After losing his young daughter, Sarpanch Shyam Sundar Paliwal pledged to plant 111 trees for every girl child born in Piplantri village, Rajasthan. Today his promise has turned into an entire forest.
Piplantri, a small village in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan is fighting female foeticide by giving the village a green makeover — all thanks to its sarpanch (village head).
After losing his daughter, sarpanch Shyam Sundar Paliwal was struck by grief. The villagers eventually reminded him of his duties to the village as its head, and in a gesture of paying tribute to his daughter, they planted a tree.
“I was touched by the gesture, and on the same day, we decided to plant 111 trees for every girl child that takes birth in the village. And for a girl child born in a poor family, we decided to collect Rs 21,000 and make a fixed deposit for her,” says Shyam Sundar.
Shyam Sundar used the ‘panchayat-at-your-doorstep’ programme to tour the villages and speak to women about empowerment. He encouraged elderly ladies, grandmothers and aunts of the girl babies to maintain and protect these trees.
The panchayat (village council) also organises various festivals around these trees to encourage the villagers to keep up the practice.
What was once a water-deficient village, has now turned into a green oasis with different varieties of trees.
“Today we have 3,51,000 trees like mango, sheesham (North Indian rosewood), banyan, and peepal in our village. A place which was barren is now a ‘Nandan Van’ (forest of happiness),” he shares.
Shyam Sundar was awarded the Padma Shri for his contributions in 2021. He is now focusing on bringing more employment opportunities for the youth, so they are not forced to leave villages in search of work in the cities.
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Edited by Pranita Bhat