Six worries stare at Madhya Pradesh’s happiness

  • Neeraj Santoshi. Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Jul 17, 2016 16:34 IST
Gas tragedy victims at a hospital in Bhopal. Over 5 lakh people were maimed and around 15,000 killed in the industrial disaster which struck the city in December 1984. (Mujeeb Faruqui/ HT file)

Madhya Pradesh on Friday became the first state in the country to have a department of happiness. But, it will have to deal with six unhappy areas to make people happy, finds out HT investigation.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who himself will head the department, says people need something more than food, cloth and shelter to be happy. However, experts say that these are the very factors which make most of the people unhappy in the state if one goes by the figures and their ramifications.

Unhappy Poor

Nearly one third of the state’s population is poor. This is one unhappy factor as it keeps MP among the poorest states in the country, as per the figures quoted by the Suresh Tendulkar Methodology and the Rangarajan panel report. The Tendulkar Methodoly identifies 31.6% of the state’s population ( around 2.3 crore out of 7.27 crore) poor based on the 2011 census. The C Rangarajan panel report of 2014 says the state has 44.3 % poor (nearly 3.2 crore people out of 7.27 crore ) — about 45.2 % in the rural areas and 42.1% in the urban areas. Experts say this clearly shows that a huge section of people is still struggling for two square meals.

Food security activist Sachin Jain says that even the state government’s 2013 figures show that there are 7.7 million poor households in the state. “This shows that over one-third of MP is poor despite rich resources. I think somewhere down the line, the economic model adopted by us has increased the gulf between the poor and the rich. If people are enabled to tap their rich resources, they will become prosperous and happy in real terms.”

Unhappy farmers

There have been about 18,687 farmer suicides in MP during the past 15 years, according to the state crime records bureau. The farmers have apparently been unhappy with regular crop losses due to weather vagaries and a thick-skinned government approach to bail them out.

Experts say this means over three farmers have been committing suicide in the state over the last 15 years.

Social activist Anurag Modi says the fact that the state government had to create a happiness department means people are not happy here. “Otherwise, you don’t need to create it. The fact is that you can’t make farmers happy with happiness departments and smart city projects. You have to make farming profitable and happy experience for them. The government has to strengthen the village economy, otherwise unhappy farmers will keep committing suicides”, he says.

Unhappy women

The state remains most unsafe for women in India with over 5000 rape cases reported annually. According to the 2014 NCRB figures, the state tops the country’s rape list. This, experts say, means about 14 rapes take place every day. These are just the reported rapes. The actual numbers could be much higher, they say.

In January this year, a four-year-old girl was raped on a school bus by its conductor in Ujjain. In another incident, a 14-year-old girl was gang-raped on a moving bus in Singrauli district in April last year. But what is worrying is that the annual rape figures have increased over the last few years instead of showing a decline.

Women activist Rolly Shivhare says that by creating a happiness department government officials will be happy, not women in the state. “Every day women are being raped and sexually harassed here. How can we be happy in such an unsafe atmosphere? If the government wants to everyone happy, it should take strict measures to check rapes, sexual harassment and sexual offences here,” she says.

Unhappy parents

According to the latest figures released in June, the state has topped the country in infant mortality rate (IMR) for the 12th successive time, raising a big question mark on the healthcare, especially at the primary level in the state, experts say.

MP has the highest IMR with 52 deaths of children less than one year of age per 1000 live births, according to latest sample registration system (SRS) baseline survey 2014 released by the registrar general of India last month. Also, the maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in MP stands at 221 against 167 per 1,00,000 live births in the country.

Prarthana Mishra from NGO Sanghini says, “You can’t have happy a society when so many parents have to see their infants dying before their own eyes.” She says unless the basic issues are addressed, the department of happiness will remain just an empty slogan.

Unhappy childhood

Malnutrition continues to claim and maim young lives in the state. According to health indicators released recently by the National Family Health Survey -4, about 42 % of the children under five years in the state are stunted (height for age), 25.8 % children are wasted (weight for height) and 42.8 % children are underweight (weight for age). The figures also show that 68.9% children aged 6-59 months are anaemic. The skewed sex ratio (number of females per 1000 males) of MP also remains a concern. MP’s sex ratio is 931, which is below national average of 940 as per census 2011.

Safety of children is a major worrying factor for parents here. Over 53,000 children have gone missing from MP between 2010 and 2015, averaging 25 disappearances each day, according to the latest figures released by NGO Child Rights and You (CRY).

Amulya Nidhi from Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), an NGO that works on healthcare in MP, says that unless the state government strengthens the health at primarily level and improves the quality of education at the basic, level they can’t provide a better healthy childhood to children here. And that means unhappiness, Nidhi says.

Tragic unhappiness

Bhopal gas tragedy occurred in December 1984. But, the world’s worst industrial disaster is a continuing tragedy for the affected families. Over 5 lakh people were maimed in varying degrees and roughly 15,000 people were killed. Even after over three decades, toxic waste lying on the premises of the Union Carbide Plant here continues to contaminate the ground water, according to gas activists. Affected people are still battling with the aftermath of the tragedy.

Bhopal gas activist Abdul Jabbar says be it justice, or economic rehabilitation of the victims, or ensuring clean water in the gas-hit colonies, nothing has been taken to its conclusion. “Gas widows are still fighting for pension as it has been discontinued, nearly ten affected colonies still struggle for clean water, toxic waste keeps giving nightmares to people here. How can gas affected people be happy when they feel they have been abandoned by the state government?” he says.

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