Barmer: Khap Panchayats are infamous for their scarily unreasonable diktats. But in a village in Rajasthan's Barmer, a rare order by one such Panchayat, 20 years ago, came as a blessing for girls.
The Panchayat made it mandatory for everyone to send their daughters to school or face a penalty. The girls are now all grown up.
Barmer is known for its poor gender ratio, but right in the middle of the district, a government school stands out. The girls there outnumber the boys.
It is something that comes as a pleasant surprise even to teachers like Kamla Choudhary.
"People in other villages here generally don't educate girls, but in this school, girls come from two to three kms away regularly. Their parents don't send them to the fields for work or just keep them engaged in the household work, so the girls are keen on studying and the parents take a lot of interest in their education," Kamla said.
Till 1991, only boys studied in the school. Then, the local Khap Panchayat made it mandatory for everyone to send their daughters to school or pay a penalty of Rs 1,000. No one in the village has violated the order so far.
Kirta Ram, a resident of the village, said, "After they announced a penalty of Rs 1,000, everyone started sending their daughters to school. The girls began doing well in their studies, now our girls are constables, teachers and nurses."
20 years back on a bright day, a Khap Panchayat issued an unlikely diktat that changed forever how the little girls in the village would grow up and live. 20 years later the result is there for everyone to see.
Harkhu Devi is proud of her daughter Panni, who is a constable with Hadi Rani Battalion posted in Jodhpur. She now wants all the girls in her extended family go to school.
"We were never sent to school, we did cattle grazing, but now I want to educate all the children and grandchildren, the girls just as much the boys," Harkhu Devi said.
The Barmer region is the hotbed of female infanticide. But this school is the oasis of change that has given hope to thousands of girl children to study and be that change.