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The Hidden face of geographical Indications: Human Rights Dimensions

Geographical Indications (GI) are a type of intellectual property right associated with place-based names. In other words Geographical indications, which identify a good as originating in a locality where a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

Example Darjeeling Tea, Kancheevram Sarees, Agra Petha, Mysore Silk etc. They provide consumers, information about the origin and arouse expectations among them with regard to the expectation based on the reputation acquired by the product on account of its cultural connection with the region or environmental conditions and natural factors.

There may be other reasons such as method of manufacture, human efforts etc. In short GIs emphasize the relation between human efforts, culture, land resources, and environment. Thirupati Laddu, Aranmula Kannadi etc are examples. In comparison to other Intellectual Property Rights Geographical Indications are considered more suitable to the ethos and cultural practices of indigenous peoples.

Issues in the field of handicrafts
As above stated many GIs are manufactured with the human efforts, the issue is whether these persons actually benefited from the GI tag or whether they got rewarded for their work done as said by Locke in his Second Treatise of Government.

There are different kinds of GIs such as handicrafts, food stuffs etc. Handicrafts is the most vivid and important documents of a nations identity. It is a full time labour intensive occupation requiring creativity to produce functional, aesthetic, and economical products. Handicrafts goods gain their value through the material, pattern, production technique, skill of the craftsman who made them and the characteristics of the region in which they were made.

There is a high demand for handicraft products in the domestic and international market as they are made with completely natural materials and carry regional and traditional features in terms of colour, design, pattern, shape, composition, and sometimes production technique.

Men, Women, and child are employed in making handicrafts. Most of the GIs including handicrafts are of household type. It is worth noting that the family workers are not less exploited. Sometimes the parents themselves turn to be the most ruthless exploiters of their own children. Work force employed in these fields is dominated by females, males constitute less than one third of craft work force.

The workers are affected by various problems such as improper physical development, varied kinds of illness and physical deformities, damage to the central nervous systems, lack of capacity to adjust with other persons in the society, inability to express views etc.

According to the survey conducted by B.A. Bhat and T.A. Rather reveals that the most people engaged in the handicrafts field are from economically disadvantaged families, greater the poverty, the more aggravated the situation. Men and women most probably children’s in the field begin work in family undertaking from an early age alongside their parents/relatives and sometimes with master craftsmen. As most of the GIs are households, the participation of children is to be noticed because they automatically involved in the job.

According to study conducted most of the work they do is monotonous, repetitive, and dull and is often not suited to their physical and mental capabilities. Some children are ill-treated, humiliated, and even beaten while others are looked after with parental care, which acts as an incentive and motivates these young children to undertake arduous and hard work beyond their capacity for a long duration. This adversely affects their health and well being.

Handicrafts work especially shawl bawfi and carpet weaving requires using of fingers intensively for working with wool and cotton threads concentrating heavily on the fine knots used for weaving by sitting down for hours. In such situation aching and irritation of eyes, fingers, joint pain, back pain, chest pains caused by in hailing of cotton and wool dust can be said to be natural. They have to stand for hours as their nature of the work demands; in short they have to work for eight hours continuously.

However the Factory Act of 1948 prescribed five and a half hours of work for the child labourers every day. In most cases there will be absence of medical care at the work places. The survey reveals that if the employers fall sick the employers will not help them financially which make the situation worse.

The main purpose of GI Act is two fold
To protect the consumer interests by preventing them from getting deceived by false imitations which are sold in the name of a high quality, well reputed good.
Protection of producers interests so as to ensure that their reputation is not damaged due to counterfeit versions sold in the market on the name of their product.

But this is not actually happening in the case of many GIs. For example, granting GI tag to Thirupati Laddu. It does not intend to protect interests of skilled cooks by allowing a share in commercial income by traders. Here TTD is sole producer and sole beneficiary. All those Tirupati laddu makers are regular workers of TTD, who never get any share in profits out of selling laddus.

Government of India has enacted a number of legislation on the protection of workers, on Geographcial Indications, on human rights dimensions etc but the most important is that ninety percent of the labourers were not aware of any such legislations and their rights. Lack of quality education as well as lack of concern on the part of government and civil society is a primary reason for the lack of awareness about the legislation. As far as child labour is concerned, complete ban of child labour or the like is not the answer what is needed is improvement of the conditions under which they work.

The transfer of cultural heritage for future generations and protection of handicrafts in communities are important. Geographical indication is a crucial tool of branding and protecting of handicrafts. So wide range awareness with regard to GIs should be created. As far as the human rights issues is concerned it has achieving a tremendous stage, no one is showing concern towards the problem. The labourers facing inhuman attitude on the part of their employers, they work in very much dirty environment, the laws always remained confined in the papers as reflected by the action of the government to create awareness among the labourers.


  1. Raju Narayana Swamy
  2. Lisa P Lukose, Rationale and Prospects of the Protection of GI: An inquiry 12 JIPRS 212 (2007).
  3. Albayrak Mevhibe & Melda Ozdemir, The role of Geographical Indication in brand making of Turkish handicraft, 11 IJTK 420 (2011)
  4. B.A. Bhat and T.A. Rather, Child labour in the handicrafts home industry in Kashmir: A Sociological Study 4 INTERNATIONAL NGO JOURNAL 391 (2009).
  5. S.N Mishra & Sweeta Mishra, Tiny Hands In Unorganized Sector 5-6 (2004) Professor Madabhushi Sridhar, GI for laddus whose interest protected? SINAPSE AN IP RENDEZVOUS, visited on (16 March 2010) available at gttp://

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