‘Assam’s rice wine qualifies for GI registration’

Bengaluru, Jan 24 (IANS) The “Judima” traditional rice wine, a popular alcoholic beverage of Assam’s Dimasa tribe — and an integral part of the community’s social and cultural life — is a fit candidate for geographical indication (GI) registration, a don at New Delhi’s Indian Law Institute says.

In a report published in the Indian Journal of Intellectual Property Rights, Assistant Professor Jupi Gogoi has urged the Judima producers to form an association and file for GI registration to protect the traditional knowledge and promote the wine’s trade for the community’s economic development.

Under the international agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the GI tag is assigned to a product that has a specific geographical origin and possesses qualities or a reputation that are unique to that place. The GI recognition gives local producers exclusive brand protection.

Darjeeling tea became the first GI tagged product in India in 2004. Since then, 272 products have been added to the list that includes Dharwad Pedha, Tirupati Laddu, Muga Silk, Kangra Tea, Madhubani Paintings and Telangana’s Pochampally Ikat.

Besides protecting the cultural identity of a community, the GI recognition prevents unauthorised use of the tag by others and promotes economic prosperity of producers by enhancing the demand for their goods in national and international markets, Gogoi says.

In India, there are many communities (such as Pochampally) that were economically benefited by GI recognition to their traditional products, he says.

“If Judima is registered as a GI, it can go a long way in maintaining the cultural identity of Dimasas as well as bringing economic prosperity to the tribe.”

To produce Judima, the Dimasa tribe uses a glutinous rice called Bora that is indigenous to the region and the bark of a plant called Thembra (Acacia pennata) collected from forests surrounding the region. The powdered bark is mixed with rice flour and some water and made into a dough that, on fermentation, yields the beverage. The uniqueness of this product lies in the use of Thembra.

“The taste of Judima is a result of the plant Thembra and various other ingredients used in a particular manner known exclusively to the Dimasa community,” says Gogoi. “So, without a doubt, Judima is a traditional knowledge of the Dimasa community and is a strong case for getting GI registration.”

Judima, according to Gogoi, can seek GI protection in similar lines to Goa’s Feni — a drink made from cashew apples or coconut sap — which got the GI tag in 2009. He says existing documentary evidence and the role that Judima plays in the lives of the people of the Dimasa community should be regarded as adequate proof of its origin for getting the GI tag.

According to Gogoi, studies have indicated that Judima may have tremendous health benefits. “Therefore, more scientific research may be undertaken to highlight the nutraceutical and therapeutic properties of Judima which can give a huge boost to its trade.”

(K.S. Jayaraman can be contacted atkillugudi@hotmail.com)