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Shyam Sunder Paliwal

Social Work

Paliwal thought of linking trees to the birth of the girl child after the panchayat's efforts to curb the felling of trees failed. Doing so helped save both, the trees as well as the girl child.

Shyam Sunder Paliwal was just elected sarpanch of Piplantri village, 10 kilometres away from the Rajasamand headquarters in 2005, when he lost his daughter Kiran, 17, to dehydration and heat stroke. The tragedy gave him a new perspective on how to save the girl child. He decided to plant 111 saplings at the birth of each girl in the village. With an average of 50 girls born in a year, close to 300,000 trees have come up in a decade. The birth of a daughter has become an occasion for community celebration. Saplings came from different sources, such as the government's greening schemes, corporate social responsibility initiatives and even donations. To give the girls a sense of ownership, he asked them to tie a rakhi to the saplings. Gradually, he made tending to the trees a source of employment, including under MNREGA.

Simultaneously, he motivated the families of girl children to create a fixed deposit of Rs 10,000 to which he would add Rs 21,000 raised through the village panchayat and other prominent persons. The efforts that he began became part of the system and continue even after he ceased to be sarpanch in 2010. "We all support this because it is very good for our society and environment,'' says Suresh Bheel, the new sarpanch of the village. This year, the village panchayat has opened 45 fixed deposits for the girls. The girls get the money only once they turn 21 and are not married before that, thus pre-empting child or teen marriages.