Some ideas, George Orwell said, are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them. And Indian politicians act on many such ideas, we may add. One of these is that a government department can… well, hold your breath… spread happiness. As if happiness were a good or service! The Madhya Pradesh government has actually implemented it—or whatever passes in the name of implementation.
A year ago, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan constituted the Rajya Ananda Sansthan (the State Happiness Department). The job of spreading happiness, reports Hindustan Times (September 22), “has fallen on the more than 33,000 unpaid volunteers such as [Ishwar] Patidar.” The guy “is expected to spread happiness in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur though the marginal farmer, who is forced to supplement his meagre income by giving tuitions to children of his neighborhood, is himself in despair.”
The situation would have been laughable had it not been for the plight of anandaks or happiness volunteers. To begin with, it is the height of intellectual bankruptcy and political arrogance to believe that something as abstract as happiness can be delivered as an entitlement. Even that may have made some sense in a developed country like Norway or Sweden where everything works perfectly: police maintain law and order; administration works for the people; politicians think about the next generation. The countries where human development indices are extremely high.
But a happiness department in India? Ours is a country where cops are used by the ruling party (whichever is in power) to further its ends, the administrative apparatus is rickety and corrupt, and politicians think of the next election. This is the reason that there is so much poverty, underdevelopment, chaos, misery, and of course unhappiness in the first place.
Come to think of it, the folks who are responsible for the mess—essentially, politicians—want us to be happy! We may say that this is a joke, but the joke would be on us. For the entire political class is busy fooling us; CM Chouhan’s stupid idea of Rajya Ananda Sansthan is one of the many that the powers that be promote to maintain their own hegemony over us, the people of India.
Let’s see how. The Times Of India reported on September 18 that there are three cops to protect each VIP but just one for 663 common persons. Therefore, “India remains among the least policed countries in the world.” So much for our netas’ concern for us.
Like police, the purpose of administration machinery is also to keep our political masters happy. In Delhi, potholed and dug-out roads, overflowing sewage, untidy parks, encroachments on main pathways, etc., are very common; everybody has seen them in their surroundings. When we go to the authorities, they tell us fairy tales and offer lame excuses—‘multiplicity of agencies’, ‘shortage of funds’, ‘insubordinate staff’, et al.
However, when it comes to Lutyens’ Delhi, everything works perfectly. There is no water-logging at, say, Teen Murti Lane, no overflowing sewage at Janpath, no dug-out passage by a telecom company at Sunheri Bagh Road. There is no shortage of funds, insubordination of sweepers, or procedural bottlenecks. The same is true, more or less, in the Civil Lines of all other cities and district centres, for these are the localities where important politicians, senior bureaucrats, big businessmen, etc., live.
For the rest of us, there are all manner of excuses, promises, bhaashans, and now, at least for the people of MP, a Happiness Department.