Congress says Chouhan govt using happiness volunteers for image correction ahead of polls | india news | Hindustan Times
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Congress says Chouhan govt using happiness volunteers for image correction ahead of polls

Madhya Pradesh, the first state in India to establish a happiness department, in August 2016 (Andhra Pradesh followed suit the next year), has nearly 35,000 happiness volunteers.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2018 17:32 IST
Shruti Tomar
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan during MP Foundation Day programme in Bhopal.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan during MP Foundation Day programme in Bhopal.(PTI File Photo)

The Congress is not happy at the manner in which the ruling BJP is trying to spread happiness in Madhya Pradesh through its happiness department — the Rajya Anand Sansthan.

As the opposition sees it, the government is using an army of happiness volunteers, called Anandaks, to generate hype about itself and its work in the build-up to the assembly polls expected this year. “All this is just an image-correction exercise,” said state Congress president Arun Yadav.

“Most of the happiness volunteers are either BJP workers and supporters, or government employees,” added Yadav.

MP, the first state in India to establish a happiness department, in August 2016 (Andhra Pradesh followed suit the next year), has nearly 35,000 happiness volunteers. Officially, none of them is paid for spreading happiness. Also, the department functions directly under chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

BJP leaders scoff at the opposition’s allegations, as do the department’s officials and some happiness volunteers, asserting that no one is told to hail the government or its work.

“The opposition is unnecessarily trying to politicise a good move of the state government,” said Deepak Joshi, minister of state for school education. “We never heard that volunteers are publicising the government’s schemes.”

The happiness department’s CEO, Manohar Dubey, said, “To publicise government schemes is not a part of our training. In our model of happiness, we try to bring inner happiness by way of motivational speeches and encouraging people. If people are propagating government schemes, they must be doing it at individual level and we can’t stop them.”

What MP’s happiness volunteers are trained to do
  • Motivate people to hug someone, give up seat for someone, allow someone to precede you in a queue, talk to a stranger, give parking space to someone, buy fruits for colleagues, cook for neighbours, visit a lonely person, tend a neighbour’s garden, take a convalescing person for a drive
  • Motivate people to meditate so that they can hear their inner voice
  • Urge people to sit together in parks and enjoy nature’s beauty to relax their minds
  • Help resolve differences in government departments by increasing coordination among employees

Several happiness volunteers say they do talk about the government’s work. They insist there is nothing wrong in doing so.

Bhagwat Rajput, the BJP’s IT cell head in Shajapur district and also a happiness volunteer, said, “What’s wrong in publicising the government’s schemes if it benefits common people?”

Another happiness volunteer, Seema Mishra, a government school teacher in Jabalpur, said, “Happiness can also be spread by making people aware of how the government is trying to make their lives better.”

Incidentally, MP is expected to bring out a ‘happiness index’ this year in coordination with IIT Kharagpur. People would respond to a questionnaire and their responses would be the basis to measure the happiness quotient.

The Congress believes all this is very convenient for the Chouhan government.

“The debt-ridden state government created the happiness department to benefit itself because, on the ground level, nobody has seen any major effort to make people happy,” said Congress chief spokesperson KK Mishra. “When farmers are killing themselves daily, many women are being raped daily, children are dying of malnourishment, youth are suffering due to unemployment, how can you talk of happiness? All this is sham,” he added.

MP was the first state in India to establish a happiness department, in August 2016 (Andhra Pradesh followed suit the next year). A brainchild of the CM, the department is inspired by Bhutan’s concept of measuring ‘gross domestic happiness’ – adopted in 1972 by the Himalayan kingdom’s fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.