Have a daughter? Get a fruit tree!

Have a daughter? Get a fruit tree!

“Ummeedo waale dhoop, sunshine wali aasha” is a popular Hindi jingle for a cola ad. In English it roughly means the rays of belief and the bright light of hope. The advert urges us to remember that for every tank built in the world, 13000 soft toys are manufactured, for every fence there are 15000 welcome mats gracing doorways, 30,00,000 trees are being planted everyday even though there are many who pollute the environment and literacy is on the rise because for every adult who can’t write his name, 15 children are learning how to read. We should not scoff at this message – it rings true.
For every bit of disheartening news in the papers, there is something to cheer you up. Take the example of the little village in Bihar, which greets every newborn daughter with a fruit tree – this story is sure to warm the cockles of your heart!
The folks who live in Dharara, a small village located about 20 kilometres from Bhagalpur in Eastern Bihar, have ensured that their home is one of the greenest places to be found in the region. This is the result of a unique initiative by the village folk – every time a daughter is born to a couple, the village celebrates her arrival by planting fruit trees in large numbers. A minimum number of ten trees are planted, if the farmer so wishes, he can plant more.
In a state that is always in the news for largely unsavoury reasons such as poverty and poor development, this is welcome information indeed.
The villagers of Dharara must be applauded for this initiative – which tries to combat the evils of female infanticide, climate change and global warming all at once. And this is not a new practice – this has been the norm for many generations.
Girls in this village are treated as living representations of the goddess of wealth and the trees planted in their names are nurtured along with them. The small population of about 7000 people is readily and vastly outnumbered by roughly a lakh of fully grown mango and lychee trees. The fruit that these trees yield help the families which plant them – they sell the fruit for profit and save that money which comes to use when their daughters get married. In essence, the trees and girls grow up together.
In a state which is infamous for its dowry deaths, this comes as a great boon. Dowry – the act of paying a substantial sum of money to the bridegroom’s family is a practice that is prevalent in Bihar. A well off, high caste groom with status is hard to find unless the dowry money matches expectations. However, the trees ensure that fathers no longer have to worry about procuring money and the girls can be married off properly to suitable men, as per the norms of society. Not only marriage, the trees free fathers in the village from the burden of school fees as possessing a minimum of ten trees ensures there is enough money to send the child to school.
The girls who are behind this initiative water the saplings and care for them and treat them as their own family members.
The people of Dharara have been successful in reducing the rate of female foeticide and they claim that there has not been a single instance of this evil in the past years. Cool orchards and acres of greenery makes this tiny village an idyllic retreat situated amidst parched and arid land.
This is a village that is most definitely graced by the shining rays of belief and the bright sunshine of hope!

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