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Happy children, happier world

Who says happiness cannot be measured? The annual World Happiness Report brought out by the United Nations proves otherwise. The World Happiness Report ranks countries based on a happiness index which mainly depends on factors such as freedom, trust, social support, healthy life expectancy, and generosity among others. In 2018, the World Happiness Report evaluated 156 countries. Of these countries, Finland topped the list, and Burundi came last. India stood at an all-time low of 133. In 2017 and 2016, India was ranked at 122 and 118 respectively. Rather hard for the country to accept this fact.

What makes people of countries like Finland, where some parts hardly get any sunlight and temperatures are as low as -20 degrees for the most part of the year, happy? Or a small landlocked country like Bhutan in the Eastern Himalayas rank well above India in the list? There must be something that’s different in these societies.

Several studies credit factors such as high quality of life, healthy work-life balance, low levels of corruption, and high literacy rate to the high happiness index in Finland. Bhutan is a happy country for different reasons. While other countries might rank high based on their economic advancement, among other factors, Bhutan gets its high ranking based on its spiritual contentment. Another reason could be low levels of pollution, says research, making Bhutan quite the paradise on earth.

Understanding the reasons behind the happiness quotient of other countries makes us wonder where India is slipping. One major contributing factor to this developing economy could be the economic inequality. A study, conducted by the British charitable organisation Oxfam, reveals that the richest one percent bag 73 percent of the country’s wealth. Whereas, the poorest get one percent. This shows a huge disparity between the rich and the poor in the country, creating a rift.

It would not be wrong to point out that Indians are increasingly lacking empathy. There have been a number of cases where victims of accidents were lying in a pool of blood and passers-by simply shot the incidents on their smartphones, not bothering to help. This is one of the major reasons for the low ranking on the World Happiness Report, as is the rampant corruption in the administration. Be it in meting out justice or ensuring the welfare of people, India is known to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. In fact, the Corruption Perceptions Index released by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked India at 81 of 180 countries!

As grown-ups, they can contribute to building a happier society, a happier world, one where everyone is treated equally, where values are held in high esteem, where abundance stems from goodwill and the will to do good.

It’s clear why Indians are unhappy. No wonder India ranks at 133 in the World Happiness Report. The good thing is, the Delhi administration has come up with a novel initiative to address this issue. It has introduced a ‘happiness curriculum’ for children from nursery to class eight.

“Why children?” one might ask. Including happiness in their syllabus serves the larger purpose of education—to prepare children who, as grown-ups, will build an egalitarian society. It is novel for an education system that has long thrived on rote learning. Now, the education addresses the need for holistic development of children. It aims at making them more intellectually alert, morally sound, and emotionally balanced.

The administration intends to accomplish this by including value education, meditation and mental exercises. They aim to produce happy individuals who can proactively serve the society and help build a more positive and futuristic India.

This comes as a welcome move, as children indeed grow up to be happier individuals when their development is holistic in the formative years. As grown-ups, they can contribute to building a happier society, a happier world, one where everyone is treated equally, where values are held in high esteem, where abundance stems from goodwill and the will to do good.

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