Happiness index is a western concept. A realistic one will make us unhappier | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Happiness index is a western concept. A realistic one will make us unhappier

Take for example, healthy life expectancy. In a country where getting access to basic medical support is itself a dream for many, how can we be judged on “healthy” life expectancy?

editorials Updated: Mar 21, 2017 17:07 IST
Students of Panjab University mark International Happiness day, Chandigarh, March 19, 2017
Students of Panjab University mark International Happiness day, Chandigarh, March 19, 2017(.Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times)

This will make many unhappy, but so be it. India ranked 122nd out of 155 countries, even behind Pakistan and Nepal, in the global list of the happiest countries, according the World Happiness Report 2017. What’s worse, the country, an “economic giant”, has gone down four notches in the ranking.

Among the eight Saarc nations, Pakistan was at 80th position, Nepal stood at 99, Bhutan at 97, Bangladesh at 110 while Sri Lanka was at 120. No prizes for guessing which nations figure at the top end of the list: Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland.

If this is of any solace to Indians wallowing in China, another “economic giant”, is nowhere in the first 10. The report concluded that its people are not happier than they were 25 years ago.

And even Britain is not in the top 10 though former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 started a national debate on developing a “wellbeing index”.

Since India unfailingly quibbles about all standards used by these global lists, there will be some reserved for this one too: The parameters are too “western” is the usual refrain.

This happiness index is based on GDP per person, healthy life expectancy, social support during times of difficulty, freedom to make their life’s choices, and sense of how corrupt their society is. We agree these might alien concepts to us.

Take for example, healthy life expectancy. In a country where getting access to basic medical support is itself a dream for many, how can we be judged on “healthy” life expectancy? On social support, we have the big Indian family, so social support is hardly of any importance to us. Then there is that wishy-washy parameter called freedom to make their life’s choices. At a time, when we don’t even know where we have the right to eat the meat of our choice, this is so superfluous. Last, but not the least, corruption. It’s a way of life here, for god’s sake! How can anyone even ask such a banal question!

Now that we have finished trashing the index, (we reiterate) a “western conspiracy” to make us feel inferior, think how we would have fared if it was based on things that are close to our hearts since the last 70 years: Roti, kapda, and makkan.

Or a few new ones: Access to clean water, primary education, and the latest fad, internet connectivity.

So don’t waste time devising a new one. We’ll be at the bottom of the barrel, anyway. As someone said once upon a time: Don’t worry, Be happy.