All smiles in Indian province at new ‘ministry of happiness’

Madhya Pradesh initiative to include yoga and meditation in bid to ‘augment serenity’

Children celebrating a festival of happiness and togetherness, in Indore, India. Photograph:  Arun Mondhe/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Children celebrating a festival of happiness and togetherness, in Indore, India. Photograph: Arun Mondhe/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

 

A “ministry of happiness” is being instituted in the central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh, to enhance people’s contentment, “augment serenity” and to make them smile.

Modelled on the lines of the Gross National Happiness Index, introduced in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan in 2010, the happiness ministry will be responsible for the emotional and mental wellbeing of its citizens, state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.

It would also gauge the growth of the state, which is one of India’s poorest with a large population of illiterate tribesmen, rather than the more recognised gross domestic product or GDP.

Mr Chouhan is expected to head the happiness ministry, which will supervise 70 social programmes including yoga, meditation, spirituality and the arts.

“The state will be made responsible for the happiness and tolerance of its citizens and will rope in psychologists to counsel people on how to be always happy,” Mr Chouhan said recently.

A member of prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr Chouhan linked a rise in happiness to recent political developments involving the federal government.

He said growing nationwide happiness was a result of Mr Modi becoming prime minister in May 2014. Mr Modi, he added, was “God’s gift to India” and a “boon from God”.

Mr Modi, like Mr Chouhan, is a yoga practitioner and has appointed a fully-fledged ministry to oversee this ancient Indian physical, mental and spiritual discipline. Mr Modi was also instrumental in getting the UN to declare June 21st as International Yoga Day last year.

“Happiness will not come into the lives of people merely with material possessions or development, but by infusing positivity in their lives, so that they don’t take extreme steps like suicide in distress,” Mr Chouhan said.