Increase in production and thereby increase in national income is normally considered to be a measure of development. Gross National Product, therefore, becomes the measure of development which is calculated by multiplying production of goods and services with their respective prices. Human development is measured in terms of average per capita income, level of education and health as indicated by life expectancy. If we closely look at the human development index we find that nations that have achieved high levels of income also tend to attain higher levels of education and health standards. However, happiness which defines the quality of life remains a neglected index.
In 1974, the then king of Bhutan Singye Wanchuck propounded this concept of national happiness index as he believed that increase in production alone could not be the basis of human development. Thus, in the measurement of development, happiness should be an integral element. Since then Bhutan started giving utmost importance to the happiness of its citizens. The Happy Planet Index, which ranks countries in terms of happiness, has placed the US at 150th position in the list of 178 nations, Singapore at 131st, France at 129th, Canada at 111th, UK at 108th and Germany at 81st. India ranks 62 in this list. Surprisingly, Bhutan, which is ranked 131 in terms of the human development index as published by the United Nations Development Programme (2008) is at 13th position in terms of the happiness index. Bhutan is the only developing country securing a place within the top 20 on this index. At present, three factors — life satisfaction, expected life span and environment — are considered in measuring happiness.
Eighty five per cent of the world’s assets is concentrated in the hands of only 10 per cent of its people. Cut-throat competition, envy, ill feeling, etc, are common in the process of becoming rich. This explains why the richest countries rank low on the happiness indices.
According to the new Constitution of Bhutan, all Government policies and programmes related to agriculture, transport, external trade, etc, would be judged based on happiness caused by them and not on the basis of economic benefit they bring. This is an approach that we too in India would do well to follow.