Rajasthan is a desert. Socially, in that state, girl child has not been treated well, as many parents have aborted the girl child.
In such a social and ecological scenario, one village has started an interesting ritual and practice that intends to hit at both the issues in one go. The village is Piplantri village. The new ritual?
For every girl born in the village, all the villagers get together to plant 111 trees (like neem, sheesham, mango, Amla etc) in and around the village and make sure that these trees survive, coming to fruition when the girl grows up. Result: In the last 6 years, they have planted quarter million trees on the village’s grazing commons.
This is a village in India which has a studio-recorded anthem and a website of its own, has completely banned alcohol, open grazing of animals and cutting of trees. A village which hasn’t had a police case now in 7-8 years. The guy who is making it happen – Sarpanch Shyam Sundar Paliwal.
In this erstwhile conservative village, the parents were reluctant to have the girl child, so the Sarpanch started another practice – to help take care of the future of the girl.
Since this village has made such a great statement by planting trees when girls are born, so they have come up with another practice – when people die. Now they plant 11 trees when anyone in the village dies as well!! And when they found that the trees in their commons area were bring attacked by termites, they came up with an interesting solution that did many things at the same time – planted over two and a half million Aloevera plants around these commons!
Such families are identified by a village committee comprising the village school principal along with panchayat and Anganwadi members. Rs. 21,000 is collected from the village residents and Rs.10,000 from the girl’s father and this sum of Rs. 31,000 is made into a fixed deposit for the girl, with a maturity period of 20 years.
But here’s the best part.
“We make these parents sign an affidavit promising that they would not marry her off before the legal age, send her to school regularly and take care of the trees planted in her name,” says Mr. Paliwal.
Now, not only are they saved from the termite attacks but the villagers can use Aloe Vera to create products. And, the panchayat brought outside help for teaching the local women new skills.
“Gradually, we realized that aloevera could be processed and marketed in a variety of ways. So we invited some experts and asked them to train our women. Now residents make and market aloevera products like juice, gel, pickle etc,” he says.