Madhya Pradesh which early this year celebrated a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for its basmati rice now has a new enemy: Pakistan.
Lahore-based Basmati Growers’ Association (BGA) has moved the Chennai-based Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) in appeal against the order of the Assistant Registrar of Geographical Indications that gave the aromatic rice produced in MP the coveted tag it had been seeking for a long time.
Stating that basmati is a name for a slender, aromatic and long grain variety of rice grown in the specific geographical area at the foothills of the Himalayas in Pakistan, the BGA has argued in the appeal, filed through Shafiullah Khan, a Pakistan national based in New Delhi, “only the rice grown in certain areas of Punjab in Pakistan, where the rice kernels are grown on conventional rice lands and they interact with the environment, atmosphere, soil and climate to yield exquisite rice can be called ‘basmati’ in the true sense.
Insisting that these parts of the Indo-gangetic plains are the traditional basmati rice yielding areas, the appeal has quoted a renowned Punjabi poet Syed Waris Shah whose work Heer (written in 1766) mentions basmati grown in the Punjab of those days that are now within the territorial jurisdiction of Pakistan.
Principal Secretary (Agriculture) Rajesh Rajora told The Indian Express that the IPAB was yet to issue notices on the appeal but the state government was seeking legal opinion.
“Now we will be fighting against Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Agency (APEDA), an Indian entity, and Pakistan,’’ the bureaucrat said, adding jurisdictional issues will come into play.
Before Pakistan filed its appeal a few months ago-the MP government got a copy of the appeal only recently-APEDA, that functions under Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, had also challenged the assistant registrar’s decision.
APEDA had previously rejected MP’s claim that its rice growing areas, especially Morena, Bhind, Gwalior, Sheopur, Datia, Shivpuri, Guna, Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore, Hoshangabad, Jabalpur and Narsinghpur, were deserved the GI tag. Chennai-based Geographical Indications Registry quashed the objections raised by APEDA creating possibility of an exciting future for basmati and its growers in Madhya Pradesh.
Incidentally, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had in February blamed the then UPA government for APEDA’s stand on basmati grown in MP.
“It seems APEDA has joined hands with Pakistan to do injustice to farmers in MP,’’ Chouhan had said in the run up to the general elections. Chouhan’s outburst had come after APEDA challenged the assistant registrar’s order. After the change of guard at the Centre, Chouhan has not spoken about the issue so far.