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Basmati GI Tagging: MP CM Chouhan Slams Punjab Counterpart over Letter to PM

Basmati rice. (Image for representation.)

Basmati rice. (Image for representation.)

Amarinder Singh has written to PM Narendra Modi urging him not to allow GI tagging of basmati to Madhya Pradesh in the larger interest of Punjab and other states that already have GI tag for the rice variety.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday criticised his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh over his letter urging the Centre not to allow geographical indication (GI) tagging of basmati rice to MP.

Taking to Twitter, Chouhan alleged that Singh's letter was "politically motivated".

Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him not to allow GI tagging of basmati to Madhya Pradesh in the larger interest of Punjab and other states that already have GI tag for basmati.

In his tweet in Hindi, Chouhan said, "I strongly condemn the letter written by the Punjab Chief Minister to @PMOIndia regarding allotment of GI tagging. It is politically motivated."

"This is not an issue of Punjab or Madhya Pradesh, it's a subject pertaining to the whole country's farmers and their livelihoods," he added.

Apart from Punjab, other states that already have GI tagging for basmati are Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, western Uttar Pradesh, and select districts of Jammu and Kashmir. MP has sought inclusion of its 13 districts for GI tagging for basmati.

However, Singh has urged Modi to direct the concerned authorities not to disturb the status quo in this matter, saying it is essential for safeguarding the interests of farmers and basmati exporters of India. He also contended that any dilution of registration might help Pakistan, which also produces basmati as per GI tagging in the international market.

Countering his argument, Chouhan said, "The case of APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) with Pakistan has no relationship with Madhya Pradesh's claim as it is under the GI Act of India. It is not connected to inter-country claims of basmati rice."

He asserted that GI tagging was a matter of pride for farmers and recognition of their years of toils.

"The matter should not be turned into a Punjab vs Madhya Pradesh tussle. GI tagging will provide stability to basmati prices in international markets and bolster our exports," said Chouhan.

Singh has alleged that MP's move infringes upon the GI tagging procedure and laws.

However, Chouhan said, "Madhya Pradesh has a written recorded history since 1908 of basmati production in 13 districts. Records of supplying seeds to farmers in MP in the year 1944 was recorded in the records of Scindia State."

He said the Indian Institute of Rice Research, Hyderabad, had recorded production of basmati in their Production Oriented Survey Report for the last 25 years.

"Basmati exporters of Punjab and Haryana are procuring basmati rice from MP. This is also supported by government of India data of export from the Mandideep (industrial area), Madhya Pradesh," he added.

In June, MP Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel had said the state government would move the apex court to challenge a Madras High Court's ruling in the matter of not providing the tag to MP's basmati-growing regions.

The MP government and a basmati growers' association had lost two separate cases in the court filed in 2016 to challenge the exclusion of the districts from a map submitted by the APEDA for the tags.

Patel said they condemn Punjab CM's move.

Political war of words

MP Congress chief Kamal Nath, meanwhile, accused the BJP of fuelling lies. In a tweet, he claimed that his government had always backed the GI tag for MP’s basmati. Stating that Singh is fighting a battle for his farmers, Nath said his government had strongly fought the case in August 2019.

"I am with the farmers, there is nothing like the BJP or Congress party in this issue," said Nath, accusing the BJP of not taking up the fight strongly in the last 10 years.

Chouhan's cabinet colleagues joined him in attacking Nath.

Criticising the Punjab CM, Urban Administration and Development Minister Bhupendra Singh asked Nath to stand with MP farmers.

MP Home Minister Narottam Mishra said the Congress is anti-farmer and that is why Punjab was opposing its claim.

However, Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Hupta slammed the BJP and claimed it was misleading farmers.