City in Focus: The Region of West Bengal, India
Imagine a place where children go missing and no one seems to mind.
Imagine a state where, missing people disappear into a sea of 90 million people.
This is West Bengal.
West Bengal is an impoverished state that borders Bangladesh, which consistently ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world. This porous border is constantly under threat of violence or trafficking, and millions of workers freely travel across the border daily to find work. This constant traffic pattern is an ideal scenario for traffickers to simply make women and children vanish.
And children are vanishing by the thousands. According to the most recent government data on West Bengal, a region in the eastern most tip of India, 3000 children went missing last year in West Bengal alone, and 5000 the year before. Other NGO’s working in the region estimate double that number for last year. But as the Calcutta Telegraph reports, the government has taken no measures to stop child trafficking.
Too often police forces in West Bengal simply do not get involved. Late last year, Police forces in West Bengal declined to even register a crime when a young girl was abducted for a forced marriage and whisked away into Bangladesh. Instead, the abduction was registered in a police diary, a simple listing of events that requires no further investigation. Many of the thousands of children that go missing every year are listed in this diary, the impotent record of crimes not worth solving.
Kolkata, the capitol city, is host to roughly half of the 50,000 prostituted women who work in West Bengal. A study done by the ICDDRB shows that nearly 25% of those women were forced by violence into the sex trade, while nearly 70% were forced by poverty, the invisible trafficker. Kolkata is the closest major city within easy reach of traffickers looking to sell a child.
Other cities are as close as a few hours by train. Traffickers use India’s vast train system to effectively transport victims to major cities throughout the country. In February a young girl from Darjeeling, a Himalayan town in north West Bengal, was recovered in Delhi, nearly a thousand miles away. Police have recently begun conducting surprise raids on trains leaving the capitol. By looking for telltale signs of trafficking, police have already identified hundreds of victims. But they are just scratching the surface.
Unfortunately, much of the region’s dire poverty can be accredited to one man, Jyoti Basu, West Bengal’s longest standing Chief Minister (1977 to 2000), and party member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). His long stay in office earned him the unofficial title of “The King of West Bengal,” and his radical economic policies— a steady acquisition of fertile lands and a forced transformation from agrarian economy to an industrial one— have arguably driven the impoverished people of West Bengal deeper into despair. This grinding poverty, symptomatic of so many communist states in the last century, amounts to extreme vulnerability for the people, namely women and children. Communism is a scourge that has primed nations for human trafficking as a global trend by destroying local economies. Much like other communist regimes, Basu’s inner circle was well insulated from the economic side effects of communism, and his party has been accused of enjoying a posh lifestyle at resort locations while profiting from an administration-backed prostitution ring.
While the CPI(M) has lost its hold on the region in recent years, the economy of West Bengal is still suffering the effects of the policies put in place by the King of West Bengal. Dire, rural poverty, inefficiency and apathy of police forces, easy and unmonitored access to the whole of India by train, and hundreds of miles of unprotected international borders make West Bengal a dangerous place for children. If a child goes missing in West Bengal, they are almost certain to never be found again.
- Pray that God would raise up righteous leaders who would help stimulate the economy and raise West Bengal out of poverty.
- Pray that God would send revival to the red light districts of West Bengal.
- Pray that Jesus would expose prostitution rackets and aid police in finding victims, that the fear of the Lord would descend on West Bengal.