GI tags for sitabhog, mihidana

Some of your favourite sweets are soon expected to be sold only in the genuine form, courtesy the State’s Department of Science and Technology. The department has applied for Geographical Indication (GI) registration for Bardhaman’s sitabhog and mihidana. All documents have been sent to the Geographical Indication Registry in Chennai, and a positive outcome is expected soon.

The registration, which is a kind of patenting, guaranteeing the fact that a particular product can only be made/grown in a particular way and only in a particular place/region for it to be considered genuine, would not only help the makers of the real sweets to increase their sales and widen their market (as they can then push their products, courtesy their certificates of genuineness) but also, as a result, encourage them to improve their qualities. For a start, the Biswa Bangla store at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, whose customer base includes international and national travellers, is stocking these two prides of Bardhaman district.

The Government has been encouraged in its effort through the successful registration of the famous mowa of Joynagar last year.

Since 2004, when Darjeeling Tea became the first Indian product to get the GI tag, as the registration is often referred to, 235 products (till March 2015) from India have been registered thus. However, the share of West Bengal is very small. Some of the State’s GI gems are are the saris Baluchari, Dhonekhali and Shantipuri, the mangoes langra, Laxman bhog and fazli, kantha stitch products, and leather goods of Santiniketan.

Now this scenario is going in for a major makeover. West Bengal has enough products of timeless heritage, whose brand value is well-known too, both in the national and, for some, in the international market. However, the lack of GI registration has enabled the proliferation of cheap fakes.

The State Government has big plans to register many such unique products. Two other sweets, langcha from Shaktigarh and sarpuria from Krishnanagar, are already in the pipeline.

It’s a common enough sight in many parts of the State, especially in the south: shops selling sitabhog and mihidana from Bardhaman. Yet often they are anything but. Replicas have flooded the State; and people often unknowingly buy them. Now, the sweet-makers are on the cusp of a sweet deal, and their lives would change for the better.