Happiness, most would say, is a state of the mind.
Madhya Pradesh has laid out an ambitious plan to create that perfect state of mind for the people, becoming the first state in the country to have separate department for happiness.
The state cabinet on Friday gave its nod to creation of the department, to be called ‘Anand Vibhag’ which will identify the parameters of happiness, make policies and implement all projects.
Said to be a brainchild of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the department has its roots in Bhutan’s concept of measuring ‘gross domestic happiness’ – adopted in 1972 by the Himalayan kingdom’s fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
‘Economic prosperity cannot be the only parameter of happiness’
Chouhan said after the cabinet meeting that economic prosperity cannot be the only parameter of happiness.
“People need to have the pleasure of ‘man, atma aur buddhi’ (mind, soul and intellect),” said the BJP leader who is a strong advocate of the Hindu way of life that lays stress on spiritual and philosophical enrichment over material achievements.
Chouhan had announced creation of the department during the state BJP’s executive meet in Bhopal on April 1.
The government studied parameters adopted by the United Nations – which put happiness on the global development agenda in 2011 -- besides the US’ and Bhutan’s for measuring the happiness index of society.
Bhutan’s concept of gross national happiness has four pillars for a healthy index – good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. It is calculated based on nine parameters including psychological wellbeing, health, education, living standards and cultural diversity.
CM has a tough job at hand
Chouhan, however, has a tough job at hand given the fact that social indicators in the state are not too encouraging.
Official data show that since 2001, nearly 19,000 farmers have committed suicide, most of them due to economic reasons.
Statistics released in June have also put MP on top in infant mortality rate among all states with 52 deaths of children less than one year of age per 1000 live births.
42.8% of the children under five years are underweight, according to an official survey. The maternal mortality ratio of 221– mothers dying after giving birth – is also way too high than the national average of 167 per 1,00,000 live births.
The crime rate including atrocity on women too has shown a marked rise in recent years.
‘The index of happiness is impossible to determine’
Well-known writer-poet Udayan Vajpeyi said the new department should not try to create parameters of happiness but help the people “find their own”.
“The index of happiness is impossible to determine…A poem that makes me happy can evoke neutral sentiments out of anyone else. A genuine plurality, which guarantees the acceptability of cultural thoughts and actions, would be a genuine happy society.”
Chouhan, who is likely to keep the department with him for the time being, said specialists will be invited to give suggestions on programmes to be taken up by the government which has earmarked an annual budget of Rs 3.80 crore.
The Congress mocked the government saying the move to create the department “corroborated” opposition charges that BJP regime has failed to provide happiness to the people in its 12 years’ rule.