Coming from a land overburdened with age old customs and traditions that are fighting for survival and relevance in a constantly changing world, it is heartening to see a community sowing seeds of new traditions to fight issues that are plaguing the human society in the 21st century.
Piplantri, a village in south Rajasthan, has been doing its bit to protect the girl child and the mother earth by planting 111 trees for every girl child that is born in the village. The village panchayat also raises a sum of Rs 31,000 for every new born girl, which is put in Fixed Deposit at a local bank with a maturity period of 20 years. Parents of a girl child can avail of this incentive if they sign an affidavit which makes them promise to look after the 111 trees planted at her birth, ensuring that both the girl child and the trees grow strong and healthy. They must also promise to send the girl to school regularly and not get her married before her 18th birthday.
The people also plant 11 trees for every villager who dies.
Over the last six years the villagers have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the common grazing grounds. They have also planted 2.5 million Aloevera plants around the trees to prevent them from getting infested with termites. These trees and plants have now become a new source of livelihood for the villagers, who make and market a variety of aloevera products.
The idea was initiated by the former sarpanch of the village, Shyam Sunder Paliwal, who lost a young daughter. Rajasthan, considered to be one of the more backward states of India in terms of village development, can benefit deeply by the new customs it has established for itself.
A beautiful lesson in replacing traditions that are obsolete with ones that are more relevant, the village can provide ‘a new model for living’, that gives back to the earth with every new generation. Let’s hope the rest of the country and the world follow suit.
– by Aditi Bhatia
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