In 1972, King Wangchuck of Bhutan declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” The concept was revolutionary.
In the Kingdom of Bhutan, GNH is captured in the form of a GNH Index. It includes nine domains such as Psychological wellbeing, Health, Education, Time use, Cultural diversity and resilience, Good governance, Community vitality, Ecological diversity and resilience and Living standards. The nine domains are equally weighted because each domain is considered to be equal in terms of its intrinsic importance as a component of GNH. The domains are supported by 33 indicators that are measurable.
Taking inspiration from Bhutan, in 2012, the United Nations declared March 20 to be observed as the International Day of Happiness. The day recognizes that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well-being of all peoples. Since then many countries have followed the concept and framework on GNH.
The GNH Index identifies four groups of people – unhappy, narrowly happy, extensively happy, and deeply happy. The analysis explores the happiness people enjoy already, then focuses on how policies help increase happiness and sufficiency among the unhappy and narrowly happy people.
In the last census carried out in 2015 by the Ministry of happiness in Bhutan, 35% of the population answered ’extremely happy’, 47.9% said they felt ’moderately happy’, and only 8.8% of respondents said they were ’unhappy’.
I don’t know the results if we polled on GNH Index in Mumbai today. With all the potholes on the streets, garbage being thrown on the beaches and pollution in the air, 90% of Mumbai’s population will be in the category of “unhappy”. Those “deeply happy” must be 5% consisting politicians, builders and contractors. May be the bureaucrats in Mumbai will fall in the categories of “narrowly happy” and “extensively happy” depending what portfolio is allotted to the “babus” for administration.
In the 2018 edition of the World GNH report, India ranks 133 out of 156 countries. And India’s happiness rank is falling each year. This is disturbing.
When I expressed my concern to my Professor Friend, he was not perturbed. He lit his cigar and said
“We are already addressing the happiness issue. Did you know that Madhya Pradesh is the first State in the country to have a department of happiness to boost the wellbeing of citizens? The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government created this department in July 2016 and tasked it to ensure “the happiness and tolerance of its citizens” by creating an “ecosystem that would enable people to realise their own potential of inner wellbeing”. The department is supported by a State Institute of Happiness that is responsible for “developing tools of happiness”, and thousands of “happiness volunteers” who conduct “happiness tutorials and programmes”.
I was aghast to know about this initiative. Professor continued.
“More than 25,000 “happiness volunteers” have signed up and these volunteers will work in the State’s 51 districts, holding “happiness tutorials and programmes”. Under this programme, week-long Happiness Festivals are organized. These festivals are targeted “to put a smile on every face”. The festivals get people out of homes, bring them together, and make them happy. The aim is to forget the worries of life and enjoy together. The idea is to spread the virtues of “goodness, altruism, forgiveness, humility and peace”.
Wow. I presumed the Government bears all the expenditures on spreading happiness. But how long such week long festivals will sustain? Besides don’t we have enough of festivals to celebrate already. I wondered whether all this would spawn another bureaucracy of happiness.
“Don’t look at these programmes in a narrow perspective Dr Modak” Professor retorted “After all we need people to have a positive mindset. We will try to achieve this through school lessons, yoga, religious education, moral science, meditation and with help from gurus, social workers and non-profits.
I thought Professor sounded like a Godman.
“And this concept is spreading in other States as well – albeit in different forms”. Professor told me about Happiness Commission that has been set up by the Andhra Pradesh government led by Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu. Here the Commission has proposed to create walking tracks for citizens in all the municipalities, development of parks with sitting and jogging spaces, introduce electric buses and CNG auto rickshaws in place of petrol or diesel vehicles and creation of cycling zone in the municipal areas to promote a health living style.
This TDP driven approach focusing on social infrastructure was certainly different from spiritual based masterplan propagated in Madhya Pradesh by the BJP Government.
But I couldn’t understand why such a sudden interest in GNH in India, and especially when we are close to the elections.
Professor said “Dr Modak, I in fact welcome this move. This is the way to convince people that happiness is a “state of mind” and is not necessarily linked to “materialistic essentials and comforts” to our lives. Rich people are often unhappy, and a poor can be a happy person based on the outlook. Once people understand this de-linking between materiality and happiness; they will not resent even if the Government and for that matter previous Government fails to provide the essentials such as Roti (food), Kapada (clothes) and Makan (housing)”
“Oh, so clever, So you don’t need to be accountable to the promises made in the election manifesto “ I exclaimed
“You got it Dr Modak” Professor got up from the chair and extinguished his cigar.
May be one of the slogans in the coming up election is going to be “don’t worry and be happy”.
Madhya Pradesh is one of India’s poorest and most agrarian states, and a severe drought has left it with the country’s third-highest suicide rate among farmers. Madhya Pradesh also suffers from high malnutrition, infant and maternal mortality, and the highest rape incidence in the country.
Three years ago, Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay cast doubts on the country’s popular pursuit of Gross National Happiness (GNH), saying that the concept was overused and masked problems with corruption and low standards of living. In 2013, Venezuela announced a “ministry of happiness”, but it did not stop the country from descending into social and economic chaos. [Taken from BBC News]