Thursday 21 September 2023

Kendrapara Rasabali - GI Tag

It is heartening to see the interest regarding Geographical Indication (GI) now in Odisha.

I saw a couple of social media posts sharing about the upcoming GIs like- Kendrapara Rasabali.

Having done the initial facilitation of this GI, it gives me great pride and happiness.

In fact, just like the Utkal Mistanna Byabasyee Sangha for Odisha Rasagola GI, the producer-group - "Kendrapara Rasabali Mistanna Nirmata Sangha" was formed after my suggestion, guidance and constant follow-up. 

It may be noted that the GI tag for Odisha Rasagola has informed and inspired many producer-groups to also earn GIs for their own local products.

After receiving query from a local writer, Shri Saroj Mohanty, regarding Kendrapara Rasabali GI in 2020, I had created a WhatsApp group to facilitate the process. Some stakeholders had been added by the Admins that also included Shri Mohanty. Rasabali GI information was being continuously shared in the group.

GI Application was filed in December 2021.

The main product-description about Rasabali in the GI application has been taken from the initial 3 lines shared in my blog post (published on July 2020)-

Yes, my Blog- "The Explorer of Miracles" finds mention in the Kendrapara Rasabali GI application.

This previous blog post (published on April 2021) has more information about Rasabali and the initiative for GI-

The incorrect details submitted and the misinformation and misrepresentation in the "Kendrapara Rasabali" GI application makes me feel extremely saddened and concerned. 

All the pride and happiness vanish while facing such negligence, uncaring attitude and danger. 

Having been advocating and being directly and indirectly associated with GIs over the past decade, and being responsible for initiating "Rasagola Dibasa" celebration in 2015, and then the filing of "Odisha Rasagola" in 2018, I feel responsible and accountable, and extremely hurt by such incidents.

Of course, we want more GIs for our state and nation.

But, those must be filed correctly and with caution.

While so many are already celebrating and looking forward to this GI to be granted along with so many other GIs filed in the last 2 years, does a single person know or raise questions regarding some incorrect points in applications?

All are simply busy reporting it and feeling great about the whole process!

Recently, an event was organized in Bhubaneswar about the GI tag for Kendrapara Rasabali. So many food-bloggers joined that and rejoiced and tasted Rasabali and enjoyed! There was great coverage. Their Instagram posts have so many loves!

Does a single food-blogger of Odisha know about the Rasabali GI application?

Is it just enough to celebrate the granting of GI tags and to have meetings and enjoy the Rasabali treat and indulge in chest-thumping saying - "we have got GI!"?

Considering it my moral responsibility to stand up for our state's causes, especially for GI, I am sharing information about- "Kendrapara Rasabali" Geographical Indication (GI) application that needs correction and important updates before the GI grant.


Now a little bit of the history-

After Odisha Rasagola earned the GI tag in 2019, there was much interest regarding GIs.

Media published reports. There were discussions too.

Kanak News conducted "Odisha Nirman Conclave" in January 2020 where I was also amongst the panelists for a discussion- "Odisha Baahare Odishara Parichaya" - "Odisha's identity outside Odisha".

The anchor and hostess, Ms Tanaya Patnaik, also asked me to share regarding GIs. Many were unaware about GIs. Shri Subhash Singh was one of the audience members, who showed keen interest regarding GIs.

On 1 August 2021, 3 Odisha MPs handed a letter to Shri Piyush Goyal, the Commerce and Industry Minister, seeking GI Tag for Kendrapara Rasabali. One of the MPs was Shri Subhash Singh.

This handing of letter became a big breaking news that was widely covered by media.

"Seeking Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Kendrapara Rasabali, state ruling BJD MPs–Subhash Singh, Munna Khan and Mamata Mohanta on Sunday met Union Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and submitted a memorandum regarding the same.

“Kendrapara Rasabali originated in Baladevjew Temple more than 400 years ago. It is deep-fried patties of cheese that are soaked in thickened milk. Several people in Kendrapara district of Odisha depend on its sale for livelihood,” the letter read.

“However, due to improper marketing strategies and misuse of its name, it has failed to gain widespread recognition. The GI tag would help put Kendrapara on the global culinary map besides boosting its export to the national and international markets,” they said in the letter."

By that time the Rasabali producer group had already been formed by us.

Apart from suggesting and follow-up of creation of Rasabali producer-group towards Rasabali GI tag, on August 16, 2021, I shared the initial letter addressed to FSO for the producer group via Shri Saroj Mohanty for Rasabali food testing.

. The letter was addressed to Food Safety Odisha (FSO)

On the basis of the parameters mentioned in the letter, FSO tested the collected Rasabali samples, and then submitted the test-reports to the producer-group.

Meanwhile, because of the Rasabali-related MPs letter, there was inclusion of others in our quest for Rasabali GI.

But, how did wrong information find its way to the final application? Wasn't I involved in the application process?

The Rasabali application has been facilitated by: 
1. District Administration, Kendrapara, Government of Odisha
2. NABARD, Odisha, India. 

How did NABARD come on board for GIs?
NABARD officials read my ebook - "GIs of Odisha" and got inspired in 2020-21. From 2021 they started filing GI applications.

NABARD took all the Rasabali test-reports and the producer group's documents from them and hastily filed the GI application with the support of an NGO- HWA from Banaras, Uttar Pradesh.
GI Application for Kendrapara Rasabali was filed in December 2021.
Several other Odisha GI and all-India GI applications were filed in a similar fashion from 2021 onwards.

In the Rasabali case, the producer groups themselves were not aware of the filing! 
They became aware of the "Kendrapara Rasabali" GI filing after I informed them.

I had shared with stakeholders regarding the wrong information given in the GI application in January 2022.

More information about the GIs facilitated by NABARD in this post (published in January 2022)-

Even after I had taken care to share information and personally sent the above open-letter to NABARD and with producer-group in January 2022 and several times over phone-calls and messages, they never even thought it necessary to answer or reply to my letters, leave alone inviting me for discussion to address the shortcomings in the GI applications.

I tried to voluntarily attend the Consultative Group Meeting (CGM) that was held at Bhubaneswar on December 6, 2022.
However, I was unceremoniously removed. 
They asked to leave the meeting-room and despite all the initial facilitation that I have done for Rasabali GI, even the producer-group led by Shri Saroj Mohanty (yes, the same person who had reached out and to whom I had shared all information about Rasabali GI) joined NGO-HWA demand and asked me to leave the meeting-hall saying that I have not done any facilitation for Rasabali!
Yes, in other words, I was asked to "GET OUT!" as they felt I had no role there.
After my removal, the application was promptly okayed by all the experts present in the hall!

On the same day- December 6, 2022, I mentioned the above happenings in the Rasabali GI WhatsApp group.
Shri Saroj Mohanty, who had been an Admin of the group, removed all the members of the group that very day!
His idea- End the platform so that there is no discussion about this issue!
Of course, he could not remove me as I am an Admin myself and had created the group, nor could he delete all the Rasabali-related messages shared for over 2 years in that group.

Kendrapara Rasabali GI is now is in final stage being published and advertised in the Journal#175 dated May 31 2023.

However, some important updates are urgently needed in the "Kendrapara Rasabali" GI application.
I would have shared these in that CGM last year itself, but I was never invited nor allowed to be a part of the meeting.

Despite all that has happened, I have still shared and am still sharing all what is needed as the aim has always been correct representation of our products, community, and state.
Every GI document that we share with the GI Registry is uploaded online on their website, and then the same (even though it is incorrect) will be referred and shared and considered true and representative of our state.

Shouldn't those responsible take care to present and represent correctly?
Shouldn't those in charge try to make amends to ensure right information and correct representation?

For the Odisha Rasagola case, after my letters pointed out the discrepancies, I was invited and made a part of the Odisha Rasagola GI Committee and my suggestions were taken into consideration and there were many updates and our Rasagola GI application was filed with changes. Even the name and logo of the Odisha Rasagola application was updated apart from the other technical details. They even invited a GI expert after my multiple mails and suggestion to get the final application checked.

I share the following suggestions for updates in the Geographical Indication (GI) Application#802 -"Kendrapara Rasabali"-

1. Names must be correctly mentioned in application.
i) Shree Baladevjew must be correctly spelled
ii) Odisha needs to be correctly spelled
iii) Rasabali must be correctly spelled
iv) Kendrapara must be correctly spelled
v) Applicant Name & Address- should be published as- "Kendrapara Rasabali Mistanna Nirmata Sangha" 

2. Preparation process and Rasabali description needs update.
i) Vinegar is not used for Chhena (cottage-cheese) preparation in the Shree Baladevjew Temple and by traditional sweet-makers.
Chhena-pani (previous/leftover water of Chhena) is used. 

ii) Rasabali "tikki" are not "Doughnut"-shaped and do not have a hole in between unlike what has been shared in the application.

iii) Dry-fruits like almonds, pista etc. are not used in the traditional recipe.

iv) The entire preparation process submitted for Kendrapara Rasabali has been copied from the recipe given in a food blog online that has incorrect information.
The correct preparation process must be shared by visiting the Temple and documenting the technical details properly along with photographs.
Real producer groups and genuine stakeholders must be consulted and correct representation must be ensured.
Using traditional recipe and local details lends authenticity and uniqueness to the application.
Source: X (Twitter)

GI Tag is a matter of great pride for the state and nation.
Once GI is granted, above misinformation and misrepresentation (in points 1 & 2 mentioned above) will spread further.
Above updates are needed for correct representation and for protecting the interests of product, community, state, and country.

GI Journal#175 regarding Kendrapara Rasabali must be updated immediately.
We request inclusion of correct information and Journal publication and updates before the GI Tag for Kendrapara Rasabali is granted.

Jaya Shree Baladevjew 

Are you aware of GI Tag and Kendrapara Rasabali? Did you know about these points? 
Please share in the comments below.

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