Who took my rosogolla? The bittersweet battle over a sweet explained

The award of GI status for Bengal’s rasogulla has opened up a debate on how the origin of foods can be determined over the competing claims of different regions.

Published: 15th November 2017 10:55 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th November 2017 09:11 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: The award of GI status for Bengal’s rasogulla has opened up a debate on how the origin of foods can be determined over the competing claims of different regions. Odisha claims the rasogulla is its creation while Bengal claims it was a confection made by a Bengali
How did Bengal get the GI status for rasogulla?
A two-and-a-half-year-long battle between Odisha and West Bengal over the origins of rasogulla has finally been settled. The Directorate of Food Processing Industries has delivered its verdict and the Geographical Indicator (GI) tag for Banglar Rasogulla has gone to West Bengal. “West Bengal had applied for the GI tag for Banglar Rasogulla in 2015. We examined all the evidence and conferred the GI tag on it,” officials in the GI registrar's office said. Kolkata claimed that a sweet maker named Nabin Chandra Das invented the confection in 1868, after which it became popular in different parts of the country. Odisha had not applied for the GI tag.
What is Odisha’s claim to rasogulla?
The tug of war over rasogullas began when Odisha’s science and technology minister Pradip Kumar Panigrahi set up a committee to find out the origins of the sweet. Soon, the West Bengal government applied for GI status for rasogulla. However, the battle over the origins of the spongy sweet became pitched after Odisha government celebrated Rasogulla Day on May 30, 2017. Odisha claimed that the sweet used to be served in the Jagannath temple in Puri way back in the 13th century. According to legend, Lord Jagannath, the presiding deity of the Puri temple, offered rasogullas to cheer up his wife who was upset with him.
The two varieties of rasogullas
There are different varieties of rasogulla. West Bengal has won the GI tag for the Banglar Rasagulla and not all rasogullas. “This GI tag is not for rasogulla in the generic sense. It has been given on the basis of the geographic region, uniqueness and the evidence produced by Bengal. There should be no controversy over rasogulla's origin at all,” sources in the GI registrar’s office said. Thus, it is not accurate to say that West Bengal has won the battle of rasogullas. 
On Wednesday, a few hours after West Bengal won the GI tag for the Banglar Rasogulla, Odisha government announced its plan to apply for a GI tag for the Odishara Rasogulla.
What is the GI tag anyway?
The Geographic Indication (GI) tag indicates the place of origin of a commodity. The WTO agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, to which India is a signatory, describes a GI-tagged commodity as “originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.”
How does the GI tag help?
It protects producers of a particular commodity from competitors who try to take a ride on the fame of their unique product. The GI tag indicates that a product has been made in a particular place and possesses qualities unique to that place.
It was found that tea made in parts of India other than Darjeeling were also packaged and exported as Darjeeling Tea. The brand value of a unique product such as Darjeeling Tea or Mysore Silk may take a hit when competitors bring out copycat products and market it under the same name. For instance, tea produced in south India tastes different from those produced in the Darjeeling hills. When the former is exported as Darjeeling tea, it distorts the brand characteristics of Darjeeling Tea and may negatively affect the consumer’s perception of the brand. Now that Darjeeling Tea has the GI tag, only tea that is grown in Darjeeling can be sold as Darjeeling Tea. 
How can one apply for GI tag?

Anyone can apply for a GI tag for a product that is unique to a region. One needs to submit an application to the Geographical Indications registry along with a statement detailing the special characteristics of the product and how they are maintained and so forth. A panel of experts will examine the application and scrutinise the case. After examination, a report is tabled before the registrar of GI. On the basis of the report, the registrar confers the GI tag on the product.  

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