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Janwaar Castle is a learning camp with a skatepark at its core. It's a social experiment and the goal is to transform the village of Janwaar into a wealthier and more prosperous place.

Photo by Vicky Roy, Janwaar Village

Janwaar is a small village close to Panna in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh – one of the biggest and poorest states in India. Madhya Pradesh is the heart of India. 1000 people live there, a mix of Adivasi and Yadav.

The people in Janwaar were relocated from the Panna National Tiger Park when the park was founded. Each family got a piece of land and ten lakh Indian Rupees (approx. 15,000.00 USD) to start a new life. The village has no history, it hasn’t grown up over time – the houses are widely spaced and meet minimum standards. In fact I would say they’re better than in many other villages in other rural parts of India, probably because of the government money provided. The village has electricity, not in every house though, and it comes with the usual cuts of 6-8 hours a day. Water and sanitation is a big issue. During the hot summer months (April-June) when the temperature easily climbs above 45 degrees Celsius there is hardly any water – the next water pump is so far away it’s hard for the women to carry the water back home. There are no health facilities in the village.

There are also no shops, stores or businesses in Janwaar. Many houses are locked up because families have left to find work elsewhere. In Panna too (80,000 inhabitants) there is hardly any work. Unemployment is high and it’s causing problems. The young men are hanging around acting macho like little lords of creation but not moving a muscle to make a more decent life for their villages. On the contrary, they make things much worse. In the early hours of the evening they start drinking their local wine and rum, and when they’re pissed out of their tiny minds they’re in a fit state to go home and beat and abuse their wives and very often their kids too. It’s disgusting, abominable but unfortunately way too often just part of the fabric of daily life.

Those who live in Janwaar are farmers or they collect wood which they sell in Panna. There’s no public transport – so if you want to leave for somewhere you have to walk the 4 km to the main road. The connecting road is in surprisingly good condition. I haven’t seen a car in the village, some people own a motorbike, a few have bicycles. There is one government school (up to grade 8) and one pre-school. They provide a simple lunch for 150 children – the main reason why children are sent to school. The school is poorly equipped – meaning no electricity, no furniture, no extra learning material besides standard issue school books. The upside is that the teachers seem to be there on a daily basis and that the school looks pretty clean. There are four toilets but without doors or curtains which would give the girls some privacy. Also, the drains aren’t working properly.

All in all, there are properly 300 children living in Janwaar.

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