March 20 has been designated as ‘World Happiness Day’ by the General Assembly of the United Nations. World Happiness Report 2019 released then by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network figures India at 140th place out of 156 countries of the world. This figure is sharply seven dots down from the last year, which recorded the 133rd rank. It is incredibly a disastrous and discreditable note for the emerging ‘super power’ and ‘vishwaguru’ (world teacher), as some fanciful people ‘happily’ make-believe our nation to be.
While the Nordic nation ‘Finland’ scores the first place in the world rank of ‘happiness’, consecutively in the second year, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and The Netherlands happily follow the ‘graceful’ row. Our small-sized neighbours on either side, Pakistan and Bangladesh, stand more credited with 67th and 93rd positions respectively. South Sudan dwells at the 156th and the last rung of the ladder as the unhappiest guy, probably for its war-torn state of affairs, as Central Asian Republic, Afghanistan, Tanzania and Rwanda closely follow it in the reverse order.
The World Happiness Index is a major indicator of the status of global happiness, in terms of ‘how happy the citizens perceive themselves to be’. This report highlights the evolution of happiness in human individuals and communities, in the context of social norms, conflicts, government policies, technological development, GDP, social security, and the like. This year it focuses specifically on six variables that sustain wellbeing, such as income, freedom, trust, healthy life, expectancy, social support and generosity. Besides, this seventh survey of the United Nations has noted increase in ‘negative emotions’, like sadness, worry and anger, as the key reason for unhappiness in the world.
One would wonder how could our ‘Incredible India’, which mesmerized the United Nations and the world in 2015 with the credit of ‘international yoga day’, be ‘unhappy’ to this extent! Could it be that yoga, which claims all sorts of wellness and wellbeing, doesn’t deliver what it promises, at least not enough? In line with the significant strengths India is believed to possess and is accustomed to project to the world, Indians should definitely have been happy above 60%, if not 70. Perhaps, it should have been one among the ‘top ten’ countries of the world. In any case, the real story of our land is otherwise, that too, towards the reverse end and it is extremely a matter of concern, tragically so. Further, India has a huge deficit of ethics in individual and social life, notoriously so. It is a pity that immunity from ethics and pursuing one’s own whims and fancies also have not helped Indians to be contented in life. It has to be admitted with good sense that India is not in ‘good shape’, at least as regards matters that can make its citizens reasonably happy in life.
The report shows up the root cause of the pathology of unhappiness. ‘Negative emotions’, like sadness, worry and anger, have been in play in the Indian society since time immemorial, in recent times in special. Discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, caste, class, creed, language, ideology, culture, food habits, dress patterns, etc. have been part of the mainstream life of the country, in major and minor ways. Lately, partisan thinking, divisive ways and communal politics, along with rape, killing, lynching, war-mongering, and the like have added to the chaos of discontent and tension in social life. Hike in the population, especially of the illiterate and weaker sections, manifestly, add gloom to the given society. The selfish game of moneyed and powerful quarters has left the majority of the population alone with their miseries. No wonder, networking for unity among the diversities of the country becomes fragile and distance among communities increases. As a result, there is an upsurge of ‘negative emotions’ of anxiety, worry, anger, irritation, hatred, etc. and the humans remain unhappy.
Moreover, as the report suggests, the policies of administration and government at local, regional and national levels is the most important factor in measuring out to the citizens a climate of social security, collective wellbeing and all-round development. While weak ethical fibre in life, along with the ensuing lawlessness and restlessness, is a general reason to the misery of our country, lack of ethical commitment to the wellness and wellbeing of the citizenry from the part of the officialdom is the specific cause. Since external development seems to diminish open, generous, inclusive and participatory ways among individuals and groups, harmony and balance among the diverse institutions and social sectors as well as communities is negatively disturbed. In such an awkward predicament, how on earth this country could be a happy nation?
Should India get rid of its miserable plight of unhappiness and find itself at least on the forward track, instead of the reverse, it calls for a ‘major surgery’ of mindset and lifestyle. ‘Ethical fibre’ has to be strengthened. Scientific temper and realism have to be improved in religious matters. Hypocrisy and foulness have to be overcome in individual and public lives. ‘Good governance’ has to be the policy and practice of government and administration. Shunning the imaginations of being ‘super power’ ‘vishwaguru’, individual wellness and collective wellbeing of the country has to be focussed upon. The ‘rhetoric of lies’ has to be replaced by decency, honesty and transparency in public as well as private life. Custodians at all sectors and levels have to ensure that everyone lives one’s share of duties and allows others their share of rights. Honest and hard work has to be made the personal culture of life.
What’s more, exclusive ways at all levels have to be substituted by ‘inclusive, participatory and collaborative’ ways. Policies, schemes and affirmative action have to be evolved for the ‘rundown, depressed, poor and marginalized sections’ of the country, on a priority basis. The counter culture of befooling, cheating, enslaving and exploiting the weaker citizens of the country has to be combated with a positive and spiritual outlook. The engagement with the sacred, along with the cherished ideals and values of the country, has to produce ‘humanly and divinely transformed emotions of positivity and fulfilment’. ‘Inclusive thinking and harmonious living’ has to be the watchword of life. The religious and political sectors have to be edited to this effect, in a major way. At long last, ‘happiness’ is the most precious end product of human life. India, our dear country, should not be left to its ‘dejected and disgraceful’ plight. All its citizens should live essentially a happy life. For sure, India has to learn to ascend the ladder of happiness in the frame of the world human society. Well, an honest, well thought out and all-out ‘home work’ is in store for us, leading to a ‘restart and refresh’, in the direction of a brighter future for India. A ‘Happy India’ is the ‘New India’ that is to the fore of us!
(The author is Founder Director of Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies, New Delhi, and can be contacted at email@example.com.)(Published on 1st April 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 14)