battleground will be southern state of Tamil Nadu — Chennai, to be exact.
Pakistan has now staked claim to an exclusive Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the aromatic, slender and long-grained basmati rice.
Will the strident neighbor succeed in getting an exclusive GI or reach a compromise and settle for joint registration of the tag with India will be known when the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) delivers its verdict soon.
For now, the IPAB bench comprising its chairman Justice K N Basha and technical member Sanjeev Kumar Chaswal has reserved its orders on the legal wrangle for the tag. Verdict is to be out soon.
“It is only the area falling within the territory of Pakistan (the Indo-Gangetic plains in the Himalayan foothills) that is entitled to the GI ‘Basmati’ by virtue of having produced this ‘exceptional rice’ over a long period of time,” said the petition from Lahore-based Basmati Growers Association (BGA).
The assistant registrar of GI, Chennai has “gravely erred that rice produced in area/region of Madhya Pradesh, or for that matter any part of India can bear the basmati tag,” the appeal added.
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Earlier, based on an application of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), GI status was granted to Basmati rice cultivated in UP, HP, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab and J&K. After MP requested its name be included in the list, the registry on December 31, 2013, directed APEDA to amend its application and include that state too. APEDA moved the IPAB challenging the directive.
Bhopal-based New Darban Social Welfare Society has involved itself to uphold IPAB’s existing order. BGA also filed an appeal in IPAB against the registry’s order. Despite two extensions, BGA failed to provide evidence. APEDA moved an interlocutory petition seeking a direction to quash the opposition petition. The GI registry on December 31, 2013, set aside BGA’s petition. BGA’s appeal against the order is pending.
Last week, BGA submitted its application saying the registry’s order to include additional areas was a ‘grave concern’. “The region of origin of Basmati rice was carved out in early days itself when rice grown in the erstwhile Punjab drew attention…for being distinctive,” said the application.
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There was no “public perception” or recognition” of Basmati being originated from MP. It originated in erstwhile Punjab in Pakistan. “Merely because Basmati germplasm is cultivated in the region/area of MP, Rajasthan, Bihar and Mizoram, it would not entitle them to the GI tag, said the petition adding, the registry had “misinterpreted ‘Basmati as a product rather than GI.”
It also said impleaded parties like Narmada Cereals Pvt Ltd, Daawat Food Ltd and SSA International were exporters and merely having factories in Madhya Pradesh. So they could not file an appeal for inclusion of MP in the area for Basmati cultivation. The order of the registry was silent on the variety of Basmati rice (Pusa variety) being grown in MP. “While variety of Basmati rice is certainly not the only basis, it should have been one of the most important factors,” said the petition.
APEDA, in its application to register Basmati GI, had failed to mention the Basmati-cultivating regions in Pakistan. It, however, had said in “forums and courts all across the world” that Basmati was cultivated in both India and Pakistan, said the petition, requesting the IPAB to allow its original appeal and set aside the order of the registry.