Friday, February 27, 2009

Geographical Indication & Chennapatna – a toy town’s odyssey

India, being a signatory to World Trade Organization (WTO) and Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), requires protection for its products originated with specific quality and geographical origin under GI so that the producers of other countries do not corner the benefits arising out of the unique products. Producers/inventors can claim protection in other WTO-member countries only if their items are protected in the country of origin. Therefore, the Government of India has started the task of identifying potential cases of GIs, the products of which have not just demand and value in the domestic and export markets but also the priceless recognition. The Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks attached to the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry also acts as the Registrar of GI. The most awaited GI certificate for Chennapatna toys has finally been issued. The Geographic Indications Registry of India has granted GI certificate (application number 23 under class 28) to Chennapatna toys and dolls, thereby enabling the skilled producers of these toys to prevent others from exploiting their products without permission.

Chennapatna toys are a particular form of toys that are manufactured in the town of Chennapatna of Bangalore rural district of Karnataka state, India. At the border of the village of Chennapatna is a forest that is a source of the wood. The evolution of this craft can be traced back to the days of the then ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. He ventured into inviting skilled craftsman from Persia to train the local craftsman in making the wooden toys. This craft has a long history of 500 years and in all these years it transformed in to a community based traditional occupation offering livelihood to 6000 people. The characteristics which make the toys of Chennapatna so special are shape, carving and color. In the early days, Ivory wood was used to make the toys but slowly the community has started bringing in other types of wood like sycamore, cedar, pine and teak. Occasionally, they do use rosewood and sandalwood for making toys for special purposes. Vegetable dyes are used in the coloring process to ensure that the toys and dolls are safe for use by children. So, the available raw material and skills of artisans in this area has contributed for the development of this cottage industry since the 15th century.

These craftsmen called chitragars are involved in this traditional craft since ages mostly reside in several villages around Chennapatna like Makkan, Yelekeri and Diara and make beautiful toy sets to include a complete kitchen ware set with a grinding stone, mortar, pestle and rolling pin, as well as to hold water. Other creations include telephone, planes, engines, trains, trucks and balls. Even balancing dolls which require higher degree of precision to maintain counterpoise is done with much ease. Very small beads on a string (sold on a 100 lots) and small pencil caps with face painted for effect are all part of their products. Apart from these traditional models, contemporary toys like wonder stackers, building blocks, sets of beads for threading, abacus, tableware, bangles & jewels, furniture items and cradles are being manufactured by these artisans. Now, they also produce articles for interiors in addition to traditional products. Colored with natural dyes, these toys play a role in the child’s motor development, hand-and-eye co-ordination, building up of word skills, spatial and conceptual skills and counting ability. The delightful ‘pom-pom’ rail toy crafted by traditional Chennapatna toy makers, was the proud recipient of the prestigious UNESCO – CCI Seal of Excellence Award for Handcrafted products.

The Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation (KHDC) provides assistance to artisans by extending technical & financial support, infrastructure and training to suit the changing trends. However, life for these artisans is not a feather bed. As much of the demand for these toys comes from abroad, the necessity to maintain highest quality standards has become a challenging task for these people. Even if there is a minor defect in one of the toys, the entire lot is bound to get rejected. Despite Government’s intervention, there is still a significant population who couldn’t modernize their working equipment with lathes and other tools. This limitation inhibits them from mass production and thereby preventing them from enjoying the benefits of the economies of scale. Devising appropriate strategies for leveraging the benefits arising out of the grant of GI and continued assistance from the Governmental & Non – Governmental institutions are imperative to sustain this invaluable craft.

1 comment:

kalpana said...

Great Reading!