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Rajasthan: Piplantri villagers plant over 100 trees to celebrate a girl child's birth

Piplantri: People of Piplantri village in Rajasthan are working on a unique initiative to save the girl child and the shrinking green cover at the same time. The newborn baby may not have a name yet but she already has over 100 trees planted to celebrate her birth. As the child's family takes forward the seven-year-old unique practice of planting 111 trees each time a girl is born, they see it as a twin win fixing the skewed gender ratio as well as giving something back to the environment.

Nirmala, a mother of the baby girl, said she wants her child and plants to grow together. "I want plants and my child to grow togethe and we want the lives of the girl children to be safe and happy like the lush green plants we're growing," she said.

The initiative begun in 2006 is turning Piplantri village into an oasis. The little girls are welcomed warmly and the village is covered with neem, mango, amla and sheesham trees leading to a higher water level.

Khem Singh, a villager, said that almost seven years ago, the land looked barren but now it is covered with trees. "Six-seven years ago, this land looked barren and water level was spiralling down. Bur now we have over two lakh trees and fodder for the cattle," he said.

The winds of change did not sweep easily through Piplantri village. The former sarpanch who began it in the memory of his daughter said the panchayat initially had to identify the families who were reluctant to give the girl child their rights, mostly citing poverty as the reason. The villagers then began to collect Rs 21,000 at the birth of a girl in a poor family to deposit it in her name.

Former sarpanch Shyam Sunder Paliwal said the girl's child gives an affidavit saying the money will be used for her education or marriage. "The girl's father gives an affidavit saying he will educate her, not marry her off till she turns 18 and will only use this money for her education or marriage," he said.