JAIPUR: Piplantri village in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district saw women with their newborn daughters take a ‘parikrama’ (move around) of the trees on Rakshabandhan. Social activist and village ex-sarpanch Shyam Sunder Paliwal has devised this innovative plan to combine girl child empowerment and afforestation into one initiative.
Surrounded by mines, this tiny village used to be a desert at one point but locals have now turned it into an oasis of green. Piplantri has seen 3 lakh saplings planted since 2006.
The story has a sad beginning. After the loss of his 16-year-old daughter Kiran, Paliwal had planted a tree in her memory. He went on to convince villagers to plant 111 trees each time a girl is born in their families. The families are made to sign a document, committing to take care of the child, educate her and marry her only when she is legally eligible.
“We make these parents sign an affidavit promising that they will not marry their minor daughters, and send them to school regularly along with taking care of the trees planted in their name,” says Paliwal.
Villages are encouraged to make a deposit in the name of their daughters. After a girl is born into a family, `10,000 is collected from the family members and then `21,000 is contributed by other families. The deposit is kept in the bank for 20 years.
About 50 fixed deposits have been opened this year. “People are coming ahead to participate. Now they are becoming aware and want to be a part of this initiative by contributing more.” A letter of oath, ‘Kiran Nidhi’, binds the family to follow a certain set of rules. One of the rules state that the funds invested in fixed deposits will be mandatorily used for a girl’s wedding or her education.
Bhupendra Singh, who works in a marble factory, feels proud to be a part of this initiative. “My girl is one year old now. I wanted to become a sportsman but couldn’t. Now, I will motivate my daughter to become a sportswoman and get a medal for the country just like other daughters have done in Asian Games.”
Neem, aloe vera and other commercial plants are mainly planted in this village of 9,000 people. Women self-help groups use the plant products to help their members earn a livelihood.
Fascinated by Paliwal’s initiative, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje instructed all district collectors to visit Piplantri to study the success of this unique initiative and to replicate it in other parts of the state. Recently, over 130 Sarpanchs from Chhattisgarh’s Bastar division came to learn about the initiative.