When it comes to GI tagging of artisan products, the influence of Rajni Kant is as unrivalled as the actor Rajnikanth’s on screen. Ever since his association with Human Welfare Association (HWA), his persistence has helped many artisans make a financial turnaround through (GI) certificates, a global recognition for unique representations of a specific culture, society or craft.
Born on August 5, 1960, in Jalalpur Mafi village in Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Mirzapur district, Kant, through HWA, has been working to help the artisans for 25 years.He joined HWA — focused on issues such as women’s economic empowerment, environmental development, skill development, child rights and artisans’ and weavers’ development — as a social worker in Varanasi.
The tag has brought remarkable financial opportunities for local artisans for instance, one of the craftsmen to glean profit from Kant’s endeavours is Sohit Prajapati, a master crafts Nizamabad black pottery near Azamgarh, who almost gave up on the craft and migrated to Mumbai in search of other vocation.
After black pottery got the GI tag in 2015-16, Prajapati earned a trip to Geneva in 2015, where he displayed his work at the 55th General Assembly of the International Bureau of World Intellectual Property Organisation. The craft, which was earlier confined to just two families, today engages over 1,500 people.
Another artisan from Varanasi, Rameshwar Singh, has been to Dubai and China to sell Varanasi wooden lacquerware and toys, which was GI-tagged in 2014-15. Singh said the demand has increased and he has to engage more than 1,800 people.
Kant was also awarded the Padma Shri in 2019 for his contribution towards protecting and promoting traditional crafts and related products and linking these with sustainable livelihood and entrepreneurship and appropriate marketing through GI under Intellectual Property Rights. He has travelled intensively to international events in Indonesia, Singapore, Germany, Israel, Abu Dhabi and Turkey to promote the local crafts overseas.
Apart those that have GI tags, 95 products are under the process of GI registration from UP, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.”