Vol. XIV, No. 159, March 2015

 

Travel || Report || Commentary || Essay || Book Review || Theater Review || Film Review || Obituary || Archive

 

A Village in India Plants 111 Trees

Every Time a Girl Is Born

 

Women of Piplantri, a village in the Indian state of Rajasthan, taking care of trees planted to celebrate girls’ births. A few years ago, the village council started a tradition of planting 111 trees every time a girl is born anywhere in the village. (Picture is reproduced courtesy piplantri.com)

 

 

A friend of ours living in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, forwarded to us the other day an article that appeared in folomojo.com. The article, by Ryan Frantz and entitled “India’s other daughters – The village that plants 111 trees when a girl is born,” says in its opening paragraph:

“In a country that still favours the birth of a son, Piplantri village in Rajasthan not only embraces daughters but has created a tradition that benefits both the local people and the planet. This endearing village makes a conscious effort to save girl children and the green cover at the same time, by planting 111 trees every time a girl is born. A brilliant exercise in eco-feminism, this should inspire India and the rest of the world.

We couldn’t agree more. We also want to congratulate folomojo for alluding, in the title of the article, to the needless controversy currently raging in India over the recently released BBC documentary, India’s Daughter. More about the controversy, in a minute.

The folomojo article brought back to us memories of what we had read two years ago in The Hindu, one of India’s leading English dailies. The article in The Hindu deals with the same topic as the folomojo piece. When The Hindu published it, on April 11, 2013, various media outlets in and outside of India followed suit, praising the Rajasthan village for coming up with a novel way of serving simultaneously the cause of women and environment. We too had thought of emulating the Hindu example. We are ashamed to say that, for some reason or other, we failed to do it. Reproducing the Hindu article below is an effort on our part to make amends for that lapse.

The immediate inspiration for doing it is the controversy we referred to above. India’s Daughter, a documentary, co-produced by Leslee Udwin and Dibang for the BBC, stirred the controversy for reasons all right-minded people would find amusing. The documentary is on the despicable gang-rape and murder of the physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh, on a moving bus in Delhi, on the night of December 16, 2012. The incident, when occurred, had provoked the widest condemnation and outrage all over India. More shameful than the incident itself is an Indian court’s decision to ban the documentary’s release in the country. The laughable reason given by the court for its decision is that it would encourage and incite more violence against women. The court and the see-no-evil section of the Indian society are also faulting those who allowed the documentary producers to interview one of the accused in the case, in the jail cell where he is awaiting a death sentence. Instead, they should be thanking those who facilitated the interview. Thanks to it, we are in a position to reaffirm that there are men in our midst with criminal mindset that blames the victims for the crimes they commit. “It’s the woman’s fault” is the reasoning trotted out by many men in rape cases.

What is more appalling than the hoodlum’s justification of his animal act are the views expressed by the two defense attorneys in the case. According to one of them, “a girl is like a flower and should not be out in public after 8:30 p.m.” The other would burn his daughter if she goes out at night as the late victim in this case had done. These attorneys may call themselves educated. But their mindset is that of cavemen. The documentary corroborates the fact that we still have such men in our midst.

            Leslee Udwin did not set out to make the documentary with a view to portraying India as a male chauvinistic society. Quite the contrary. As she has been quoted in the British newspaper, The Guardian, as saying: “What impelled me to leave my husband and two children for two years while I made the film in India was not so much the horror of the rape as the inspiring and extraordinary eruption on the streets. A cry of ‘enough is enough’. Unprecedented numbers of ordinary men and women, day after day, faced a ferocious government crackdown that included teargas, baton charges and water cannon. They were protesting for my rights and the rights of all women. That gives me optimism. I can’t recall another country having done that in my lifetime.”

            In producing India’s Daughter, Ms. Udwin has revealed that the country that gave her so much inspiration still has some men whose attitude toward women is not different from that of the culprit whom she interviewed. Instead of congratulating her for doing a great service to the country, she is being criticized for allegedly presenting India in a bad light to the rest of the world. But she must be quietly enjoying the spectacle. Thanks to the Indian court’s action and the hue and cry all over India, the documentary has received the kind of international publicity which neither the BBC nor Ms. Udwin could have even dreamt of.

            Indian men who are interested in serving the cause of women would do well not to waste their time deploring a documentary that has revealed what is a reality in India. They could do something similar to what an unremarkable village in Rajasthan has been doing for some time. Read below the Hindu article on what it is. (We have edited it slightly to conform to our style.) – Editor

 

 

A village that plants 111 trees for

every girl born in Rajasthan

 

By Mahim Pratap Singh

 

In an atmosphere where every morning, our newspapers greet us with stories of girls being tormented, raped, killed or treated like a doormat in one way or another, trust India's “village republics” to bring in some good news from time to time.

One such village in southern Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district is quietly practicing its own, homegrown brand of Eco-feminism and achieving spectacular results.

For the last several years, Piplantri village panchayat has been saving girl children and increasing the green cover in and around it at the same time.

Here, villagers plant 111 trees every time a girl is born and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up.

Over the last six years, people here have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village’s grazing commons – including neem, sheesham, mango, amla, among others.

On an average 60 girls are born here every year, according to the village’s former sarpanch [the village chief] Shyam Sundar Paliwal, who was instrumental in starting this initiative in memory of his daughter Kiran, who died a few years ago.

In about half these cases, parents are reluctant to accept the girl children, he says.

Such families are identified by a village committee comprising the village school principal, along with panchayat [village council] and Anganwadi [ward] members.

Rs. 21,000 [approximately $320, in today’s conversion rate] 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.

People also plant 11 trees whenever a family member dies.

But this village of 8,000 did not just stop at planting trees and greening their commons. To prevent these trees from being infested with termite, the residents planted over two and a half million aloe vera plants around them. Now these trees, especially the aloe vera, are a source of livelihood for several residents.

“Gradually, we realized that aloe vera 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 aloe vera products like juice, gel, pickle etc.,” he says.

The village panchayat, which has a studio-recorded anthem and a website of its own, has completely banned alcohol, open grazing of animals and cutting of trees. Villagers claim there has not been any police case here for the last 7-8 years.

Mr. Paliwal recalls the visit of social activist Anna Hazare, who was very happy with the progress made by the village, he says.

“But Rajasthan is quite backward in terms of village development, compared to panchayats in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra etc. So we need to work hard towards creating more and more empowered villages,” says the former sarpanch, hoping the government listens to him.

 

Girls from the village of Piplantri, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, celebrating birth of a girl by planting 111 saplings. (Courtesy piplantri.com)

 

 

(Published on March 27, 2015)

(Readers are invited to comment. Send the comments to letters@eastwestinquirer.com)

 

*      *      *

 

To read any of the following, click on it.

 

Travel || Report || Commentary || Essay || Book Review || Theater Review || Film Review || Obituary || Archive