At a time when Madhya Pradesh is reeling under an agrarian crisis, it is important for us to re-visit India’s first “Ministry of Happiness” set up in July 2016 by the state’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Led by Chouhan, the department aims to give people something more than just “roti, kapda, makaan,” as reported by The Hindu.
Now, more than ever before, this “ministry” looks like a mammoth farce. One need not look further than the recent killing of five protesting farmers in MP’s Mandsaur region on 6 June, or the state’s history of malnutrition and farmer suicides. Or the Chief Minister’s much publicised ‘fast’ to ward away these issues.
A Sneak-Peak Into MP’s Happiness Department
A quick glance at the ministry’s calendar is enough to tell you that happiness is to be produced – to be artificially manufactured. Sample this:
List all those who helped you. Thank them.
Well, of course.
MP’s farmers should immediately draw up a list of all the state and Central government authorities who have helped them over the past few years.
The MP government’s happiness ministry website claims that it has over 32, 000 volunteers devoted to the cause, who have ostensibly been organising festivities in villages and schools. What’s more, these volunteers are apparently building happiness clubs at the grass-roots level.
MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had revealed plans for a happiness ministry in April 2016, close on the heels of a rise in student suicides, not farmers, of course, in MP.
The chief minister is of the opinion that economic growth is not the only marker of happiness; “positivity” in the lives of people is crucial.
This rather helpful happiness department of Madhya Pradesh has also furnished guidelines as to how to use its happiness calendar. Looking at this guide to ‘happiness’ it seems that all one can do in the face of a brewing agrarian crisis, is perform each “happiness task” consciously, to escape the drudgery of real life.
Taking a Cue from Bhutan
India is not the first country to come up with a happiness ministry. As an alternative measure of development, Bhutan’s king first conceived the term Gross National Happiness in 1979, which was integrated into the country’s constitution in 2008. Following Bhutan’s footsteps were countries like Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.
Andhra Pradesh government, led by CM Chandrababu Naidu, too, decided to start its own ministry of happiness in 2016, emulating Madhya Pradesh. Now there’s a third state to join the happiness bandwagon – Maharashtra.
As per a 5 June 2017 report by The Indian Express, the Maharashtra government has organised a seven-member committee under its Relief and Rehabilitation department, directing it to design a scheme within three months, which will provide guidelines for this ministry’s functioning.
So Much for Happiness
To put things in perspective, a 2011 United Nations Development Programme report placed Madhya Pradesh at the bottom-rung of the inequality index, with regard to human development indicators. For that matter, the country as a whole has consistently ranked poorly on the annual happiness index.
Not only has MP’s performance been among the poorest on the human development index, joining the ranks of Assam and Uttar Pradesh, this report suggests that in 2016, there were an estimated 6,667 farmer suicides from just five states alone, including Madhya Pradesh.
Clearly, what the state government has devised is nothing but a simulacra of happiness.
Scroll.in quoted Bhopal-based RTI activist Anand Rai as saying:
MP has among the highest rates of maternal mortality and malnutrition deaths. Everyone from farmers to Dalits and tribal groups are agitating or upset with the government... Give us proper governance, and we won’t need any happiness department.
However, according to our Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, the real issues are located elsewhere. All they need is happy-happy quick fixes, Madhya Pradesh style.
According to NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), causes of suicides include family problems, illness, drug abuse/addiction, unemployment, property dispute, professional/career problems, love affairs, barrenness/impotency, cancellation/non- settlement of marriage, dowry dispute, fall in social reputation and unknown causes.As told to Indian Express