With the Sex ratio below the national average of 940, as per census in 2011, Rajasthan had the sex ratio only 928, i.e. for each 1000 male. This is a concerning situation for the Government of India as the number of girls getting killed before being born. This is when Shyam Sundar Paliwal decided to take the matter on his own hand and he started a ritual when a girl is born, the family will plant 111 trees and along with it, the family will get money as the girl goes to school and finish her studies.
For the people of Rajasthan, the birth of girls meant bad news. Female foeticide and infanticide were not unheard of. This is mainly due to the hefty dowery system in villages. A dowry can be of items or can be of cash, people generally prefer both. Dowery is given from the female side to the male side as the things she would need in her new house. The amount or quantity of items ranges from the family situation if the family is wealthy the dowery is usually a more than average budget car otherwise a bike is given in most of the cases.
Due to this, there have been several cases in the particular state where the boy’s parents force the girl to bring more money from their house. This doesn’t end well most of the time, resulting in disputes between the families and sometimes suicides. The state Rajasthan is ranked among the top three where on a daily basis three women end up giving their life due to dowery.
The man who started the change
Ex-Sarpanch(Village head) and Social campaigner of Piplantri village, Shyam Sunder Paliwal envisioned the idea for a bright future for girls.
To celebrate the birth of a girl child,111 trees are planted by her parents, grandparents, and relatives. The village panchayat will take care of the trees. He made a good start by collaborating with the government. He believed that if the parents of newborn girls planted trees and nurtured them for 18 years they could arrange enough money for the girl’s marriage when she is ready for marriage.
Though he faced many hurdles but the reason but later the village panchayat had received many awards for the execution of various government schemes. and the reason why he started will touch your heart for sure.
Kirna, Shyam Sundar Paliwal’s 16-year-old daughter, died in 2006. A tragedy he marked by planting the burflower tree, he then made a mission to channel his grief. “She meant so much to me. How could parents kill a baby girl in the womb.”
Since 2006, 111 trees have been planted for each of the 60-70 girls born in the village each year. By doing so a total of 350,000 trees have been planted so far. At the entrance to Piplantri, a large hoarding is placed on which the names of all the girls born over the past year are mentioned.
In addition to planting the trees, donations are collected whenever a girl is born so that a sum of 21,000 rupees($435) can be put into a fixed deposit and with interest over 18 years which is the legal marriage age in India, the family has an investment for the marriage. In return the family pledge to look after the trees and send their girl to school and not to marry her off before the legal age of 18.
This has solved major issues such as Child Marriage, Girl Education and planting 111 trees for a girl helps in keeping the environment clean and green. Shyam Sundar Paliwal himself visits the trees every evening to see every tree in particular.
The act has improved the condition of the village which when the drought-hit in 2005 was dependent on the government sent water trains.
The Rajasthan government has been trying to tackle female foeticide since the sex ratio went down to 921 in the 2011 census, and has taken inspiration from Paliwal. Dr. Pankaj Gaur, the district’s chief medical and health officer believes that the vision of Paliwal to make Piplantri a model village inspired a 2016 government police of giving benefits throughout a girl’s life.
Under the policy, the family receives 2,500 rupees when the girl is born and the same amount on her birthday. The amount is doubled when she finishes class fice and class eight. The girl receives 35,000 when she finish class 12, making an overall total of 50,000 rupees. “These benefits stop a girl being seen as a liability,” says Dr. Gaur.
When asked how does he feel about this: “For me, everything is linked: the girl child, the land, water, animals, birds, trees. I seek immortality through these trees and Whatever I do is for my daughter’s memory.” says Paliwal.
This act has been overall hauled by his countrymen and he has been invited to “Kaun Banega Crorepati“,(who wants to be a millionaire) and won whopping prize money of 2,500,000 rupees.
In 2007, Shyam Sundar was awarded the ‘Nirmal Gram Award’ by the president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
In 2017, A film titles “Piplantri” was made on the transformation fo the Piplantri village.