Creating forests, celebrating girl child birth, generating livelihoods - this village has done it all with elan
IN a country where often the death of a girl comes as a relief, nay, they are even killed in the womb, the death of one girl in Rajasthan has not only led to the recharging of the ground water of a once parched village, but put in place a system of celebrating both the girl child and the environment.
Piplantri is a village in the Rajsamand district in Rajasthan, where it is a rule that whenever a girl is born, the family needs to plants 111 trees and take care of them too. And, Rs 21,000 is collected from the village residents and Rs 10,000 from the girl’s father. This sum of Rs 31,000 is put into a fixed deposit for the girl, with a maturity period of 20 years. The parents have to sign an oath stating that their daughter will receive proper education.
The oath also mandates that the girl should be married only after she reaches the legal age. Once the fixed deposit matures, the father can take out the money only after an approval signed by the Gram Panchayat. It is also ensured that the money is not used for any other purpose, excepting for her higher education or wedding ceremony.
LOST & THEN GAINED
This rule was made by ex sarpanch of this village Shyam Sunder Paliwal. In 2006 he had lost his daughter Kiran suffering from dehydration that triggered physical complications. Kiran was just 16 years old when she died. Paliwal says, “I decided then and there, that no other father will suffer as I have. Hence I made this rule of planting of trees on the birth of a daughter. Only trees can help regenerate the groundwater. ”
Within 10 years, this has shown its result. “Till now, we have already planted 4,00,000 trees in forestry, horticulture, medicinal and ornamental plants. It includes strong trees like shisam, sal, eucalyptus and acacia trees. Fruit giving trees like mango, amla, mulberry and saputo have also been planted,” Paliwal said. They have also planted medicinal trees and plants like neem, harad, baheda and aloevera. Apart from these, many other useful trees and plants are also growing and are being taken care of. This rule has changed the entire landscape of the village. Due to this plantation, people have gained livelihood, the water level has increased and incidentally, even the crime rate has gone down in the village.
The residents planted over two and a half lakh aloevera plants. Now these trees, especially the aloevera, are a source of livelihood for several families here. “We had tonnes of aloevera, but had no idea what to do with it. Then I saw its products in a medicine shop, and we realised that aloevera could be processed and marketed in a variety of ways. We trained our women. Now, products made by them are quiet popular in the market. We produce juice, gel, pickle, etc,” Paliwal said.
This small cottage industry has improved the lives of people in this village. This programme has had an impact on every part of the village. Now, even the women are working and earning, so attitude towards them has also changed. One of them, Sarla says, “This rule has changed our lives completely. Now, I am earning well. I have been awarded by our chief minister Vasundhra Raje for my attempt in aloevera plantation and distribution of its products. We are living in a clean and peaceful environment. This greenery has soothed both, our lives and souls.”
Prior to this Sarla was a housewife like any other rural women. Her achievements pushed her self-respect and dignity.
This village has another rule too. They celebrate the birth of a girl with equal enthusiasm as they do for a boy. The expense of the celebrations are often borne by the panchayat.
This has helped reach a balanced sex ratio. According to the census of 2011 in Rajasthan, It is 928 women for every 1,000 men. “It is our dream to have almost equal sex ratio”, says Paliwal.
To solve the water problem in the village small check dams were made. The natural water from small streams or rainwater is reserved in these dams for cultivation. These reservoirs and the trees have helped raise the groundwater level. Now, the water can be found in the village at just 4 to 5 feet, which used to be at 30 to 40 feet down, just three years ago. This effort sounds very simple but its impact is very much visible from the Google satellite map too. Eighty-year-old Khuman Singh says with proud smile on his face: “Eversince we have made girls and plants the priority, our lives has changed entirely. We are more happy and prosperous now. I am 80 years old, and I have seen the acute water crisis in our village, but now the water level has improved significantly, in front of my eyes”. Khuman Singh is one of the panch of the village panchayat.
CHANGE IN ATTITUDE
Every house in the village is clean and has a clean toilet. Even the schools do have separate toilet for girls and boys. Tenth class student Puja Vyas enjoys going to school. “We don’t need to share the toilet with the boys, and this save us much embarrassment. My friends and I love attending classes.”
Prosperity ushers in happiness along with it. The same happened here, because as employment increased, leading to economic prosperity, the crime rate fell. Even men who were involved in drinking and had other bad habits are turning their lives in a positive direction.
Kher Singh Rajput owns a beautiful orchard. He says, “I was completely drowned in liquor. I saw my relatives and friends working and getting prosperous. I took inspiration from them and started planting fruit trees. Now I have a beautiful orchard and this is my only passion.” Over the past few years no crime has been reported from this village. People are so busy with their work that there is no time for crime.
All these qualities have made this village an ‘adarsh gaon’. In 2016 this village has won Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay Nirmal Gram Award. This proves that one simple positive step can lead us to an extraordinary path. Now, Shayam Sunder Paliwal wants to have an Environmental Fair in his village. He wants government to organise it, where, they can have an exhibition cum, sale of plants and seeds. Environmentalist from all over India could come and discuss about environment related problems and its solution, Paliwal says.
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