Efforts must to save Bangladesh’s Jamdani

Speakers take part in a roundtable on the patent rights of Jamdani, organised by The Daily Star yesterday.Photo: STAR

The government should finalise the geographical indication (GI) law without further delay to safeguard the patent rights of the country’s centuries-old Jamdani saris, sector leaders said yesterday.

The Jamdani sari, although a heritage of Bangladesh, risks being recognised as a creation of India under its GI law — due to the absence of such a law in Bangladesh.

The GI is a name or sign used on certain products to certify that they posses certain qualities and are made according to traditional methods, or enjoy a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.

Jamdani, nakshi kantha and et al!

�The patent right of Jamdani saris will be hijacked from Bangladesh by India if the country cannot finalise the law as soon as possible,� said Ruby Ghuznavi, managing director of Aranya, known for its role in reviving natural dyes.

Ghuznavi spoke at a roundtable on Jamdani and its patent rights, organised by The Daily Star at the newspaper’s office in Dhaka.

�Last month I went to India to attend a seminar on the GI law, where I saw a total of 178 out of 358 products registered under the law, with Jamdani waiting to be registered as well.�

Ghuznavi stressed that now is the time for Bangladesh to assert the Jamdani as its own, or else it would have to pay a fee to the Indian government to use the name of Jamdani.

Mahboob Murshed, a former additional judge and a legal expert, said Bangladesh can secure the GI only if it can prove that Jamdani is produced solely in Bangladesh.

�If Jamdani is registered under the GI law in Bangladesh, nobody in the world will be able to claim the patent of the sari,� he said, while advising experts for a further review of the GI definition.

�We have our backs to the wall. We must take the assistance of the government now,� said Monira Emdad, president of the National Crafts Council of Bangladesh.

While Bibi Russell, the founder of Fashion for Development, said authentic Jamdanis can only be produced on the banks of river Shitalakhya, where its distinct climatic conditions help make the fine texture of Jamdani.

Bibi Russell also mentioned the Indian government’s attempts to register the Jamdani and Kantha under its name. �The Bangladesh government should intervene now,� she said.

Maleka Khan, founder of Bangla Craft, said there is enough official evidence to prove Jamdani is the product of Bangladesh.

�Bangladesh has been exporting Jamdani saris to India for many years. It indicates that the patent of Jamdani saris belongs to Bangladesh,� she added.

While calling for protecting the existence of Jamdani from the aggression of India, Mohammad Hamidullah, a weaver, said although the weavers are illiterate they can make good-looking such saris.

�We are weaving Jamdani in our locality for generations,� said Jahangir Hossain, a weaver from Rupganj, while challenging others to make better Jamdanis than the weavers of the banks of Shitalakhya.

�It is high time to enact the GI law, otherwise the country would lose not only the Jamdani, but also other traditional products which bear the heritage of the country,� said Srimati Shaha, director of Kumudini Welfare Trust of Bengal (BD) Ltd.

Chandra Shekhar Shaha, vice-president of National Craft Council of Bangladesh, said it will not be possible to protect the sari by any particular individual or institution — it needs assistance from the government.

The private sector entrepreneurs are ready to assist the government for greater interest of the country, he added.

Aziza Sultana Mukti, an assistant manager of Aarong, a social business initiative of the BRAC, urged the government to form small committees to lobby with the government to protect Jamdani’s patent.

SM Enamul Haque, assistant registrar of the department of patents, designs and trademark of the ministry of industries, said although the initiative was taken in 2009 the government is formulating the GI law now.

He said the industries secretary instructed him last week to conduct further review of the draft copy of the GI law and re-submit it within a week.

�The department will submit the draft copy to the ministry again soon for tabling it to the cabinet for finalisation. I hope we will be able to finalise the law soon.�

Raffat Binte Rashid, editor of Star Lifestyle, moderated the discussion, while Syed Badrul Ahsan, executive editor of The Daily Star, also spoke.