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Culture, Human Capital, and Change

Bonded labor in India can be viewed as a product of social, historical, economic, and cultural factors. The redress of child labor, agricultural debt bondage, and other violations will require an authentic commitment by the Indian government to adhere to its constitutional ban of these practices, and to overcome class-based prejudices. The Western notion of social responsibility outside of family loyalties does not exist in India. Certain Hindu beliefs such as the notion that a person’s role and purpose are determined by his or her status in society have informed attitudes about governmental and social responsibilities regarding labor violations. Within a few generations, poor, low-caste Indians enter and perpetuate a cycle of poverty and illiteracy; children often abandon school and join the workforce. The effects of an increasingly sophisticated and prosperous India have not reached its poorest and least educated citizens. What remains to be seen is whether India—as its development and economic trajectories improve—will invest meaningfully in the protection of human ri