This article on ‘GI tag awarded to the Bihar Mithila Makhana: All you need to know‘ was written by Shashi Yadav, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
This article elaborates on the importance of the GI (geographical indication) tag which is awarded to specific products of specific regions. Recently Mithila Makhana was awarded the GI tag. It is also said that 90% of the production of Makhana is from the region of Mithila. Makhana is a superfood that is low in fat and high in protein and fibre. Makhana has about 347 calories per 100g. Makhana has 14.5 g of fibre and 9.7 g of protein. Makhanas is an excellent calcium source. They also have significant amounts of magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Makhana also contains a small number of vitamins.
India is all about cultural, and regional diversity. Crops that are specially grown in a particular area are treated no less than a god as due to the production of certain crops the poor farmers are earning for their families similarly Makhanas are closely embedded in the cultural practices of the people living in the region of Mithila including other neighboring regions.
After getting awarded with the GI tag for Katarni rice, Madhubani Painting, Magahi pan, etc, Bihar finally got the GI tag for the Makhanas. Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal congratulated the farmers on growing Makhanas and stated that it will benefit the farmers as it will help them to earn more and live a sustainable life.
What is a GI tag?
GI refers to geographical indication tag, it is considered important as every region of the world has its unique products. It sometimes takes decades to identify a special product that is being produced in a region. For instance, Banaras is known for its ‘Banarasi Sarees’. The concept of GI tag is brought to preserve the originality and uniqueness of the products which are connected to their respective regions.
The parliament of India passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which focused on providing registration and protection of GI of the goods in India. It is under the control of the General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks.
According to section 2 (I) (e) of the Act, Geographical indication had been defined as “ An indication which identifies such goods as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods as originating, or manufactured in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of such goods is essentially attributable to it geographical origin and in the case where such goods are manufactured goods one of the activities of either the production or of processing or preparation of the goods concerned takes place in such territory, region or locality, as the case may be”
Under WTO, trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS), the member nations will have to respect geographical indication and have also taken measures to prevent violation as it is advised by the authorities to seize bogus products. Two nations cannot give the luxury to anyone to enjoy the GI tag status for the same product.
The geographical Indication tag was awarded to Bihar’s Mithila Makhana.
The central ministry of commerce has approved the plea to rename Bihar Makhana as Mithila Makhana, centre even advised changing the logo so that it could signify the origin of the product.
Sabour-based Bihar Agriculture University (BAU) filed an application on the behalf of the Purnia-based fox nuts growers association which is also known as (MMUS) Mithilanchal Makhana Utpadak Sangh. They wanted to change the name of Bihar Makhana which was taken as an offense by the people of the Mithila region leading to protests as they identify themselves with the aquatic crop fox nut, thus in the respect of social, cultural, and historical background of the regional people BAU amended the application in 2020 September to change the name to Mithila Makhana.
Makhana is identified as an important part of their culture including Mithila pan, Makhana, and Machh (fish). In Mithila, Makhanas is famous for the festival Kojagara Puja which is celebrated by Maithili Brahmins and contains fibre, proteins, iron, calcium, magnesium, etc.
The registration of a geographical Indication is valid for 10 years. It can be renewed after the expiration.
Importance of GI tag?
It helps boost exports as the originality of the product cannot be questioned for example the Alphonso mango of Ratnagiri has witnessed a steady growth in demand as it acquired the GI tag in 2018.
There may be a chance of it affecting tourism too as people from different nations will especially visit a specific place to buy their specific famous product.
It benefits the farmers as no one can then copy the original idea or product to gain personal profits. For example, while traveling we might see the stalls of Jain Shikanji and are still not aware of the original stall thus many others have copied the famous shikanji seller’s name and are now gaining profits out of it.
GI tag gives the right to sue anyone against infringement and recovery of damages for such infringements. The punishment for applying for the GI tag falsely, tampering with the origin of a product, etc is imprisonment not to be less than six months which may extend to three years with a fine not less than fifty thousand rupees and may extend to two lakhs rupees.
Darjeeling tea was the first Indian product to get the GI Tag. In a country like India, it is difficult to conduct thorough research to give a geographical Indication tag because of the existence of vast variation among the regions. Another problem is the lack of information. In the case of Mithila Makhana, it was the students of BAU who applied. Government should work on creating awareness so that the wave of entrepreneurship can take a speedy turn in India benefiting the nation at an economic level.
- “What is a geographical indication?”, World Intellectual Property Organisation, available at https://www.wipo.int/geo_indications/en/
- Sambhav Kumar, “Bihar’s Mithila Makhana Receives GI Tag”, Krishi Jagran, August 23, 2022, available at https://krishijagran.com/news/bihar-s-mithila-makhana-receives-gi-tag/
- Tarun Bhardwaj, “Bihar Mithila Makhana awarded GI Tag! Know about this variety of Fox Nut and its benefits”, Financial Express, August 22, 2022, available at https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/bihar-mithila-makhana-awarded-gi-tag-know-about-this-variety-of-fox-nut-and-its-benefits/2639737/