The United Nations’ seventh annual World Happiness Report was released on this year’s World Happiness Day (March 20). The report has measured six variables ~ income, freedom, healthy life expectancy, social support, generosity and absence of corruption as they support the well-being of the people.
Unfortunately, the World Happiness Reports over the last four years have showcased India’s downfall of as many as 23 ranks from 117 out of 158 countries in 2015 to 140 out of 156 countries in 2019. Indeed, we have been sliding down from 117 in 2015 to 118 in 2016 (down 1 rank) to 122 in 2017 (down 4) to 133 in 2018 (down 11) and now to 140 in 2019 (down 7) in the World Happiness Index.
Growing unemployment, which is now at a 45-year high, growing farmer’s distress, growing intolerance and growing inequality in our society have undoubtedly contributed to our growing unhappiness. Now, our position is only better than Afghanistan (at 154th rank) among our neighbouring countries. All other neighbouring countries namely Pakistan (at 67th rank), China (93th), Bhutan (95th), Nepal (100th), Bangladesh (125th), Sri Lanka (130th) and Myanmar (131st) have outscored us in happiness indices.
Nordic countries are known for their welfare economics. They give top priority to the well being of their citizens including health and education. Naturally, they are as usual at the top of the index. The five Nordic countries got their places among the first ten countries with Finland at the top, Denmark second, Norway third, Iceland fourth and Sweden taking the seventh position.
Sometimes, we blame it on overpopulation for our not doing well for the welfare of the people. But we must not fail to notice that the Netherlands with a much higher population density (488 per square kilometre) than India’s (382 per square kilometre) has achieved 5th rank in the World Happiness Index and 10th rank in the Human Development Index whereas we have relegated to 140th and 130th rank respectively in these two indices.
Growth can be counterproductive if it is unequal. Unequal growth is bound to cause rift and unhappiness in a society. According to the 2018 Oxfam report, the top 1 per cent of the India’s richest people have increased their wealth by 39 per cent as compared to just 3 per cent increase in wealth among the bottom half of the population.
Things have come to such a pass in our country that while the top one per cent have got 51.53 per cent of the national wealth, the bottom 60 per cent have only 4.8 per cent of it! The Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said, “If this obscene inequality between the top 1 per cent and the rest of India continues, it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country.”
To add insult to injury, a section of political and media players are trying to vitiate the atmosphere with hatred and distrust. We need immediate policy review to arrest jobless and unequal growth by ensuring social security and employment and clean hatred and distrust from political and media narrative.
Sujit De, Kolkata