A Rajasthan village which celebrates each girl child with 111 trees
The village is called Piplantri. It could very well be re-named ‘pi-plant-tree’.
For, this village in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district celebrates the birth of a girl by planting 111 trees, a unique achievement in a state where female foeticide is rampant and the sex ratio is one of the most skewed in the country.
For Piplantri, the international Women’s Day on March 8 may not mean anything but for the past eight years, villagers have religiously stuck to this tradition initiated by the village panchayat.
Shyam Sundar Paliwal, the former sarpanch who started the scheme in 2006, explained that while the parents plant the trees, the panchayat opens a fixed deposit account for the girl child.
But that’s not all.
The parents must also nurture the saplings till they are mature and also sign an affidavit saying they would not marry off their daughters before 18 years of age and that no one in their family will indulge in foeticide.
This initiative for the girl child has seen villagers planting an astounding number of 286,000 trees in eight years.
“A girl child is considered a burden because in most parts of Rajasthan, like in many other parts of the country, her marriage is an expensive proposition. The FD account was to give the parents a sense of financial security,” Paliwal said over phone from Piplantri, around 350 km from state capital Jaipur.
He said that for the FD account, Rs 21,000 is collected as donation from villagers while the panchayat gives Rs 10,000.
Paliwal’s term ended on 2010, but his successors and the villagers have turned it into a movement of sorts.
Gehrilal Balai, 28, who planted 111 saplings last year, said he felt the same happiness in looking after the saplings as lulling his daughter to sleep.
“Now we have decided we will plant a sapling on her each birthday,” he added.
During a visit to the village in August last year, chief minister Vasundhara Raje was effusive in her praise for the initiative.
“A little love, some knowledge and lots of hard work have transformed this panchayat. Best use of government schemes. Congratulations to former sarpanch and villagers. It should be showcased to more people and they should replicate it in their panchayats,” Raje wrote in the visitor’s book at the panchayat office.
When reached for his comments, Rajsamand district magistrate KC Verma hoped that the panchayat’s efforts will continue.
“(The) sky should be the limit,” he said.
The 2001 census gave an indication of the social changes the effort has brought – a sex ratio of 1,000 females to 1,000 males in the entire district.
Though it came down to 990 in the 2011 census, it is still far above the state’s ratio of 929:1,000 male.
The 2011-12 annual health survey also showed that in rural Rajasthan, 20.3% of the women are married off before they attain the age of 18.
“This is something we want to change. And Piplantri is on its way,” Paliwal added.