With an aim to reach out to the people of Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet has planned for a Happiness Index which kicked off this week with most of its ministers certifying themselves as “extremely happy” at best, and “very happy” at worst. Next on the cards are Anand Utsav, Anand Sabhas, Anand Ka Vigyan research wing, Anand Dals and Anandam events, planned by the Rajya Anand Sansthan (State Happiness Department) as measures to spread happiness. Notably, in July 2016, the state had announced plans for the country’s first ever Happiness Index, to be prepared by March 2017, for its 7.25 crore people. The government said it would come out with measures to make people “happy and satisfied”, and then ask them questions to determine their level of fulfilment. A Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the 16 ministers present marked themselves out of 35 on a five-point questionnaire aiming to test their levels of happiness. Most of them gave themselves a score of 28 or more.
The ministers were asked to mark themselves on the following points, in Hindi: ‘My life, on most counts, is closer to the ideals that I cherish’; ‘I am satisfied with my life’; ‘My life’s situation is best’; ‘I have got those important things that I wanted in my life’; and ‘If I got a chance to relive the life that I have lived so far, I, more or less, won’t change anything’. Legislative Affairs Minister Narottam Mishra said the score of most of the 16 ministers fell within “extremely happy” and “very happy”. A score of less than 22 would have put them in “not so happy” or “sad” categories.
“I gave myself 28 marks. Your body should be fit, you should be able to exercise, walk, and digest, for you to enjoy life,” Jails and Public Health Engineering Minister Kusum Mehdele, 73, said, the Indian Express report said. She added that she could have fared even better on the questionnaire. “I am very happy, but I could not give myself more marks because only recently I was hospitalised after vomiting blood. The idea of happiness is as much physical as it is psychological and spiritual.”
School Education Minister Deepak Joshi, the son of former Madhya Pradesh CM Kailash Joshi who was denied a ticket in the last Lok Sabha election, was among the few who barely made it to the list of happy ministers. Joshi, who gave himself a 23, said he did not entirely agree with the way the questions were framed. “A politician’s life is very different from an ordinary man’s and they can’t be subjected to the same standard of happiness because realities are very different.”
The questionnaire for the public, in fact, may be slightly different. Ministers wouldn’t talk about the marks CM Chouhan gave himself.
The other happiness plans were announced after the meeting. These included a week-long Anand Utsav to be held from January 14 to 21, with traditional games and cultural activities to be organised in nearly 10,000 gram panchayats. The government has earmarked Rs 15,000 for each panchayat to hold the activities with the help of volunteers. There will be no competition, it has been specified, with the idea being for people to “enjoy themselves” with games such as kabaddi, wrestling, tug of war, cycling, spoon race, and sack race, among other things.
The research wing Anand ka Vigyan (Science of Happiness) will come up at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal, while Anand Dals are set to come up in districts and development blocks, “to actively involve people in spreading the idea of happiness”. The dals (squad) will comprise registered volunteers, while sub-divisional officers and district collectors will work as coordinators.
Anand Sabhas will be organised in secondary and higher secondary schools, with special programmes to teach students life skills and “how to live a satisfied life”. In government and semi-government offices and local bodies, special activities will be conducted as part of “Anandam” events, so that employees and officers work in a “positive and satisfied atmosphere”. The CM has announced a website, http://www.anandsansthanmp.in, where volunteers can register themselves, while the public can submit suggestions. These volunteers, designated ‘Anandak’, are expected to work without any honorarium.
The first hurdle may be finding such volunteers though, with not many registering in the first three days of the website going online.
CEO of Rajya Anand Sansthan Manohar Dubey, earlier secretary of the Madhya Pradesh State Public Services Commission, is planning to issue advertisements to create awareness. Admitting the response has been slow, he said, “It has been lukewarm because before the people could read or know about it, the demonetisation scheme was announced.”