Gross National Happiness

This is a concept that evaluates the collective happiness of the citizens of a nation. The concept was introduced for the first time by the fourth Dragon King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangcchuck in the year 1972. From 2008 onwards, it has been declared as the goal of Bhutan in the Bhutanese Constitution. There are 4 identified pillars that form the GNH—sustainable and equitable form of a socio-economic development within the country, conservation of the environment, promotion and preservation of culture and good governance of the nation. Apart from the four pillars, there are 9 domains that govern the concept of GNH– health, utilization of time, good governance, community vitality, living standards, education, psychological wellbeing, ecological diversity and resilience and cultural diversity. A GNH index is mechanized to measure the collective happiness, and the GNH Project Screening Tool is used in order to ensure its success before a project is launched by the GNH Commission.

The World Happiness report of 2019 indicated that Bhutan ranked 97th among the 156 countries surveyed. Independent researchers showed that among the population of 780,000 people, the concept of ‘subjective happiness’ had escalated and this increase affected people of all ages in the period 2010- 2015. Findings also pointed out that it had laterally benefitted the household income of a significant portion of the population. The GDP of this country has only accelerated ever since 1922, and according to the World Bank report the gross national income of this country per capita has not reached a high record. Over the last 2 decades, the unemployment rates in the country have not gone beyond 4%. While material wealth might be one of the indicators of well-being, the preachers of this concept often put forth the idea that happiness comes from being content with intangible things.

The democratic government in Bhutan emerged in 2008 and prior to that, the Bhutanese government was accused of practicing ethnic cleansing at an extensive rate in order to remove the non-Buddhist section of the population. Reports released by the NGO Human Rights Watch revealed that about 100,000 Hindus were removed from the country because they could not be included within the Buddhist culture. The Refugee Council of Australia labeled the government of Bhutan as practitioners of Gross National Hypocrisy instead of Gross National Happiness.

Hence, in certain parts of the world, this initiative has been criticized as a strategy adopted by the government to conceal its image of a country which practiced ethnic cleansing from the world. Critics have also pointed out that the tedious efforts of the country to preserve one of its four pillars (culture) has compromised on the nation’s ability to preserve and provide a safe space to the ethnic minority of the state. Moreover, when the surveys were conducted 2010 to 2015, only 7,153 people were interviewed who comprised only 0.9% of the total population of the country. Thus, the probability of the survey producing improper results is definitely very high.

In India, Madhya Pradesh was the first state that implemented a ‘Happiness Index’. The state government had entrusted the responsibility on IIT-Kharagpur to seek a quantifiable parameter that defines ‘what makes a person or a population happy’. In July 2016, they organized the Anand Mantralaya, which is also known as the ‘Ministry of Happiness’. The Chief Minister of the state, Shivraj Singh Chouhan was appointed as the ‘happiness minister’. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed jointly between the state government and the Indian Institute of Technology- Kharagpur to devise a Happiness Index that would measure the collective happiness of the state. It was decided that the first step towards measuring the happiness of an individual would be to complete a designed questionnaire. Measuring happiness could be a task when the tangible and intangible things were to be accounted for.

According to the surveys of the World Happiness Report released in the year 2016, India was disappointingly placed at the 116th rank. The second survey in 2017 only witnessed India’s situation in terms of happiness getting worse when it was ranked 122nd of all the 156 countries surveyed. Whether the concept will have a high success rate in future is questionable, but in the present fractured social and political landscape of the world, it is an argument which is worth it and should at least be considered in the present.

Picture Credits : Steel 360

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