Sasikala Rajeswaran, Editor, Sawdust
Let’s aim at becoming Happy India
Aim at Happy India-min
UN’s World Happiness Report has some bad news for India which is aiming to be world’s one of the largest economies in the coming years. India’s rank at 133 in World Happiness Index is a drop of 11 spots from last year. At 133rd rank, India is just 23 ranks away from the bottom. Most of the emerging economies like, Mexico (24), Brazil (28), Argentina (29) and Malaysia (35) have fared far better than India in World Happiness Index . All the South Asian countries also ranked better compared to India. It is to be noted that Happiness Index is an appraisal of the general well-being of a nation rather than an indicator of personal happiness.
The ten happiest countries in the overall rankings also enjoy ten of the top eleven spots in the ranking of immigrant happiness. Finland is at the top of both rankings in this report, with the happiest immigrants, and the happiest population in general. The closeness of the two rankings shows that the happiness of immigrants depends predominantly on the quality of life where they now live, illustrating a general pattern of convergence. It is to be noted that immigrant happiness, like that of the locally born, depends on a range of features of the social fabric, extending far beyond the higher incomes traditionally thought to inspire and reward migration. The report reveals that the countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries, but instead the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives. Therefore, it is foolhardy to believe that development alone can bring about happiness among people.
In this era of smart cities and urban migration, we need to do an introspection as to why India ranks so low in World Happiness Index. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with one of the largest number of billionaires in the world. At the same time, it is also a reality that India has one of the largest population living in poverty. Year after year we have been trying to pull up the people living below the poverty line, often by changing the goal posts, there has not been much change on the ground as has been revealed by the World Happiness Report. We are continuously sliding in the Happiness Index, indicating that there is some basic flaw in our policy.
There is an urgent need to reduce inequities in access to decent housing, health care, water and sanitation in the country. We need to focus on social inclusion and civic engagement in city planning. Such participation can improve mental well-being and general happines. This is important for all urban residents, but particularly for disadvantaged communities.
India’s recent upward movement in Ease of Doing Business was aplauded by many while our slide in Happiness Index has gone almost unnoticed. It shows that the word ‘Happiness’ is still alien to majority of us.
In a country where air freshner manufacturers are lining up to set their units is indicative of the kind of environment we are all living in. Cities where people roam around wearing mask is not a sign that we are moving in a right direction to climb up the World Happiness Index ranking. Poorly managed public utlities and crowded public transports are not indicators of a happy country either. Cities where immigrants live in constant state of fear do not guarantee that locals are a happier lot. In a country where vehicles struggle to move on pothole filled roads and trees are cut down in the name of development, state of happiness is still a far cry. Smart cities may provide solution to some of the existing problems but at the same time may also create fresh troubles!
Unless we take some concrete steps to move up in the Happiness Index in the coming years our journey to become super power will be of little value to the masses. Every dollar added to our GDP should be able to wipe out at least one drop of tear.