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India is happy, and the rankings just don’t match

Group of happy Gypsy Indian children lying in a circle - desert village, Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India.

Group of happy Gypsy Indian children lying in a circle - desert village, Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India.  

This country has its own quotient of happiness, and on any given indicator it could well stand out in its own way

As I settled down in my designated seat awaiting my turn to receive my degree diploma (which I expected to become the gateway to all the riches in life), I could see the happy faces all around. Proud parents, family members, friends, and a host of dignitaries, all had gathered together on the beautiful campus for the annual convocation ceremony.

The day was March 20, also celebrated globally as the International Day of Happiness. (Don’t worry if you missed out on wishing people on social media, it’s a fairly recent phenomenon, started in 2012).

I was very amused at the choice of that date by the organising committee. I am sure it was planned to synchronise. It was also the day the World Happiness Report 2017 was published, where all the member-countries of the United Nations were ranked based on their degrees of happiness.

I could see India doing well all around me where I was. But it was astonishing to find the country sitting abysmally low in the ranking at 122, much below Pakistan (80), Bangladesh (110), China (79) and Nepal (99). This made me curious and I decided to investigate (although I don’t endorse either of these practices – curiosity or investigation).

The World Happiness Report has been published annually since 2012. The idea is to try and measure the subjective well-being of people so that the focus of public policy in a given country shifts away from the quantitative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers towards quality of growth. It is also supposed to give a push towards more and more research on happiness and the factors contributing to it.

Fair enough. But when I looked at the factors that had gone into this year’s ranking I was shocked. There was no way India could have been ranked so low in the list.

There were broadly four social factors at play – social support, trust, perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity. I am sure there has been a conspiracy against our country on a global platform, which needs to be called out (five points for patriotism).

Social support has been measured in the report as having someone to count on in times of trouble. How could India do badly on this? After all, India is a country of strong communities, joint families with a culture of sharing and caring. And time and again we have showcased this beautifully.

The most recent example that I can see in the public sphere is the way some parliamentarians stood up against victimisation of one of their own who got banned from flying due to alleged misbehaviour with the staff member of an airline. As he stood up to speak in the House, bruised and battered in the battle against the tyranny of multiple airlines that imposed a flying ban on him, I could see the immense respect he generated from various corners of the House. How can we say we don’t have someone to count on in times of trouble?

No matter what the trouble is, in India you will always find support (be rich and powerful, please). Another factor used in the report is the perceived freedom to make life decisions. I am amazed at the blatant neglect the report has shown towards the efforts our country has made to ensure this freedom.

There is full freedom with a small asterisk mark. Freedom to choose food (*unless it is Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), freedom to watch cinema (*but no ladies-oriented content about lipsticks and burkha), freedom to love (*but it should be different sex, same caste and in accordance with Indian culture), freedom to divorce over the phone, and so on and on. So many freedoms, such less appreciation.

Generous donations

The report also talks about generosity as measured by recent donations for charitable purposes. We are a donation-oriented society. Whatever we earn, we donate. We are generous people. Maybe we bargain with rickshaw-pullers, road- side vendors, domestic helpers and porters, but we do not bargain hard. We show a charitable mindset.

Every once in a while we also get charitable at the traffic signals. We also donate to political parties, sometimes even pay their legal bills. Sometimes when we feel we haven’t contributed enough we go back to ‘Being Human’ and donate generously. So how can India be ranked low on this? We trust our leaders. We trust their kids and in future we will trust their kids also. We believe in genes. We have a scientific temper.

Then how come our country has been ranked so low in the list? I smell conspiracy here. This looks like a well-coordinated attempt at maligning our country’s reputation on a global scale. This demands attention. As a responsible citizen of my country, I feel offended. My sentiments have been hurt. I am sure that after reading this you must be feeling the same. Come join me in my protest and together we can shut a few shops, burn a few vehicles or call for a bandh. We must unite to show the world how happy we are!

rishabh.raj15@iimb.ernet.in

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 4:10:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/india-is-happy-and-the-rankings-just-dont-match/article18190887.ece

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