Rajasthan village is winning the war on female feticide
Tree planting scheme is key to success, says leader
Rajasthan has a poor track record when it comes to saving girls. But a village in this west Indian desert state has all but eliminated female feticide, while making the local environment greener.
Shyam Sundar Paliwal, head of Piplantri village, claims a project that he launched six years ago named after his daughter, Kiran Nidhi Yojana, has been a huge success.
For each girl born here, local authorities give the family 111 trees to plant in her name. They also contribute money to a fund to help the new child with her future education and dowry when she gets married.
“We collect 21,000 rupees [US$386.50] from the community, 10,000 from the girl’s father and deposit the 31,000 in the girl’s name for 20 years,” says Paliwal.
Authorities will monitor the girl as she grows up to make sure she is not married off early, still a common problem in Rajasthan. When the girl reaches the age of 20, she can withdraw the money with interest.
“The amount grows and so does the value of each tree. This really helps the girl and family, giving them confidence by making her self reliant,” says Paliwal.
The governing body of Piplantri looks after the trees and even gives a percentage of any profits generated to the family. Fruit trees, medicinal plants and Indian rosewood are all being cultivated. More than 252,000 have been planted so far.
“In at least half of the cases where a girl is born, the parents are unhappy and don’t want to accept her. We identify such families and talk to them,” says Paliwal.
Most Indian families prefer boys to girls because of the traditional requirement that a daughter’s parents pay a dowry when she is married.
Rajasthan has seen acute female feticide in the past. There are only 926 women for every 1,000 men here, an even worse ratio than the national average of 949 to 1,000. In 2011, the number of girls in Rajasthan was found to be just 833 versus 1,000 boys, a sign that female feticide was commonplace.
For 2011 to 2012, this state recorded India’s highest number of violations of a law which forbids using tests to determine the gender of unborn babies. There were 192 such cases, according to the federal government’s health and family welfare data. Volunteers working in Rajasthan estimate that as many as 300 female fetuses are aborted every day. Not so in Piplantri, according to Paliwal.
His unorthodox social programs have also extended to more familiar schemes such as the prohibition of alcohol, while open grazing and random tree felling have been banned in a bid to protect the environment.
“There has been no police case in our village for the last seven years,” Paliwal says proudly.
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