India being an agrarian economy, agriculture, textiles and food product sectors are and will be the biggest job creators for the foreseeable future. The agriculture sector employs more than 50% of the total workforce in India and contributes around 17-18% to the country’s GDP.
The Chinese invasion of our manufacturing has resulted in more unemployment than employment. Farmers, artisans and daily labourers have been at the receiving end after our World Trade Organisation (WTO) entry even as the information technology segment, which benefitted the most from globalisation, has created a false illusion of wealth and jobs in the country. The bottom of the pyramid, like MSMEs, could not survive the Chinese invasion, and this is now increasingly true for agri-products, traditional arts and antiques, too.
It is a matter of time before India will be reporting number of jobs lost monthly than the number of jobs added. The “Make in India” movement is catching up but it’s mostly aimed at consumer durables segment. The farm distress and lack of jobs, even with MGNREGA in place, is definitely a worry. India seems to have run out of ideas for job-creation. The recent farmers’ and youth rallies in Delhi are a reflection of the job-creation ability of government schemes. It is time India looks at ‘out of the box’ ideas that have potential for mass job-creation.
Geographical Indication (GI) is a perpetual Intellectual Property (IP) which can be renewed every 10 years, owned by farmers, artisans or weavers of a region and not by a company, industry or an individual. GI products need to originate from a particular, defined geography and needs to possess unique, defining characteristics that differentiate them from the same product from other regions (nutrients, taste, texture, weight, look, shape, etc).
As of now, India has about 700 GIs granted, such as Darjeeling tea, Coorg orange, Nagpur orange, Mysore silk, Mysore Pak, Basmati rice, Mysore Mallige, Channapatna toys, among others. After the grant of GI tag, Darjeeling tea has seen its domestic price rise five-fold, basmati rice and Thanjavur paintings’ prices have doubled. Importantly, jobs based on them have increased. The number of farmers cultivating Nagpur ‘santra’ has, for instance, doubled in the last five years. These statistics indicate an upward trend in rural migration and of farming being profitable. The export potential of GI products has made the livelihoods of these farmers, artisans and weavers sustainable. The constantly increasing Indian diaspora helps keep it that way. India has close to four lakh unique products that can qualify for GI tags due to India’s rich art, climate, culture and heritage. These can potentially create and sustain about 200 million jobs.
GI brings a unique quality to the table with respect to job-creation –- no requirement of additional resources, funding or initiatives. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has created a new logo and the tagline “Invaluable Treasures of Incredible India”. The DIPP’s GI logo creation has shown the intent to drive GI forward as a value-creator for Indian products. India is a diverse country, with close to 700 cultures and 3,000 communities that have evolved over centuries and most produce art products, foods and textiles from available local resources. This forms the root for such a huge GI potential. India must get on the GI bandwagon quickly. We have about a decade before most of the products we consume start to say “Made in China”. The lack of GI tag hurts our unique products and produce.
In an era where brand value draws sales, GI is the best possible brand-creator and holds potential for increasing value for our communities. The task of empowering the public is imminent in a GI-driven approach where a typical GI tag could sustain or create 5,000-5 lakh jobs. A typical GI application costs about Rs 1 lakh to file and about Rs 6 lakh to generate things like technical data, formation of trust, proof of existence of quality control, gathering evidence of uniqueness of product, documentation of historical evidence of its existence, brand existence and brand recall among different regions, identify existence even during British time, etc., to ensure smooth application and prosecution. A typical GI costs a maximum of Rs 10 lakh.
In a country like India, where farmers are poor and mostly uneducated, we cannot expect widespread GI awareness and knowledge among them. It has to be driven by the community and by researchers. The NGOs, CSR, governments, charitable trusts, etc., need to embrace GI as a job-creation tool. India spends typically about Rs 2 lakh crore per year for skill development, tribal empowerment, MSME support, etc. Spending a fifth of it on GI can create about 200 million sustainable jobs. GI probably holds the only hope for this country’s job-creation woes.
The North-East, Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, the Himalayas, the Kashmir Valley, the coastal belt, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, the South Indian forests, etc., account for thousands of potential GI forest/tribal products. Educated and aware people in society must step forward on behalf of these people for GI enablement. In a country where 250 million women don’t have jobs, GI can aid in providing livelihoods for people at the bottom of the pyramid. GI can be filed for any product or produce which is unique for a region and it can be as simple as a food item, a dish, a handwoven product, pottery, a painting, a wooden toy, a fragrant flower, forest produce, a vegetable, a fruit, etc. Preserving Indian heritage and Indianness is the inbuilt characteristic of GI, empowerment of artisans or farmers or weavers is a result of it and, importantly, creating and sustaining jobs.
(The writer is Professor (Chemistry) with the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Cell, CMR Institute of Technology)