Every morning one dreads to open the newspaper for it inevitably contains news of infanticide, foeticide, rape, women being oppressed and so on. In a country where bad news always fills up the first page and good news is no news, the village republics always take us by surprise. Rajasthan’s Piplantri village, in Rajsamand District, has been practising its own indigenous brand of eco-feminism. It is one such concept where sustainable development and promotion of the status of women occur simultaneously.
For several years now, this village has been trying to save every girl child along with increasing the number of trees. This practise has not only been successfully implemented but achieved spectacular results. In this village, every time a girl child is born, 111 tress are planted. Villagers ensure that the tree is able to bear fruits as the girl grows up, which is symbolic to a woman’s role in the society. On an average, 60 girls are born every year in the village, as per the former village sarpanch Shyam Sundar Paliwal who led this initiative in memory of his deceased daughter, Kiran.
It has been six years since eco-feminism has been implemented. This has resulted in planting of over a quarter million trees like neem, sheesam, and mango. In spite of this initiative achieving spectacular results, there are still some parents who are reluctant to accept the girl child. Such families are identified by the village panchayat, the local school principle and aganwadi members. A sum of 21,000 rupees is collected from the village community and that of 10,000 rupees is collected from the girl’s father. This entire amount of 31,000 rupees is put in a fixed deposit with a maturity period of 20 years. The family is made to sign an affidavit confirming that they will not marry off the child before her legal age, send her to school and also take care of the plant, planted in her name.
This village pays respect to its dead by planting 11 trees for every deceased member. The village eco-feminism did not merely stop at planting trees. To protect the trees from being infested with termites, the villagers planted over two and a half millions aloe vera plants around the trees. They soon realized that aloe vera has a certain commercial value and it can be used as a means of economic development as well. So to further empower women, experts were invited who trained them to turn aloe vera into commercially viable products. Now, women sell pickles, jams, gel and so on made of aloe vera.
The village also has a website and a studio recorded anthem. In a state like Rajasthan, which is considered to be one of the backward areas in terms of sex ratio or development in general, Piplantri is a silver lining in the cloud. The story at some level seems to be bordering on fiction to our “bad news” infested minds. It strengthens our beliefs in grass root democracy and makes us want to act and fight for lost causes.