While several regions of India see a daughter as a burden and some communities go to the extent of killing a girl child. In several instances, families also opt for abortion if the ultrasound scan reveals that the fetus is female.
But for the residents of Dharhara village in Bihar’s Bhagalpur, the birth of a girl child is an occasion to rejoice which they do by following a unique tradition. Dharhara villagers plant at least 10 trees whenever a girl is born.
This village tradition has also inspired many people and has proved to be a boon for all the little angels that are born here and in other parts of Bihar. Bihar’s chief minister, Nitish Kumar further popularised this tradition and he also launched a welfare scheme called ‘Pahli Kilkari Yojna’.
As per the tradition, whenever a girl is born in the family, fruit bearing trees are planted in her name. By selling the fruits from this particular tree and sometimes even the wood, a decent amount of money is accumulated till the girl is old enough to be married off. It is well known that in India, dowry despite being against the law it still a menace and in such a situation, the extra income is a welcome addition to the family’s kitty.
The tradition not only empowers and protects girls, it is also a boon for the environment. The need of the hour is planting more and more trees since there is a significant decrease in forest cover.
Villagers claim the trees act like fixed deposits. Even though the village has a population of just about7,000, there are more than 1,00,000 fully grown mango and lichi trees, which were planted when a girl child was born. Now, these trees provide the much needed green cover in the area and make it look like a mini forest.
Planting trees has also meant that many farmers have moved away from the traditional practice of cultivating wheat and paddy as they see more profit in selling fruits.
Moreover, the phenomena of planting trees are not new and have been going on for several generations resulting in getting ingrained in the villagers who opt for the tradition as soon as a girl is born. Village elders say this not only helps them with extra income but also is good for the environment and ensure that female foeticide is an almost unheard of concept in the region.