More often than not when we hear any news related to a girl child, or about a totally different subject like environment, our expectations are not very positive. It seems like our ears are fed up with listening depressing news about the crimes perpetrated by our fellow humans towards our daughters and the environment.
This time the story is a positive one, and quite inspirational. It is about a village named Piplantri in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan. Here people have a distinct way of celebrating the birth of a girl child, and that is by planting not just one or two, but 111 trees. Yes! That many trees start their life as siblings of a daughter. Quite amazing, is it not?
Recently, an IFS officer Parveen Kaswan, through his tweet, told the internet about this model village of India.
This tradition was started in 2006 when the village Sarpanch, Shyam Sundar Paliwal lost his beloved daughter at a young age, and then decided to initiate this beautiful tradition of planting trees on the birth of every daughter in the village.
The thought behind this collective practice is that the nature should not pay the price for an increase in human population. Till now, lakhs of trees have been planted which include Neem, Mango, Sheesham, Amla, etc. Not just this, about 2.5 million Aloe Vera plants have been planted over the years which keep termites away from the growing trees, and provide a source of income to the villagers as Aloevera is used in production of medicines, cosmetics, and other products. This way has improved the economic condition of the villagers, increased the water level, and enriched the wildlife.
Moreover, after the girl child is born, her parents have to sign an affidavit, legally promising that they will take care of her proper education, and marry her only after she attains the legal age. They are also bound to look after the planted trees as well. This way both daughters and environment stay protected.
If that was not enough, a lump-sum amount of Rs 31,000 is collected by the villagers among themselves and from the parents. This amount is then put in a fixed deposit in the name of the girl child for 20 years to help her pursue higher studies in the future.
From spending 30 years without any electricity, to becoming an energy independent village, the story of Dharnai is a case study in itself. Dharnai is a village near Bodhgaya (the place where Buddha attained enlightenment), in the Jehanabad district of Bihar. Recently, it became India’s first and only full-solar powered village.
About 450 houses, two schools, one hospital, 50 commercial buildings, and 60 street lights use solar energy. How did this transformation happen? How come the village became energy independent when it did not have electricity even after so many decades of independence, and relied on diesel and cow dung for power?
This initiative was taken by a non-profit organisation called Greenpeace, along with their partner organisations, Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED), and BASIX (a livelihood promotion institute).
The project was started in July, 2014 with an initial cost of Rs 3 crore, and in five years, what has been achieved is known to everyone. Villagers are employed to look after the grid, thus creating jobs. Since there is 24 hours electricity, children do not have to close their books once it gets dark. Healthcare and school infrastructure have significantly improved. Solar powered pumps are helping in agriculture too. All of this has truly transformed the lives of Dharnai.
India is tropical country and receives abundant solar radiation for at least 300 days in a year. This means the scope for utilising solar energy is much greater here, given that the requirement of that energy is by no means less.
In 2018, India declared all its villages to be electrically powered. A village is declared to be electrified if ten per cent of the households can access power, along with public institutions such as schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries, and community centres.
Being Piplantari and Dharnai are not easy, but not impossible either.
The article is written by Jayesh Dhyani, who is a civil services aspirant.