The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Wednesday 29 February 2012


I know her as much as you know her if you have come across news reports about this lady, who had been living on the Chinchpokli platform for three months. On 27th of February, Mumbai’s tabloid Mid Day had published this story about 90-year old Savitri Kashiram Desai that how the Chinckpokli platform had been her home for the past three months; how her son’s family abandoned her after she fell down and became immovable; how the daily commuters started taking care of her brining food and water daily and medicines and clothing as and when needed; how some of them took to the active campaigning to reunite her with her family or find a shelter home for her.

After a day of it, Mid Day published impact story that Savitri Desai’s son had taken her back to home. Probably, the mounting social pressure and the threat of the social stigma forced him to do so. Though, wary of harassment as the consequence of causing social humiliation to her family by being in news for the wrongs committed by the same family, she decided to go back after reassurances by her son and some of her new-found and sincere well-wishers. One of them said he would visit Savitri Desai at least once a week to see if she was being treated well.

Savitri Desai at Chinchpokli platform (Photograph sourced from the Internet)
To know more about Savitri Desai, I tried to google with the search string ’90-year-old at Mumbai station’ and what the first page showed told was corresponding to the large scale deterioration of ethos of everything that we perceive as the Indian way of life. Though being so specific ‘a search criterion’, the search result showed other cases where a 90-year-old was thrown out of the house by family members. This is what I bumped in on the first page of Google search. (I am not going into some similar story headlines linked on further pages.)

  • Mumbai: son takes abandoned 90-yr-old mother home
  • Son takes abandoned 90-yr-old mother home
  • Abandoned by family, 90-yr-old lives on railway platform
  • 90-year-old living at railway station collected by son -
  • Discarded by kin, 90-yr-old lives on railway platform @ Mumbai
  • 90-year-old found murdered in her flat, News - City - Mumbai Mirror
  • Son arrested for killing 90-year-old woman - Times of India
  • 90 year old man thrown out of the house by daughter-TV9 – YouTube
  • 90-year-old living at railway station collected by son - AJ Allmendinger
On the first page, I found this story where a man killed his 90-year old mother while the other one said a 90-year old was thrown out of the house by son-in-law and daughter. (Link to the TV9 story:

It is miserable for a society that preaches the world positives of the joint family systems. It is pathetic for a society that preaches Orientalism to the world.

It is horrible by the very magnitude of the multiplying number of such incidents. India might bask in the glory of having the largest chunk of the working-age population but it is yet to move actively on handling a larger threat of social disintegration that is staring right at the face.  

According to the data and projection of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, India had around 98 million people over the age of 60 and this figure is projected to be 173 million headcounts by 2026, we can say almost 10 per cent of the population.  

Given the way, the social norms are trending in India; more and more elderly people are going to live alone, either by the migration of their kids to better career avenues or by forced separation as was the case with Savitri Desai.

While doing some random search, I came across this Times of India report of 2009 that said two senior citizens got abandoned daily in Chennai. Another NGO report says quoting an estimate that around 40 per cent of the senior citizens living with their families face some sort of abuse. I wish this report is wrong as I could not authenticate the veracity but even my personal experience, too, has been quite disturbing.

While collecting data for old-age homes and the reasons behind the increasing number of people in such homes, I can say almost of the elderly people living in the old-age homes have bitter truth of forced separation from their families. They miss them but most of them do want to reunite.

Another disturbing aspect is that over 23 million elderly are classified below the poverty line and one of the World Health Organization studies found that economic dependence was a major factor in increasing cases of elderly abuse in India.

Savitri Desai’s case reminds me of Mr. Moterro, a resident of a Badarpur old-age home. He was there for some time before one of his relatives came and took him back. We came to know later on that Mr. Monterro has some property in his name. Though we don’t doubt the relative who took him back but at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact the he was abandoned by his family.

So like that well-wisher of Savitri Desai, we, too, have plans to have some visits of Mr. Monterro. I hope we will come across a happy and content Mr. Monterro. I pray for peaceful days in the prime of Savitri Desai’s life.

There are legal remedies for elderly but nothing works as very few are able to get support to follow the dark alleys of the Indian juducial system. We need the mindset change.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Evening Raga at Ganga..

“An evening at one of those quiet Ganga ghats - in close correspondence with the rhythmic flow of the waves - emanating from within, aligning with the silently talking creation – inculcating the sense of sublime remoteness - its BLISS”

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Morning Raga at Ganga..

 “A morning at Ganga overlooking the sublime flow of the eternal water from its ancient ghats is worth some really perceptive spiritual learning. And it is for all. Come and explore the inner you.”

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Monday 27 February 2012


December 10, 2011 – they showed their mettle for the first time.
December 24, 2011 – they defied all the analyses of being an impulsive fizzle by turning up again in tens of thousands.
February 5, 2012 - a day after Putin’s supporters rally in Moscow and a month before March 4 Presidential election of Russia – they came back again – tens of thousands of them, weathering the Moscow chill of minus 22 C.
And on February 26, 2012 – in the next leg of the ‘PLANNED’ protests’ – yes they made it again!

Yesterday, on February 26, as had been planned, thousands gathered again to mobilize masses and spread awareness on Vladimir Putin’s intent in the context of allegations of wide-scale rigging and fraud in December 4, 2011 Duma polls and its subtext on the Russian Presidential poll on March 4.

And came today the news as announced on Russian television that an attempt on the life of Vladimir Putin had been thwarted!

This is not the standalone case. There have been over a dozen attempts on Putin’s life since 2001 according to a media report. But never had it generated the skepticism like this time. There were reasons then for the incidents to be taken seriously. And there are reasons to get skeptical about it now.

Yesterday’s protest was about to form a human chain in Moscow and that needed around 34,000 heads. Over 40,000 gathered. Thousands collected to demonstrate in St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown. This is symbolically significant, just a week before March 4 election as the ‘planned’ protest events are continuing and gaining strength.

There has been a remarkable trend when we see the changing mindset at every subsequent protest event since the December 4 Duma polls. It clearly tells us the stand being taken by the protesters is hardening.

Thousands came together in different parts of Russia on December 10 alleging wide-scale vote rigging in the December 4 parliamentary elections and the mood of the prevailing sentiment could be gauged the assessment made by the Associated Press - “Frustration has grown with the ruling United Russia party and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for over a decade.”

Different cities witnessed the second Saturday protests on December 24. Most of the independent reports put the Moscow gathering at the Sakharov square to be more than 1,00,000 in addition to the thousands in other parts of Russia weathering the freezing temperature. A WSJ blog post characterized the diversity of the gathering, “The protesters span a huge range, from anarchist activists, communists to popular authors and actors.”

The next big upshot came on February 5 this year when the protesters came again on streets to defy yet another round of analyses that the prolonged time and holidays would abate the fighting spirit. Instead, by the February 5 rallies, the chant to de-Putinize Russia of Putin got even stronger. "We have already reached a point of no return. People have stopped being afraid and see how strong they are together," Reuters wrote quoting a protester.

Protesters had said they would come back on February 26. Thousands of them were at it again forming a 16-Kilometer human chain around the Central Moscow area. And yes, they wore the white ribbons again mocking Putin’s ‘condoms’ synopsis on their peaceful protest symbol. The Los Angeles Times quotes a protester saying "I have come out today and I will come again and again until we become a majority and win our fight for a better Russia.”

This is really a tricky situation for Putin given the implications of such statements. Putin has run Russia with an iron grip but had to do the packaging with taking ingredients like the pseudo-democratic practices, short-term-immediate-return economic policies and the effective control of communication.

But what Putin is facing now is some real problem. These representative observations about the protests on every next planned event show a toughening attitude. History tells us it doesn’t take long for a minority opinion to become majority view in an almost literate and exposed society with Services and the Industry as the major job providers.

According to the US Department of State, the Russian population was 142.9 million at the end of August 2011. The literacy rate was 99.4 per cent. According to 2010 estimates, the total workforce was 75.49 million. Services employed 58.1 per cent of it; industry absorbed 31.9 per cent while 10 per cent was engaged in agricultural production. 

And a Russian population that was not well exposed to the international world and even to the fellow Russians internally has got the taste of the global citizenry by having an ever-increasing presence on the social media highway.

It is in this context of strengthening protests and toughening posture of the protesters, that the news of yet another attempt on Putin’s life, just a week before the Presidential polls, raises questions.

One - it is  its bad timing. Just a week before the polls, so it might be seen like an extension to his acts like the state organized pro-Putin rallies and pro-Putin social media brigades, to gain sympathy to increase his vote share in an election that he is already poised to win, though not with landslide figures.

Other - it is the fishy details about this assassination attempt. Incidentally, these two Chechen assassinators were arrested in Ukraine and accepted to a plot to kill Putin in early February, and that too, after weeks of questioning. Any direct evidence wasn’t made available. One interesting fact is that the last attempt on Putin’s life was just before 2008 Presidential polls.

This all says Putin is not reading the writing the time is encrypting on the wall of Russian democracy. After two decades of a shaky democratic experiment and a prosperous 2000-2008 phase in between, most of the Russians are not prepared to go back to the old days. Explosion of sentiments through the social media and snowballed protests on the ground clearly tell this.

Instead, he, his regime and his puppet friend Medvedev are trying what all dictators try in the intermittent phase on the rise to the absolute dictatorship, manipulating and forcing a flow of pro- opinion to legitimize the rule. So he looks dismissing protests in the lighter vein while his administration works backdoors to armtwist and suppress the independent thinking.

Russia is a place to watch. Things are not going as Putin wants and we need to see how he reacts once he is back in the office as the President.

Will he be the next dictator or has he learnt something after scathing attacks and declining popularity? Only time will tell.

For the moment he looks more poised to become a dictator. A protest poster During the February 4 rally equaled him with Adolf Hitler.

And certainly the World and the Russians, we cannot afford to have another Adolf Hitler.

A protest poster During the February 4 rally equaling Putin with Adolf Hitler
Photo courtesy: UPI
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Saturday 25 February 2012


I had a discussion on ‘focus on international news events in the Indian media’. The way the Indian news media industry is evolving, such subject matters are discussed only in the closed door seminars and it was yet another one. Somehow, I was an unwilling participant to it. So while sitting there, I had no second thoughts about being deliberative on the matter. But yes, I was having some jolly sitting listening to the high-pitched eloquence one after the other.

Midst the series of verbal juggernaut, one thing was oozing out naturally; at least I am sure of that – the frustration of being compelled to follow the TRP dictum – the rgged attitude on the most relevant question. Its relevance has reached to the height of exasperation. It becomes clear from the fact that every such reference to this ‘TRP dictum’ has become so cliché that most talk about it for the sake of talking but very few are ready to be the part of the process on the journey to change.

Anyway, so it was about international news events in the day-plans of media carriers in India. Is there much to talk about?

I don’t think so given the abysmal share of ‘newsworthy’ international news elements on the display. And it is not a big deal given the terrible focus of Indian media carriers on infotainment in the name of news production and presentation. Okay there are few serious players but I am not talking about exceptions here.

The bunch of Hindi news vehicles (and some English, too) can claim to have 'some' international news elements in their day plans, BUT THAT, TOO, LARGELY CATERS TO THE DEVELOPMENTS LIKE ASSASSINATIONS OR DEVELOPMENTS THAT GENERATE DRAMATIC CLIPS AND SNAPS LIKE TSUNAMI, AVALANCHE, FLOOD OR QUAKE! (Though, the expertise and knowledge of international happenings is largely a sterile domain for them coming from a land of zero opportunities!)


So the brutal murder of Gaddafi was repeated again and again to the extent that watchdogs had to intervene to restrict airing of the clips, otherwise what could be said for how long the mad rush to google and air the most gruesome clip would have continued. For two-three days, there wasn’t anything newsworthy on Libya except the few seconds of clips showing the last moments of Gaddafi’s life. Not even a single show was on what would be the road ahead for Libya. Not even a single full length show was on the plight of war widows, orphaned children or raped women though Gaddafi’s female bodyguards were prominently on air.

Similar is the case of Syria. We will have some sort of coverage once the confused international community decides to intervene militarily. The visuals would offer great supplement to the sensation-hungry Indian media. Almost 10,000 are already dead in the terror and fury unleashed by Bashar al-Assad but the misery doesn't echo in the Indian media.

Indian media houses depute almost negligent resources including the manpower for their international news reporting operations. Even the serious players have just four-five outstation correspondents. The international news flow is maintained mainly by the inputs from the news wires and the major chunk is packaged into maddeningly paced 50-100 odd news stories with poor production values.

One global incident stands out that puts clear light on the state of affairs at Indian news media outfits. We had many of our media representatives in Egypt during the Tahrir Square uprising as it was visually so strong. But as the movement prolonged and it seemed the solution was not near, all of them packed up and came back. Pity us. None had the knowledge and the expertise to read the writing on the wall. Just few days later, Hosni Mubarak announced to step down. That was a historic day and not a single Indian media worker was there. Pity them.

Preferences, yes, its matter of preferences! We have broken breaking news stories like this actress is going to deliver a baby or that politician has grown stubble running ceaselessly wheels after wheels.

We had more of Michael Jackson's death stories than reporting on farmer suicides. (17,368 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2009, the year Michael Jackson died.) The controversy surrounding the Peace Nobel to Chinese activist and an honoured voice of dissidence in the iron-curtained country, Liu Xiaobo, almost went unnoticed.
 Yes, it is ‘the’ relevant question of preferences.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Friday 24 February 2012

Faces..Listen to me..

In the prime of life, the only premium they need is the proximity and attentiveness that should come naturally. 
Here, she needs someone who could listen to her, could understand her and could help her reach home, that was there, in her life, until two months ago. 

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Thursday 23 February 2012


Yesterday, it was Benghazi, today it is Homs, the two big towns in their respective countries but certainly not big enough to be known globally as they are known today.

Detailing out the exemplary courage of the common man to stand up to the oppressors and fearless journalism to report the truth, such places also told how lame the global geopolitics has become.

Right from the beginning of the uprising to the stage when the international intervention arrived in countries like Libya and Egypt, it is nothing but a sordid tale of practicing the rhetoric firing empty cannons. It happened in Libya and Egypt and global community is as divided on intervening in Syria as Syria’s internal opposition giving butchery of Bashar al-Assad a free run.

Libyan uprising began on a large scale on February 15, 2011 and calls for international intervention started getting louder soon after as Muammar Gaddafi unleashed terror of mercenaries on his own countrymen. No-fly zone and international intervention came into effect only on March 19, 2011, after a dilly-dallying of 31 days.

Who is accountable for the loss of numerous unaccountable lives that were lost during the phase of indecision of the international community? Similar misery was observed in the case of Egypt. Half-hearted and fractured international community allowed Hosni Mubarak to linger on and unleash his terror on protesters even if he had lost support to the absolute point of isolation.

But what is happening in Syria dwarfs all. We cannot say it is a civil war yet as the divided opposition is nothing but minnows in front of the organized and efficiently militarized Syrian forces. Rather they look like a group of anti-Assad regime forces. Their opposition is in patches unlike the Libyan revolt where the rebels had a united force to exercise maneuverability through half of the country. 

Result – over 9000 have been killed in just few months of the Syrian uprising that gained further momentum after Gaddafi was caught and killed by the opposition fighters last October.

Syria is staring at an acute humanitarian crisis. Shelling and bombing on dissident pockets is continued unabashed. More people are dying from non-availability of food and medicine.  Interview of the Sunday Times Reporter Marie Colvin who was one of the two reporters killed in Homs on February 22 confirms the horror that Syria has become now. Remi Ochlik was a French photographer who was also killed with Marie Colvin after the building that had the makeshift media centre in Homs came under fire. 

How many more lives? How long will it take for the international community to intervene and arrest the Syrian genocide?

Midst all this, have we heard of anything about Bahrain recently? Yemen saw Saleh out but his family’s clout remains in the country. How is it going to take shape - minus any effective international intervention?


Appended here are the highlights of the CNN story and the link to the video and transcript of Marie Colvin’s last interview on CNN.


Story highlights as on CNN website:

  • Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin one of two Western reporters killed in Homs, Syria on Wednesday
  • Colvin gave one of her last interviews to CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night
  • Journalist told of watching, helpless, as baby hit by shrapnel in poorly-equipped makeshift medical center died
  • Colvin: 'The Syrian Army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians'
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Tuesday 21 February 2012


Son, my name is Jeet Kaur Kapoor that is what she said emphatically, in her agitated voice. She was in flow of spontaneous memories, her body language of the moment told.

She has been confined to the front hall of this old-age-home for four years now, with occasional movement within the premises. It was my second meeting with her when I had my second visit to this old age home at Badarpur, Delhi.

A thin, bald silhouette, slightly curved hand and leg curvatures, a clean shawled attire, curious inviting eyes, active gestures to call you and sit beside her – you cannot ignore her. One needs to be attentive with her and she is clearly comprehensible then.

Her bed is in the front hall of the facility that proactively takes mentally unstable abandoned senior citizens. She is camera friendly and asks everyone to click her and yes, it has to be snapped twice in a row and she needs to okay every photograph.

I had clicked for her during the last visit but couldn’t speak to her. This time, while sitting with here, I started the thread of conversation with obvious pointers keeping in mind if we could trace roots of some of the members of this old age home.

I cannot say anything about authenticity of the information that this granny had to share with me, yes, but personally, I would go with what she said as she was telling her life-tale enwrapped in trauma in few simple lines.

Once she starts, she is lucid.

She told her house was in Lakshmi Nagar, Delhi. She even remembers the location, the house in Lane Number 1 of the School Block. She said things that tell us of her past in vague terms like the particulars of the locality during the days she was staying there. She talks of the shopkeepers, daily vendors and the local Galliwalas.

Suddenly she tells me that son, your Visa for US will be granted. You go there, earn a lot, 100 crore. My blessings are with you. One of the caretakers of the old-age home tells me that her husband probably worked for some Embassy as she keeps of repeating this Visa to US thing.

Or there could be this thing – extreme deterioration of everything that is human. Living in memories, probably she keeps on talking about her son. It might be she had been abandoned as her son had to leave for US and he did not want to carry the mother given the high expenditure involved as per the US laws for senior citizens with medical history.  I have come across many such case studies in last one year.

I don’t know what is the truth, that has to be found out, a task that we will undertake, but, the second prospect looks nearer to her real past after she talks about her shaky legs that was full of lesions and worms when she was brought to the old-age-home. The granny says ‘she’ used to beat her and kick her in legs. And for the first, during the whole conversation, tears swept her persona. I don’t know who this ‘she’ is but her words tell me it was someone in her family.

I was lost in her tears. Certainly we are going to find out where she came from but would it serve any purpose given the fact that she was abandoned by her own. And this old-age-home has people coming in regularly.

Jeet Kaur Kapoor – how can we so mercilessly kill an identity?
Is there any of limit to insanity?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Monday 20 February 2012

Onslaught of sentiments..Bizarre..Yet beautiful..

My reflections on life – in quotes (XII)  

The mystery that gets enigmatic,
The enigma that gels with the flow,
Onslaught of sentiments..
Yet beautiful..
You never know..
When it sucks..
When it works"

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Sunday 19 February 2012

एक परिंदा तो ये मन है

वो परिंदा ना जाने कब
साथ आ गया, यूँ ही हमराह होने को

एक परिंदा तो ये मन है
उड़ा जा रहा है खुद की तलाश में
बड़ी शिद्दत से
हाँ, कभी कैफियत में ठहर भी जाता है
जब मेरा कारवां
मेरे काफिले से कुछ दूर रुकता है
और मुझसे पूछता है
आकाश खुला है और मुझे पुकारता है
कहता है के मुझे उड़ना है
तुम्हारी सोच कुछ और तो नहीं
कहता है मुझसे, मत सोचो
उड़ना हो तो असीम
और तो उसने कुछ सीखा ही नहीं
परिंदे की मैं सुनता हूँ ध्यान से
मुझे पता है मेरा ठौर कहाँ है

एक परिंदा तो ये मन है
कदम हैं जिसके जमीं पर
और जमीं जिसका आसमां है
जो कहता है के
मुझे कभी भटकने नहीं देगा
जीवन के पथ पर

और यूँ ही चलते चलते
कुछ लम्हा हुआ
जब वो दूसरा परिंदा
जाने कहाँ से आ मिला, न जाने के लिए
मेरे परिंदे की उड़ान कभी भटकी भी तो
उसे जाने-अनजाने राह दिखा गया
वो मुझसे बिगड़ा, मुझसे रूठा तो जरूर
निशब्द रहे कई दिन 
हाँ मैंने हमेशा ही उसे खोजा  
उसकी नाराजगी से बहुत कुछ खोया तो जरूर
कहीं कुछ बहुत अच्छा रह गया था
दोनों के अंतर्मन में
और मेरे परिंदे मन को इस दरम्यां,
मेरे अंतर्मन की जमीं पर
उस परिंदे का जो साथ मिला था
वो ना टूटा, ना छूटा
जब भी उसने खुद के अंदर झाँका
खुद को उस परिंदे से बातें करता हुआ ही पाया

एक परिंदा तो मेरा मन है
जो उड़ा जा रहा है
जो साथ मिला उसे उस परिंदे का
मैंने फिर से जीना सीख लिया

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Saturday 18 February 2012


Falak is still on ventilator but the doctors said today the infection in her brain is receding. This 2-year old girl is fighting to live a life that was subject to abject brutality. She changed hands, like an object, and what ultimately led her to the bed of AIIMS Trauma Centre is a pathetic story that includes horrific stories of real life characters, people suffering the hell of human trafficking and people inflicting the assassination on everything that have ever been human.

What this case has brought to the surface is nothing but just one example of how coordinated, planned and lethal human trafficking has become in India. We have been hearing such things happening in brothels of the red light areas. Now these activities are being planned and acted upon by the criminal elements in the open society.

A 2-year old girl changes five-six odd hands and finds a 14-year old girl as custodian who herself is a victim sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Her humiliation began at home and circumstances led her to the organized industry of sex traffickers. During this ordeal, she finds a person and flees with him only to be abused again. In frustration and lost-minded state, she batters the 2-year old. Realizing what she has done, she brings the baby to the hospital.

After much intense media scrutiny and public outrage, investigators have been able to locate Falak’s mother, sister and brother. Many criminal elements involved in the human trafficking have been arrested and an elaborate network of goons has been unearthed.

But the larger focus is still not there. Doctors say, even if Falak survives, she will not be able to lead a normal life as her brain infection has overstayed.

At the movement, her treatment is the supreme priority.  But equally important is the issue lingering around her post-operative life and care. And equally important is the need of rehabilitation of her family.

Falak’s mother, abused by her husband, lost her three children and the details indicate an intricate plot of human trafficking. Now that they are located, it is to be seen and taken care of how this helpless and resourceless mother carries and supports her kids.

Media glare is today. Tomorrow it will not be and the concerned stakeholders would like to forget the case very conveniently. That is the time when the sex traffickers attack again. Forced sex trade is flourishing because of the lackadaisical attitude of the society and the government.

Falak is just a case in point. We know there are multitudes not written and reported about. After three months of her gangrape, yesterday, the National Commission of Women confirmed that Babina was raped. The girl is still in hospital, left speechless after the savagery of the canine 'humans'.

Remember Alka Tiwari and Jhunu Behera, two names fighting for life as they could not support the cost of the treatment? There was some media glare some months ago. That is not there now. So it is very hard to find what happened to them. I tried to google, but the last report that I could locate about Alka Tiwari was of November 9, 2011 while in case of Jhunu Behera, it was dated November 27, 2011. It’s almost three months now.

What are we doing? Where is the society heading?

I sound repetitive and so many others but it is the irony of the human existence that such questions have become so repetitive.  

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 

Friday 17 February 2012


This one is a long analytic write-up, so I decided to post in parts, but after feedback, I am posting the whole stuff as one write-up as well.



The Middle Kingdom has been forbidden for most of the analysts (poor and heavily filtered information) but that is not a concrete proposition anymore.

So, this time, when dear Mr. Wen Jiabao, again, advocates for political reforms and opening-up of a closed society, it reflects a realistic assessment and not some surface-deep appeasement rhetoric.

Wukan echoes.

In last few months, this coastal Guangdong village has become a roll model for many suppressed voices in this iron-curtained country. And now that they have been allowed to hold their own election, we can say the unilateral democratic measures (better say a pseudo-democracy, if at all it sees the light of the day) being advocated for by the likes of Wen Jiabao would not be booed down by the Politburo elite as has been the case in past.

Yes, very emphatically, we can say it is not going to bring any miraculous change, a surge of expression of unquenched desire to see the change rising, spreading with this example, acquiring a pan-China canvas.

But indeed, the common Chinese with his benchmark protest address, the non-descript street around the corner, armed now with the social media tools would be seen as the potent symbol of change. (We, out of China, already have started smelling it.)

And equally emphatically, we can say, it has been heard across even in one of the most tightly controlled regimes, in China, where this non-descript village Wukan rose to protest the land-grab policy of the administration and got a stay on further acquisition of the village land. Here we need to take note that the party secretary Wang Yang, who heads the provincial government of Guangdong, played an important role.

It becomes even more important when we place it in the context of the scheduled regime change of the Communist Party this year. Mr. Wang Yang is a potential contender to join the elite nine-member body of the Community Party, the Politburo Standing Committee.

So when dear Wen sounds pro-democratic again using words like farmers’ voting rights, self-governance and direct election in villages, it provides a fascinating platform for the study of the sociological churnings in the world’s most populous nation.

One of the core reasons behind this seemingly sea-change in the thinking of some of the Chinese power elite is the realization that the phenomenal growth of the Internet (adjunct to the improved earnings), mobile communication and social media platforms has armed the ordinary Chinese with tools to share ideas that is very hard to control.

Though, every communication platform including the social media is heavily regulated in China, the extent of users spread squeezes out the mileage from an effective control on the communication flow that intends to kill the waves at the source.

Had it not been the case, the world would have never known about Wukan for the reasons it is known today. We still have varying versions of what happened at the Tiananmen Square in 1989. But we know many things about Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei and many other Chinese activists in clear terms.

Information empowers. Anarchy is good as there has been no order. Chaos is the perfect breeding ground to dimension the order.

But anarchy, in the geopolitical context, becomes a very subjective term.

What is the subjective pretext (if any) in the prevailing Chinese context here?


China has a huge middle class. 40 per cent of this middle class is urban. Recently China’s urban population surpassed its rural population.

Twitter is banned. Facebook is not there. But Weibo, China’s very own Twitter has seen explosive growth.  Over 500 million Chinese are accessing Internet now. Over 250 million users are present on Weibo. A report says about 90 per cent of the urban Internet users are microbloggers under the age of 30.

These two subsets of statements are going to have big, big implications for China in the days to come. Potent enough to push the country in a protracted civil war between the ‘have’s’ and ‘have not’s’, still most of the Chinese power elite barring few are not realizing it or probably are not in a position to realize it publicly.

The Chinese power elite have been in a comfort zone riding high on the apolitical priorities and complacent traits of this middle class, a significantly large population base.

The democratic thought that has been the way the Chinese power elite need:

1978, when China opened up its economy, its rural and urban per-capita income was $19.6 and $50.3 that shot to $606.2 and $2018.4, respectively, in 2007. According to latest figures available, the Chinese per capita GDP crossed the $5,000 level threshold last year. These figures compiled in a government report speak of a 23 per cent year-on-year growth.

Amazing, the common expression about this China story! What has made it possible?

Abundance of migrants - the cheap labour - the 160 million migrant workforce - compelled to work day-in and day-out to kill the memories of China's factory culture social construct. 

A large middle class, always on the lookout to earn that extra security and cushion that was like a distant dream in its previous generation. 
And a spoon-fed nationalist sentiment of China Pride. 
China’s per capita income was 2.52% of that of US in 1980 that improved to the level of 4.05% of US per capita income in 2005. Current per capita income of US is around $48,000, around 10 times to the per capita income of China. So the gap is huge.

Chinese rulers have been feeding its middle class base with a dream of life of luxury in the days ahead when China will be world’s largest economy. It is already the second largest when it overtook Japan when China’s GDP totaled $1.337 trillion ($1.288 trillion-Japan), 90 times bigger than what China had in 1978.

Though impressive growth, the perception about its prowess and mighty status, militarily as well as economically, that the world’s most populous country has been very deliberately developing since 1978, has an inherent risk.

The dream to chase and bridge this gap has been the prevailing nationalist sentiment among the burgeoning Chinese middle class. Their income is growing and no doubt, China has tried to distribute the gains to its rural areas, too, but there has not been much headway. Its corrupt system is failing it. Urban-rural chasm is getting viral. 

Characteristically, for the urban population, that directly reaps the benefits of models as being practiced by China, once people are fed-up of what they have achieved, they look for the next level. And the problem is, the swift pace of change in recent times ($2018.4 per capita income to $5,000 in just four years) has made the middle class sentiment change even swifter. Though controlled, they know the world outside China in much better terms now and are more prone to get agitated once they find the road to the economic empowerment is getting narrower. 

As already happening, China of the future will have a middle class thriving on technological sophistication, connected more to the world and to the Diaspora, and demanding for more and more.

The economy growth is bound to slow down and even stagnate in coming years. 

When such a huge and aspiring middle class doesn’t get its ends met, it starts questioning the state policies. And that phase of class-clash in the ‘classless’ Chinese society has already begun.

It has to have implications. Even by the most liberal estimates, China might fail in the coming future if political reforms are not introduced.

How this ‘layered-society’ China may alter the course of the history that the Chinese Communist Party is going to have?
Economic conditions and social media are making protests more common in China – a delicate time for the country’s rulers – The Economist, January 28, 2012


This flow of information is seditious in the eyes of the conservative power elite and they are far more in number (almost absolute) to literally throw any reform process thought to the bin. They advocate tougher and harsher action to rein-in this ‘anarchy’. Don’t we regularly come across reports of China cracking down on freedom of expression?

But for a burgeoning middle class; but for a rapidly urbanizing population; but for a ‘millions of younger lot’ with ‘US-like-life’ dream to sleep with; but for multimillions of impoverished migrants who help build the skyscrapers dotting the China’s skyline and who know they would never be allowed to be part of that city life; and but for the multimillions of the next generation of this legacy – this information flow is the only empowerment option available and they are likely to go to the extra mile to cling to it.

What is anarchy for the power elite is turning out to be the empowerment hope for over a billion of population (it is unorthodox estimate that includes the population segment with forced compliance, placing the anti-view in majority here but not expressing and so looks in minority, due to a basket of factors – much like a classic case of spiral of silence).

It is bound to grow as the economic gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Subsequently the discontent is rising. Also, China of the day has fatally vital stakes in the global economy. Europe is China’s biggest market. And Eurozone is facing an unprecedented economic crisis. Remember violent ‘Occupy’ protest. Another big market is the US, certainly not in the green of the economic parameters performance.

Last two years have seen spate of strikes in the foreground of the Middle Kingdom and the reasons vary from demands of better working conditions to salary hikes and reinstatements.

It’s not just about sexy and sleek Foxconn, one of Apple’s major suppliers, that has been much in bad news due to strikes and mass suicide threats of workers demanding better working conditions. (Now that is nowhere near to the beauty of an iPad!)  Such strikes have been the common thread all across the Pearl River Delta, China’s manufacturing powerhouse. Poor treatment is already making noise and forcing sensitive politicking of the public domain on this issue in the developed countries. Warnings are being issued. Apple CEO Tim Cook has issued a tough warning to Foxconn. His email reads, “We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made. Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple.”

Expect similar gesture from other big companies if the human abuse in the big factory called China continues. Expect more of such warnings if the volume of the news about strikes keeps on improving its lot.

Social media is helping the news flow circumventing the regulatory tentacles. In case of Wukan, key words on name and place of the village were tried to be blocked. But Wukan happened. And so the voluminous (yes voluminous given the past history of the information flow in China) flow of information is happening.

A report in The Economist presents an interesting observation. It says, “Weibo have transformed public discourse in China. News that three or four years ago would have been relatively easy for local officials to suppress, downplay or ignore is now instantly transmitted across the nation. Local protests or scandals to which few would once have paid attention are now avidly discussed by Weibo users. The government tries hard, but largely ineffectively, to control this debate by blocking key words and cancelling the accounts of muckraking users. Circumventions are easily found. Since December the government has been rolling out a new rule that people must use their real names to open accounts. So far, users seem undeterred.”  

Increasing number of strikes – increasing realization of the widening income gap – increasing flow of information – midst the year of the decadal transition in China’s political leadership! 

The backdrop of the foreground called the ‘economic miracle of China’ looks debilitating.


Later this year, China is going to see the major organizational change with face changes in the 300-member Central Committee, 25-member Politburo and 9-member Politburo Standing Committee. The prevailing economic and political circumstances are unlike the last time when Hu Jintao took the rein.

Growth was good. It was minus the talks of the growth rate stagnation. Cheap labour didn’t see it as coming cheap to the factory factor. Beijing Olympics 2008 had not happened. The world and the Chinese people had not seen the blind rush to look developed even if it meant forcibly throwing the lower strata of the society and the migrant population out of the monstrous Megapolis cities of the ‘new-age China’.

And moreover, there was no social media threat. What seemed unlikely in China of 2002 looks increasingly likely in China of 2012?

Growth rate is coming down and its stagnation is well realized now. All this while, China has been urbanizing rapidly creating marvels of the structural engineering leaving at bay the human engineering exercise. Now as orders are decreasing and pangs of another global economic crisis after the 2008 bloodbath on the bourses looming larger, this urbanization is looking more like a bane.

What would millions of the migrant workers do if the employment generation stagnates?

Prices are rising disproportionate to the income level rise of the millions of workers of the factory China, be it the migrants or the middle class. Pressure on survival and that scarce independent social security in China is rising. Millions of the dreams are dying; the dreams that, somehow, had dreamt of Maslow’s realization.

Slowing economic growth also means China would need to bring down its public spending on those big-ticket infrastructure projects. The country is already under pressure after reckless spending in the name of the economic stimulus. Cities need to send migrant workers back to their villages to ward-off the increasing pressure of public expenditure in the cities.

Most of these migrant workers are second generation semi-skilled hands with no exposure to agriculture. And like any other developing country, rural China, too, doesn’t have anything but agriculture to support the concerned population base.

This subset of the Chinese population has all the rights to get angry on its precarious situation. And remember, they access the Internet, text to the community and have a presence on the social media. A catch 22 situation indeed!

Social media, even if regulated, is giving Chinese administrators nightmares. Information is flowing. Wukan happened and we know it or to say it more aptly – Wukan happened because we, out of China, know it. Thousands of workers of a Taiwanese shoe factory in Dongguan went on strike against salary cut and sacking in November 2011. Factory workers clashed with the police. Photographs of bloodied workers circulated over the Internet reaching to us, out of China. This incident further incited strikes and protests at other outfits. We still know of the 3-day strike by Chengdu steelworkers though the state controlled Chinese media kept quiet about it. There are many more similar case studies to bolster the claim here.

I had been to an international seminar last year, organized at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. The theme was ‘Information and Communication Technology and Development’. A fine Chinese thinker’s paper was on how growing base of information and communication technologies is creating layers (classes) in the Chinese society. It was really an eye-opening analysis. Though his analysis hinges more around widening gap of ‘have’s’ and ‘have not’s’ based on the pattern of information consumption, it also tells how the flow of information is becoming significant in the Chinese society with an ever increasing number of people logging-in and connecting on the networks.

Then there are other head-on factors. Do some simple googling on ‘China’s power transition’ and you would come across plenty of analyses seeing the crisis days ahead.

China has probably the maximum number of factories and the largest workforce. The dragon has extracted the maximum possible mileage out of it. Consistently high growth rate over the last two decades tell it. Global economic scenario and a common economic intelligence tell the growth high is already at its saturation level. The only road further is to go down to have the saner and not miraculous growth figures. That would mean less manpower requirement for lowered production targets.

But what would happen to this plenty then? Factories can be closed but what about those dependent on these factories for their livelihoods? And this has started happening. Result – spate of strikes and protests in the last three years.

A Reuters report puts the number of mass incidents consistently above 90,000 per year from 2007 to 2009 quoting a former deputy editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily. 2010 and 2011 are no different stories. We didn’t hear much about 2007-2009 but have good knowhow about 2010-2011 developments.

What is disturbing for the Chinese power elite is the way strikes happened in 2011. The Economist report says, “A report published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) says that, compared with those in 2010, the strikes of 2011 were better organised, more confrontational and more likely to trigger copycat action.”


Especially when they are the two extremes - one, from the rugged, deprived countryside - other, from the most privileged  section of the Chinese society - with the later feeding directly on the former in the prevailing political scenario in China! (Its only the matter of growing realization and 'how and when' of it) 

The year of the dragon looks ominous for the Middle Kingdom. Much depends on how the Chinese policymakers are going to handle the crisis at hand that may aggravate to the acidic level by the time the power transition happens. The political thought make-up that China is going to have for the next decade will have its testing times right in the face in the very beginning.

And in this China, strange things are happening; strange as the power elite see it. Certainly it is not strange for us, out of China. Rather, it is a natural consequence of what is happening in the China of the day.

‘Children of the revolution’ is a nice-to-ear term but given the intense amount of news flow and analysis on the next generation of Chinese political leaders, it looks as implicating as the cantilevered term ‘the princelings'. A simple search with the thread ‘China princelings’ would fetch thousands of analytic views and news reports and almost of them sound cautious in nature.

Politics in the Communist China is gradually becoming more and more dynastic in nature, the absolute contrary to the socialist politics ethos. Degeneration of the Communist politics looks to get its extreme level with China joining the bandwagon of the ‘dead-men-walkings’ of the Communist politics like Cuba or North Korea.  

Princelings are increasingly having grown up stature in the politics of the Communist Party of China. The Politburo had nine such princelings during 2000-2007. The most elite body, the Politburo Standing Committee, might have five prinelings on-board out of the total strength of nine after the next power transition. A section of the ‘eight immortals’ that was purged by Mao in the Cultural Revolution has its second generation fully reinstated to run the lives of ordinary Chinese. There are factions of the second generation leadership, from political and military backgrounds, vying for the ‘seats’ of power in the next ‘huddle of change’; ‘huddle’ as politicking in China at top level has become a tedious job of balancing different and differing influencing voices. It is yet another concern area that might add negatively to the efforts to control the rising unrest in the country in the year of power transition.

Yes, how the ‘elite few’ of the second generation of the political leadership handle the frustrated multimillions of the second generation of the factory worker Chinese would write how prosperous and developed China would be in the 21st Century.

The prevailing circumstances are disturbing. There are sections of the ‘children of revolution’ armed with liberal education from abroad and there are sections represented by the likes of Bo Xilai, advocating painting China in Maoist Red, taking it back to the days of the Cultural Revolution. The common base they touch is that they are offspring of a political legacy preserved with utmost ruthlessness.

What is different in China from the other Communist ‘dead-men-walkings’ is the economic model that imitates Capitalism now. And it has elevated hopes of the millions. What was once utterly alien had started looking well within reach. The second generation of the migrant Chinese workers and the burgeoning middle class base are its representatives.

Suppressing them declining political reforms would make them alien to the concept of the Communist Politics of the China of the day. When the political and the military class can have secure lives for their next generations, why can’t an ordinary Chinese aspire for it?

An ordinary Chinese has started understanding it. He doesn’t need the sky but a secure income at the end of the day and even that is not happening with the millions.

The 'economic powerhouse' China can handle the economic crisis but how would it handle the precursor of unrest and a deepening desire of having freedom to express the dissent?

A mass crackdown would only worsen the crisis. China, simply, cannot be a Cuba or a North Korea, given its stakes in the global economics and given its changed demographic landscape.

The Middle Kingdom is not at all in a position to remain forbidden anymore. The world is watching. And most of the Chinese now know it. Social media is happening even as the dragon is furious about it.  

How these strikes are being handled is one of the most fascinatingly ignored aspects of China’s demographic turmoil. The usual practice is arm twisting but the subjects are the factory management people here, be it the private firms or the state run institutions. In most of the cases, strikers are bought off by the management after pressure from the area officials of the party. Even then there has been significant number of strikes resulting in clashes. It tells two things:

Either China is compelled to look pro-proletariat in an economy rapidly becoming Capitalistic in its dimensions.

Or China fears the large scale backlash that is brewing among the millions of the factory workers and middle class population. Not able to find any solution, they are going for the momentary relief by co-opting the striking groups.

Any which way, the situation looks sinister. If a socialist country comes under the compulsion of looking pro-proletariat or has to honey-trap striking factory workers, it is an ominous sign for the ruling class.

It tells China is no more in the position of inflicting another ‘Tiananmen Massacre’. This is a demographically changed China with almost half of the population accessing the Internet somehow. The rapid urbanization of China is being termed as the biggest demographic change in the human history. Chinese farmers are taking the concrete dwellings. They constitute more than 60 per cent of the big cities according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

What Wukan tells us?

Though this village is in relatively well to do Guangdong province under a liberal party representative Wang Yang, it is still a small coastal village in the world’s most populous country that is also the third largest in the geographical spread. Wukan is an excellent example of empowerment through information riding on the social media surge.

And if this can be the case-in-point with a Chinese village, we can easily imagine the dots already connected on the information highway in a China that is more urban than rural now.

A significant portion is still, too remote, but this urbanization is more than enough to have real-time consequences for the Chinese power-elite if they don’t work intelligently and humanely to arrest the brewing unrest.

An assessment by The Economist says, “The Communist Party’s capacity to stop ripples of unease from widening is waning—just as economic conditions are making trouble more likely.”
China is staring at the clash of offspring(s) – and the striking chord is, the ambience is not what it was during the Cultural Revolution. The receiving lot is certainly not as complacent or compliant as it happened to be. Similar is the paradox about the commanding lot. They have to remain ruthless and at the same time, have to look liberal, if they continue with the prevailing political set-up in China.  

Mortals are becoming immortals again and this time, there is no Mao.

A cultural revolution is happening in China but it is being fueled by the hopes of having an independent social security away from the pathetic days of the factory China; it is being fueled by the increased access to the hopes of having better living conditions; it is being fueled by creation of an ‘information consuming’ class in the ‘otherwise classless’ China; and it is being fueled by unavailability of this dream to the millions – after all, to aspire is naturally human and precursor to all the revolutions.

Revolutions, don’t they happen like this! – winning to win the better life, fighting with the energy of anarchists - power building rides on the wave of anarchy and consolidates on creating harmony in the post-revolution phase.

China of the moment needs to find ways for it.

Are the ‘princelings’ reading the signs?

Are they aware of the dilemma and subsequent anger of the ordinary Chinese who has lived the horror of the factory China of the not-so recent past?

Are they realizing the frustration of the young working Chinese to go back to that sort of life they have only heard about but would never be willing to go back?

A conversation in Lijia Jhang’s book "Socialism Is Great!": A Worker's Memoir of the New China beautifully captures the essence of the viewpoint of an Ordinary Chinese of a changing China. She writes, "'Revolution is not a dinner party,' our great leader Chairman Mao once warned. But today's revolution seemed to be all about dinner parties — most business deals, official or private, were concluded at a banquet table crowded with expensive items.”

The only road ahead for China is the road to the political reforms and more democratic rights.

How? That is the billion dollar question for the ruling power elite of the Middle Kingdom.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey -