In Rajasthan, a state often characterised by low sex ratio and an arid climate, the villagers of Piplantri in Rajsamand have resorted to planting 111 trees with the birth of every girl child to battle female foeticide and climate issues.

In Piplantri, whenever a girl child was born, the family pushed a hard, jagged grain into her mouth to cause infection and ensure her death. Shyam Lal Paliwal never understood this practice.He had always loved his daughter. So when Sarpanch Shyam Lal Paliwal’s 16-year old daughter Kiran died in 2006, he planted a burflower tree in her remembrance and vowed that no one would mourn the birth of a baby-girl in Piplantri anymore. Instead, it would be celebrated with the planting of trees.

Before 2005, Piplantri had been a drought-prone area. Shyam Lal recalls that once in 2005, the drought had been so bad that the government were forced to send water trains to the village. But it all ended with Kiran’s tree and Shyam Lal’s vision.

Alongside planting 111 trees, whenever a girl child is born in Piplantri, donations are collected so that INR 31,000 can be saved and put aside, so that with investment, there is a sum to match a potential dowry, allowing the families to become financially independent and in turn, be able to send their daughters to school, not marry them before they turn 18, and care for the planted trees as well. Along with this, getting inspiration from his wife, Shyam Lal also helped establish an aloe vera business in the village. After training, women can make and market aloe vera gel, juice and pickle, and some earn up to INR 6,000 a month.  The Sarpanch has also started a rainwater harvesting plant in the village.

Aloe Vera gel made by the women of Piplantri village. image Credits: Lifegate
Aloe Vera gel made by the women of Piplantri village.
image Credits: Lifegate

The government of Rajasthan, which has been shamed with a concerning sex ratio for years, decided to introduce a yojana (scheme) inspired by Paliwal’s work. Under the policy, the family receives INR 2,500 on her birth and the same amount on her first birthday. This is doubled to INR 5,000 if she finishes class five and class eight. When girls complete their senior secondary education i.e. class 12th, they get INR 35,000, making an overall total of  INR 50,000.

Piplantri has become an inspiration to various villages in rural India and holds itself up to be an important symbol of not only women empowerment, but also sustainable development in India.

Feature Image Credits: Procaffenation

Shreya Juyal

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The government of Rajasthan has faced severe flak for tabling discussion on the much controversial Rajasthan Ordinance. Here is a look at why it is deemed to be a threat to freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed to every citizen as a fundamental right in India.

India is the host to the longest written constitution in the world which includes mandates for the very crucial fundamental rights, enunciated in Part 3 of the constitution. The said rights are granted to every citizen of India and accumulate to become the very basic unit and the essence of our democracy. One specific article, among the prolific, is Article 19 (a) which grants the citizens of the country the right to the freedom of speech and expression in India. It is often said that the media is considered to be the third pillar of democracy.

Recently, the Rajasthan government has been working on The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance or the Rajasthan ordinance which was promulgated early September of this year. The amendment makes it mandatory to obtain the permission/sanctions of the state government before undertaking any investigation against a serving or retired judge, or a magistrate or a public servant: “In respect of any act done by them while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of their official duties”. The ordinance also forbids the publication of any material that discloses the identity of the alleged culprit till the government gives sanction for prosecution. Furthermore, this draconian ordinance the government of Rajasthan hopes to turn into an Act would also imprison activists, journalists and any person who chooses to speak out about a ‘corrupt’ public service in a public domain without obtaining the correct permissions.

This ordinance not only violates Article 19 of our constitution but also shows a clear contradiction to Article 14 (Right to Equality) guaranteed by the constitution. The sanction that the ordinance speaks of could take up to six months, during which the media would also be restricted to report about any cases related to the accused public servants. This ordinance does nothing but provides a blanket of security to those accused of corruption or criminal activity and basically grants them a special pedestal since they no longer would be treated as equally as a normal citizen before the law. The six month period could very well be used to tamper or dilute evidence.

This ordinance has been vastly criticised by the High Court, International Media and has been referred to as an “assault on democracy” by prominent political personalities. Many have branded this amendment act to be draconian and backward. The need of the hour is to ensure accountability among public servants and those holding public office. The implementation of this act will not only curtail that but provide an evil privilege to office holders.


Feature Image Credits: The Hindu

Bhavya Banerjee

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I recently took a trip with my college, Indraprastha College for Women, to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, two popular tourist destinations in Rajasthan. The trip started with the blue city of Jodhpur and a visit to The Umaid Bhawan Palace. It is one of the world’s largest private residences. The Palace is divided into three functional parts – a luxury Taj Palace Hotel, the residence of the erstwhile royal family and a Museum focusing on the 20th century history of the Jodhpur Royal Family. A section of the palace showcases vintage cars owned by the royal family. The palace is picture perfect and the view stunningly beautiful. One can see the whole city from the palace since it is located at the highest point of the city.

The same evening we visited the Mehrangarh fort. It is one of the largest forts in India, situated 400 feet above the city and is enclosed by ramparts. Inside its boundaries there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards. A winding road leads to and from the city below. The imprints of cannonball hits by attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. The fort is massive and every part of it has a story to tell. The carvings are incredibly intricate. The view from this fort gives a glimpse of the blue rooftops of the old city and explains why Jodhpur is called the blue city. They also have a tiny little café providing you with tasty nick nacks. The Mehrangarh Fort is one place not to miss if visiting Jodhpur. It’s a treat to all history lovers and one of the most interesting forts I’ve ever visited.

The other noteworthy place in Jodhpur is the Clock Tower which is the shopaholics’ treat. Its narrow alleyways sell everything from vegetables to sweets to handicrafts to textiles to silverware to jutis. Kachoris and mirch pakodas sold there are a must when visiting Rajasthan and will delight any foodie!

After spending one and a half day in Jodhpur, we departed for Jaisalmer which is 300kms from Jodhpur. we stayed in the camps close to the dessert in the outskirts of the city. The first thing I noticed upon arrival is the stars, millions and millions of stars at every patch in the sky twinkling away to glory. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

Next morning we went for a camel safari to the dessert. For starters, it is nothing like the joy ride you take on camels. When you sit on a camel for over an hour, your thighs will cry in pain and you won’t be able to able to walk properly for days. So be prepared! However, the experience is every bit worth it. The sight of the dessert is spectacular, acres and acres of sand with nothing else in sight. Your feet will sink into the sand which is hot on top and cold beneath. The feeling is amazing.

The look of the dessert at night is a whole other sight. The night safari is the next best thing to do. They take you in an open jeep to see the dessert. The freezing weather, ice cold sand, bonfire and a blanket of stars, it’s all you need to go speechless. It’s a sight so beautiful that will engrave itself into your brain forever.

Next day we went into the city of Jaisalmer. We visited the Gadisagar Lake. Artistically carved Chattris, Temples, Shrines and Ghats surround the banks of Gadisar Lake. The entrance to the Lake is through a magnificent and artistically carved yellow sandstone archway that is known as the Tilon-Ki-Pol.

The USP of Jaisalmer is its fort. The fort stands proudly amidst the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert, on Trikuta Hill, and has been the testimony of many battles. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion color during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. For this reason, it is also known as the “Golden Fort”. This fort, popularly known as the ‘Sonar quila’ by the locals, is located in the very heart the city, and is one of the most breathtaking monuments in the locality. It is the only ‘live fort’ in India. The legend goes that the king was cursed to have people live and work in this fort always. One can shop in this fort as there is a full-fledged market inside it.

Few tips for people visiting Jaisalmer and planning to stay in tents are to carry your own bedding. The weather is way too cold and the bedding provided by the hotel is not enough. The food is not up to the mark. Beware of the camel ride, it won’t be pleasant post ten minutes! Travel light because bags cannot be dragged over sand. There won’t be enough water, its rajasthan! There definitely won’t be enough hot water. In spite of all this, it’s an experience of the life time and one must visit these places at least once.