India Today - - SNAPSHOTS -

So­cial an­thro­pol­o­gist, Dr Aarti Kawlra, ex­plains the pol­i­tics be­hind the mak­ing of the fa­mous Kanchipu­ram sari.

1. What is Ge­o­graph­i­cal Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion ( GI)?

GI is a mark of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion that links a prod­uct to its place of pro­duc­tion and his­tor­i­cal ori­gin. It of­fers con­sumers the means to dis­cern qual­ity and is a glob­ally cer­ti­fied pro­tec­tive prac­tice which aims at safe­guard­ing pro­duc­ers from com­pe­ti­tion with cheap im­i­ta­tions of their prod­ucts.

2. How is it dif­fer­ent from other ex­clu­sive rights like copy­right, trade­mark and patent?

First, the GI is linked to mul­ti­ple pro­duc­ers from a sin­gle re­gion. It’s, there­fore, a col­lec­tive mark whereas copy­right, trade­mark and patent are for in­di­vid­ual pro­duc­ers and firms. Sec­ond, the GI, like trade­mark, is as­so­ci­ated with qual­ity. Only those prod­ucts that meet cer­tain stan­dards of qual­ity can be GI marked. Third, un­like a patent or copy­right, it’s not time- bound and can­not even­tu­ally be­come avail­able in the pub­lic do­main.

3. When was the GI mark im­posed on the Kanchipu­ram sari?

Pro­duc­ers in Kanchipu­ram be­gan ap­ply­ing for GI since 2006. The GI mark

“The GI is priv­i­leg­ing only a cer­tain type of qual­ity, de­sign and method of pro­duc­tion of the Kanchipu­ram sari... Such meth­ods can eas­ily be­come a restric­tive prac­tice that favours only a few.”

on the Kanchipu­ram sari is reg­u­lated by the Tamil Nadu govern­ment.

4. Why is there pol­i­tics over a sari?

The GI is priv­i­leg­ing only a cer­tain type of qual­ity, de­sign and method of pro­duc­tion. For in­stance, it only al­lows the ko­r­vai tech­nique for weav­ing the sari, which in­volves a spe­cialised process that re­quires two peo­ple. Ear­lier the as­sis­tant weaver was usu­ally a young ap­pren­tice but af­ter the child labour act this process be­gan to fade away due to in­creas­ing costs for hir­ing ex­pe­ri­enced as­sis­tant weavers at higher wages. The GI doc­u­ment de­fines the ex­act quan­tity of raw ma­te­ri­als like gold and sil­ver to be used in the sari. But since the prices of th­ese raw ma­te­ri­als are con­stantly fluc­tu­at­ing, it af­fects the pro­duc­ers ad­versely. The GI also only favours silk Kanchipu­ram saris com­pletely ex­clud­ing the cot­ton weavers. An­other im­por­tant fac­tor is the pol­i­tics of iden­tity. The GI doc­u­ment says the Pattu Sali­yars are the orig­i­nal silk sari weavers of Kanchipu­ram, thereby ex­clud­ing other weav­ing com­mu­ni­ties who are equally en­gaged in this creative process.

5. So the GI on the Kanchipu­ram sari does more harm than good?

The GI has, in fact, ben­e­fited French ar­ti­sanal wine and cheese pro­duc­ers. But pro­tec­tion can eas­ily be­come a restric­tive prac­tice that favours only a few. Fur­ther re­search may an­swer the key ques­tion— Who are the real ben­e­fi­cia­ries of this global stan­dard?

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