On a day when the world was shattered with the terror attack in the French city of Nice during Bastille Day celebrations killing more than 84 people, the Madhya Pradesh cabinet cleared a proposal for creating a "Happiness department".
As a whiff of fresh air, MP becomes the first state in India to create an "Anand Vibhag". In the world of worries, the move is aimed at making the people of the BJP-ruled state relatively free of their anxieties.
The move was afoot for the last few days. MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had tweeted this ten days ago:
Matter of great pleasure & pride that Madhya Pradesh is soon going to become the first state in the country to set up #MinistryofHappiness.— ShivrajSingh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) July 5, 2016
MP could not have launched the initiative at a more opportune time. Dastardly terror attacks have seized not just the world but parts of India as well. MP itself is beset with several problems like malnutrition, rape incidents and deaths related to the infamous Vyapam scam. Several parts of the state are reeling under floods.
On the brighter side, the Chouhan government has been launching a variety of initiatives to improve the condition of several sections of the people - checking child marriage, promoting community marriages and distribution of cycles to girl students for free. The state government will launch on July 25 a drive to eradicate malnutrition.
A novel drive 'Surjane Se Suposhan' to be launched from 25 July. State Govt is committed to eradicate malnutrition. pic.twitter.com/vQjUYJYwEo— CMO Madhya Pradesh (@CMMadhyaPradesh) July 10, 2016
However, creation of the Happiness Department is the most novel of the ideas.
It aims at ensuring that all government departments in the state function to bring about happiness into the lives of citizens. Online suggestions from citizens are being invited guidance of renowned personalities is being sought to make #HappinessDepartment an ideal one.
Chouhan firmly believes that happiness cannot be gauged just on basis of material happiness or GDP. The department aims at increasing the "percentage of happiness", besides the material development, value-based development will also be targeted. The prime objective of government is to bring smile on everyone's face. In toto, the government's aim is create an ideal system to ensure that life becomes a blessing for the people.
Chouhan's initiative got a thumbs up from none other than the Art of Living proponent Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - perhaps the most suitable person to accord recognition to the unique initiative.
An overwhelmed Chouhan could not hide his joy.
— ShivrajSingh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) July 6, 2016
Though Chouhan had earlier announced that it would be a ministry, there was a change in plan and the cabinet cleared it as a department, which is likely to be directly under the chief minister's charge.
While setting up the Happiness department, Chouhan seems to have taken a cue from Bhutan. Its fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, had coined the idea of a gross national happiness (GNH) in 1972. The purpose in Bhutan was a bit different. It wished to have an economy to preserve the kingdom's culture based on deeper values, instead of only material development aiming at a constant increase in GDP.
For Bhutan, the four pillars of "happiness" are sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.
Writing for Mail Today, Claude Arpe stated: "Though very few took note of the 'happiness idea' when it was first expounded, four decades later, things have changed. Today, as the world starts looking back at the mess it has created, many believe that 'after all, this GNH was perhaps not so naïve'.
"In 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy, the [then] French president, commissioned a study of alternative gauges of economic welfare, while in 2010, the UK began measuring the 'national well-being'. The UN has already released its third World Happiness Report."
While Bhutan has shown to the world the door to happiness, it can only be desired that MP in India proves to be the trail-blazer, leading other states to follow suit in boosting the "happiness index".