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Punjab CM urges PM not to allow GI tagging for Madhya Pradesh basmati

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CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him not to allow geographical indication (GI) tagging of basmati to Madhya Pradesh, in the larger interest of Punjab and other states that already have GI tag for basmati.

Apart from Punjab, other states that already have GI tagging for basmati are Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, western UP, and select districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

In a letter to the PM, the chief minister also said the All India Rice Exporters' Association is also opposed to considering any claim of MP for GI tag for basmati, raising concerns about its serious negative impact on Indian export potential.

He said India exports basmati to the tune of Rs 33,000 crore every year and any dilution in registration of Indian basmati may give advantage to Pakistan (which also produces basmati as per GI tagging) in the international market in terms of characteristics and quality parameters.

In the letter, Singh also said GI tagging of MP basmati would negatively impact Punjab's agriculture and also India's basmati exports.

Madhya Pradesh has sought inclusion of its 13 districts for GI tagging for basmati.

Urging Modi to direct the concerned authorities not to disturb the status quo in this matter, the chief minister said this was essential for safeguarding the interests of farmers and basmati exporters of India.

As per the geographical indications of the Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, a GI tag "can be issued for agricultural goods that are originating 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 its geographical origin".

GI tag has been given on the basis of traditionally grown areas of basmati due to special aroma, quality and taste of the grain, which are indigenous to the region below the foothills of Himalayas, and basmati of this area has distinct recognition across the world, Singh said an official release here.

The Punjab chief minister claimed that Madhya Pradesh "does not fall under the specialised zone for Basmati cultivation".

It was for this reason that MP was not included in indigenous area of basmati cultivation in the history of India, he said.

MP's move to get its area included for basmati tagging is a direct violation of the GI tagging procedure and laws, and any attempt to breach the GI tagging areas will hit the status of aromatic basmati cultivation in India's specialised area, said the CM.

He also added that it will also negate the purpose of GI tagging regulation in the Indian context.

The chief minister further pointed out that MP had earlier attempted to get the GI tag for basmati cultivation in 2017-18.

However, the Registrar of Geographical Indications (RGI), constituted under the geographical indications of goods (Registrations and Protection) Act 1999, rejected the demand of MP after investigating the matter.

The Intellectual Property Appellate Board, Government of India, had also discarded the claim of MP in this regard.

Later, MP challenged these decisions in the Madras High Court, but did not get any relief.

Further, to look into the claim of MP to get GI tag for its basmati, the Government of India had also constituted a committee of eminent agricultural scientists, which had also rejected the state's claim, the CM said.

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