This is the school office the photograph of the young ladies on the traffic page are from. One thing that amazes me is how the local village leaders and school teachers do not agree that trafficking of local girls occurs. We visited Joypur School, more so by chance than by design, and were immediately swamped by hundreds of children and young adults. The disgruntled teachers had little choice but to stand by and watch as our small group of westerners managed to whip the entire school into a frenzy without a single word or action.

This gentleman managed to continue his work, enough side-lit window to illuminate what he was doing and for us so we could see details in the shadows around him. I can’t quite see what it is he is working on. Perhaps he is marking pupils tests or assignments. Maybe its working through school paperwork. Either way, the Indian nation loves paperwork. Here we are in a monsoon drenched village, miles from the nearest major city and here they are, filling in paperwork, and if its in the wrong coloured ink, they’ll make you do it again and you’ll have to return to the back of the queue and wait your turn again.

The schooling style in rural India is rote-learned based, very colonial European in its characteristics. Though the public education may be archaic at first glance, most international universities have an equivalency acceptance regime where certain levels of attainment within the Indian education system will access certain levels within a western university or technology institute. Though India has poured significant resource into building public schools all over rural India – not to mention the explosion of private education – there are still no jobs for the young adults to aim for.

Economically, West Bengal has been subjected to decades of neglect having lived under a communist regime. Only recently since the government was voted out, has there been investment in national infrastructure, but with a population of 91 million (over 7 million living in Murshidabad alone), there is a very long way to go. It needs more than just good politicking; it needs significant international investment.

Aid or charity is all very well in a disaster, but getting effective solutions to poverty to stick across multiple generations takes something else altogether. In some respects, I view Murshidabad as a bit of a disaster that needs a very serious amount of attention from national and international leadership. It won’t receive it without people from the west making a great deal of fuss.

I was in a brief conversation with an Indian businessman named Dr Bhupendra Kumar Modi, a second generation business mogul (credited with establishing many of India’s business firsts, including  fax machine manufacturing and mobile phone services). In short, he mentioned to me West Bengal, “…is the hardest place…” when I referenced our intentions behind establishing the Freeset Business Incubator in Berhampore.

Population Densities
  • West Bengal, India: 1,000 people per sq/km (1,300 per sq/km in the district of Murshidabad)
  • New Zealand: 17 people per sq/km