Home / Industry / Manufacturing /  Bengal squanders rosogolla GI opportunity

Kolkata: It’s been a year since West Bengal established the uniqueness of Kolkata’s rasogolla—a popular sweet made with cottage cheese and soaked in light sugary syrup—and secured registration under geographical indication (GI), but no one made any attempt to commercially exploit it.

Worse still, a substantial section of sweetmeat makers in the state was still not aware that the GI registration was meant to create a distinct identity for the sweet, which, in turn, was expected to shore up sales.

Because the state does not have the “necessary infrastructure", there is no immediate plan to commercially exploit the GI registration for Banglar Rasogolla, according to Abdur Rezzak Mollah, the minister for food processing in West Bengal.

A year ago, amid much fanfare, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced the GI registration for the sweet, which was widely seen as a sign by the trademarks authorities passing a verdict on the origin of the rasogolla against competing claim by neighbouring Odisha.

The trademarks authorities under the commerce ministry had only recognised the uniqueness of a particular variety of the sweet made in Kolkata. Even as the state prepares to celebrate the completion of a year since, misconception remains.

“We thought the GI registration meant West Bengal had established its claim that rasogolla originated in this state," said Rahul Chaurasia, whose family runs the Ganguram’s chain of sweet stores in Kolkata. “We had no idea that the GI registration was meant for commercial use."

Dhiman Das, descendant of the fabled inventor of the Kolkata variant of rasogolla, does not see the tag of uniqueness adding value to his enterprise. K.C. Das on its own was a “bigger brand" than the GI-protected Banglar Rasogolla, said Dhiman Das, who had helped the state with the paperwork for the GI registration.

Also, Das is not keen to pay the state government to use the GI tag. It is “ridiculous" that the government wants his firm K.C. Das Pvt. Ltd to pay for an intellectual property created by his great grandfather Nabin Cahndra Das, according to Das. The family claims rasogolla was invented by Nabin Chandra Das.

Even enterprises willing to use the GI registration have not been able to do so because the state government is not ready with the paperwork to grant permission.

It has been at least six months since initial discussions took place with the state government, said Jagannath Ghosh, Kolkata unit secretary of Paschim Banga Mistanna Byabasayee Samiti, an advocacy group for sweetmeat makers. But the state government was not ready yet, he added.

Mohuya Hom Choudhury, an officer with West Bengal’s science and technology department and an expert on patents, said other states were trying to commercially exploit the uniqueness of indigenous products, but West Bengal had done little to leverage the GI registration of Banglar Rasogolla.

Odisha, which claims the sweet originated in the temple city of Puri, has also applied for GI registration of its variant of rasgulla.

If registration is granted to Odisha for its variant, GI registration for the Kolkata variant will be the only differentiator, according to Hom Choudhury, who moved West Bengal’s application for GI registration. The response to the registration was still tepid because of the lack of awareness both within the state government and among sweetmeat makers, she added.

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