Most of India's bonded labourers are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, which makes them practically untouchable to those who might want to assist them in literacy or liberation. Some are born into unpaid servitude, as their parents were in stone quarries, rice paddies and brick kilns. Others are lured into servitude by employers or by debts that may never be repaid. A 1992 report estimates at least 5 million adults and 10 million children working without pay in India, whose population nears 844 million. Since 1980, one humanitarian organization has freed more than 40,000 bonded labourers from around India. Labourers caught escaping may be shot or beaten to death.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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