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Star Lifestyle's
Jamdani Discussion

With the proud heritage of Jamdani being threatened, Star Life Style feels attention needs to be drawn to this issue and urgently. Gathering industry experts and government representatives, Star Life Style arranged the following discussion to shed light on the matter. Star Life Style's discussion on Jamdani and the issues regarding it, consisted of a panel of the following invited guests:

S M Enamul Haque, Assistant Registrar, Department pf Patents, Designs and Trademarks, Ministry of Industries; Md. Mahboob Murshed, Former Additional District Judge and Legal Expert; Syed Badrul Ahsan, Executive Editor, The Daily Star; Maleka Khan, Former President, Bangla Craft; Ruby Ghuznavi, National Crafts Council of Bangladesh; Srimati Shaha, Director, Kumudini Welfare Trust of Bengal (BD) Ltd.; Monira Emdad, President, National Crafts Council of Bangladesh; Chandra Shekhar Shaha, Vice-President, National Craft Council of Bangladesh; Sk Saifur Rahman, Executive Editor, CANVAS; General Secretary, NCCB; Bibi Russel, Bibi Productions; Founder, Fashion for Development; Aziza Sultana Mukti, Aarong ; Hamdullah, Weaver ; Jahangir, Weaver ; Abdul Barek, Weaver..........................................................



A discussion held at The Daily Star Centre on Jamdani, the need for Geographical Indications for Jamdani and value additions to the heritage weave took place on 17 November, 2012. Industry experts and representatives from legal and government bodies took part in the meeting moderated by Raffat Binte Rashid, Editor of Star Lifestyle, The Daily Star. The discussion was split into two parts, starting with Geographical Indication regarding Jamdani and the value addition aspect of the sari, as the second part.

The Geographical Indication is a sign or name given to products to identify the uniqueness of the item due to the geographical location of its production. An absence of a GI recognition for Jamdani in Bangladesh would result in a loss of Bangladesh's ability to officially stake a claim for the Jamdani as its own product.

According to the Article 22 of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), of which Bangladesh is a part due to their World Trade Organisation membership, “Geographical Indication is a sign which recognises a link between a product's geographical origin and its reputation or quality because of that particular geography”. However, a law to implement the GI in Bangladesh is yet to take place and this in turn can have serious repercussions.

The discussion started off by highlighting India's recent attempt at attributing GI for a number of items and with the efficiency of their bureaucracy, they have already registered 178 items out of over 300 items that they have selected. Of those items yet to be registered is the Jamdani sari, Ruby Ghuznavi, managing director of Aranya, pointed out. She stressed the need for the Bangladesh government to take steps to ensure that the loss of the heritage does not take place, urging the stakeholders to lobby the government to finally bring about the much-needed approval to the GI Law.

Mahbood Murshed, a former Additional District Judge and legal expert, explained the need for the government to intervene, review the definition of GI and finally prove the uniqueness of the Jamdani being produced in Bangladesh.

Bibi Russell, the founder of Fashion for Development, lent credence to the fact that the Jamdani's origins can easily be traced to Bangladeshi roots without having to rely on historical data only. “Pure Jamdanis can only be produced on the banks of river Shitalakhya, where the climate is unique and hence so is the final product,” Bibi Russell added.

Maleka Khan, founder of Bangla Craft, also said that there remained ample evidence to prove that Jamdani really did originate from Bangladesh. Jahangir Hossain, a weaver from Rupganj also challenged weavers from other countries to match the works of the local weavers, citing his generations-old family tradition of weavers of Jamdani as sufficient evidence of the expertise that exists in the country.

SM Enamul Haque, Assistant Registrar of the Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks of the Ministry of Industries, added that the formulation of the GI Law has been in the works since 2009, when the first draft copy was submitted and has now been put up for review once again.

He said that the revised draft will be submitted soon and hopefully approved soon. All the speakers unanimously agreed to lobby the government in this regard and hence protect one of the proudest heritages of the country. Monira Emdad, President of the National Crafts Council of Bangladesh, summed it up by describing the situation as having our backs against the wall and urged the government for assistance, to not only protect our identity but also to ensure the survival of this centuries-old industry.

When the topic of value addition was placed on the table, a wide range of viewpoints were heard. First our specialists all portrayed a unified front in terms of preservation of the old motifs and designs instead of incorporating new embellishments to diversify the products of Jamdani.

“Value addition of Jamdani should be limited to the motifs and weaving techniques,” said both Bibi Russell and Chandra Shekhar Shaha. Rubi Ghuznavi elaborated on the point further, “Adding sequins, dollars and other such 'ornamentations' to Jamdani saris in the name of value addition and diversifying the product compromises the heritage of the garment. We should work to improve the quality of the garment and work to revive the old motifs of Jamdani instead of adding new ones. Diversification can be achieved by designing in a new manner with the use of the old motifs.”

Chandra Shekhar Shaha was of the view that the saris can be modernised by changing the layout of the traditional motifs but not the essence of the weaves. Such variation will not discount the heritage of the product and at the same time keep the product fresh and evolving.

Bibi Russell stated that just simplifying the designs of Jamdani can work as value addition. “We should not change the weaving technique in the least. Instead we can help save the craft by targeting the young and what attracts the young is simple elegance. Simplifying the motifs of Jamdani can add to the inherent elegance of the garment and make it popular to the next generation.”

All the specialists also seemed to agree on improving the quality of the garment. “Jamdani should be created only with good quality thread, thread counts of 80 to 100 should be used to produce the garment,” said Bibi Russell, “To preserve the heritage of the garment, it should be marketed with respect to heritage and its cultural value.”

On the matter of prices, Ghuznavi asserted, “While the quality of the garment should be improved, good quality Jamdanis should be made less expensive.”

Ruby Ghuznavi also spoke of the need to appeal to entrepreneurs who are distorting the garment in the name of value additions. “The weavers still stick to the traditional Jamdani motifs and weaving methods. It is the entrepreneurs who are responsible for spoiling the traditional Jamdani in the name of value additions and differentiation. If entrepreneurs do not make available the distorted Jamdanis, there will not arise a demand for them. Hence an appeal to the entrepreneurs should be made to prevent such distortion of Jamdani in the name of value addition.”

Shaha brought up an important point. What should be the benchmark to decide what value addition will add to the garment's heritage and what will distort it? “What is the benchmark to judge 'purity'? Someone needs to establish what value addition is and what distortion is.”

In response to this, Aziza Sultana from Aarong provided an interesting insight “The GI law may be able to save the distortion of Jamdani as the GI holders can dictate the evolution of the garment in the nation.” To this, Maleka Khan added, “A connection between the government and the crafts council can aid in preventing the distortion of Jamdani in the name of value addition.”

The three weavers, Mohammad Jahangir, Mohammad Hamidullah and Abdul Barek were however, all pro-new designs. “The Jamdani weavers need to be educated,” Jahangir said, “We have no formal education on designs and layouts and we are good at what we do because we have started weaving from a very young age. But this means we cannot partake in the innovation of designs and motifs.”

Hamidullah wanted infrastructural support to improve the quality of Jamdani. “The weavers should be provided with good quality thread and colours to work with and the government's Noapara design centre should have proper designers to guide us with weaving and branding techniques of the garment.”

At the end of the productive discussion, the participants reached a consensus that the GI for Jamdani should be of utmost importance for not only the survival of this heritage weave but also for its growth as an economic commodity of this country. Regarding the value additions, the speakers univocally stated that such “innovation” tarnishes tradition and also brings economic downfall for the weavers.

By Osama Rahman and Raisaa Tashnova
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


GI and other matters

As part of the discussion on Jamdani, the concept of Geographical Indication and its significance, Star Life Style discusses these issues with Judge MD. Mahboob Murshed, a former additional judge and legal expert, who provides an insight into the legal procedure, benefits and consequences of implementing GI Indication for Bangladesh.

What is the difference between a GI and a patent?
Geographical Indications (GI) are particular types of intellectual properties which are not patents. Patents are granted for inventions. For granting patents three things must be ensured -- the invention must be new, there must be an innovative step, i.e. some new features added to the prior art and it must be industrially applicable. On the other hand, for GI you must show the particular goods belongs to a particular locality or geographical area or country and some quality or reputation of the product, handicraft or goods is attributable due to the reason that the goods belong to that country or locality or region.

Where do we apply for the GI Act and how? How will Bangladesh benefit from ratifying this act?
The Ministry of Industries is to place the draft GI Bill before the Cabinet for policy decision and once the decision is obtained the draft Bill is to be sent to the Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Ministry of Law for vetting. On getting the Bill vetted the draft Bill is to be sent again to the Cabinet for its final decision for legislation. After getting the Cabinet decision the Ministry of Industries shall send the Bill to the Parliament. Parliament shall send the Bill to the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Industries. The Standing Committee shall scrutinise the Bill and place its report before the House. Then the Bill shall be passed in the House. Thereafter, the Bill shall be sent to the President for his assent and then the Bill shall become the Act of Parliament and shall be published in the Gazette.

The beneficiaries of the GI Act will be the handicraft industries including Jamdani, artisans, producers and traders of agricultural or natural products and food stuffs which are specialties of Bangladesh including Bangladesh itself as a country.

What is our immediate solution and what must we do now?
Our immediate steps should be as follows:
i. We should register with the Registrar of Trademarks under the Trade Marks Act, 2009, our Jamdani as trademark with indication that this is a product of Bangladesh. Such registration may be given to the Association of Jamdani Manufacturers recognized by the Government on its application.

ii. We should register all the existing designs of the Jamdani with the Registrar of the Patents and Designs under the Patents and Designs Act, 1911. The manufacturers or artisans may apply for such registration.

iii. We should get copy rights of the expression of idea of designs of Jamdani.

iv. Get the GI Bill introduced in the Parliament and enacted.

v. Try to make Bangladesh a party to the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration and on getting registration apply for international registration of our agricultural or natural products, handicrafts or food stuffs the quality and reputation of which are specially attributable to Bangladesh.

-LS Desk


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