P.K.Vasudeva | 27 MARCH, 2016
NEW DELHI: Denmark took the top spot as the ‘happiest country’ in the world, displacing Switzerland, according to The World Happiness Report 2016, published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative of the United Nations.
With no improvement in its happiness quotient, India stands at 118th number out of 156 countries in a global list of the happiest nations, which is a matter of grave concern. Switzerland was ranked second on the list, followed by Iceland (3), Norway (4) and Finland (5).
The report said that India was among the group of 10 countries witnessing the biggest happiness declines, along with Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and Botswana. It comes below Somalia (76), China (83), Pakistan (92), Iran (105), Palestinian Territories (108) and Bangladesh (110). The U.S. is ranked 13th, coming behind Australia (9) and Israel (11).
The report, released ahead of the UN World Happiness Day on March 20, for the first time gives a special role to the measurement and consequences of inequality in the distribution of well being among countries. The report also takes into account the GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support and freedom to make life choices as indicators of happiness. Previous reports have argued that happiness provides a better indicator of human welfare than do income, poverty, education, health and good governance measured separately but now they also point out that the inequality of well-being provides a broader measure of inequality.
In view of these parameters for improving happiness index in India the government is focusing on six parameters of ‘World Happiness Index’.
One, the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, in its advance estimate for 2015-16, had projected the economy to grow at 7.6 per cent, the highest since 2010-11 when the GDP expanded by 8.9 per cent. The better performance in the current fiscal 2016-17 is being attributed to improved manufacturing and farm growth.
The government has also taken proactive policy measures in its budget proposals of 2016-17 by specifically focusing on agriculture, infrastructure sector, steel, banking and financial sectors, among others, to revive the economy.
Two, in the case of men, the increase in life expectancy was from 57.3 to 64.2 years and in the case of women, it was from 58.2 to 68.5 years between 1990 and 2013. Though the death rate per year witnessed a drop both in adults and children, it was more in the case of children than adults. At 3.7 per cent, the death rate reduction per year in children was much more than that of adults, which was at 1.3 per cent. The life expectancy is likely to improve further as the health care programmes by the government are being undertaken in this fiscal.
Three, in 2015, India was ranked 76th out of 175 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, compared to its neighbours Bhutan (30th), Sri Lanka (85th), China (100th), Nepal (126th), Pakistan (127th), Bangladesh (145th), and Myanmar (156th). This is the second least corruption rank for India in the whole of South Asia.
Most of the largest sources of corruption in India are entitlement programmes and social spending schemes enacted by the Indian government. Examples include Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and National Rural Health Mission. Other daily sources of corruption include India's trucking industry which is forced to pay billions in bribes annually to numerous regulatory and police stops on its interstate highways. The figures show that there is an improvement in the reduction of corruption in the country.
Four, women empowerment means to let women live their own life in a way they think appropriate on the basis of their conditions, family circumstances, qualities and capabilities of which they themselves are the best judges. On the other hand, equal status, opportunity and freedom to develop them and to ensure their participation in the process of decision making in all spheres including political, economic and social processes. It is moving from the position-enforced powerlessness to one of power. Educational attainment and economic participation are the key factors in ensuring the improvement of women. India needs to do a lot more to achieve this in reality.
Five, the country's economy is booming, with the number of millionaires and billionaires rising by the day. According to a research by Bain & Co, there are over 115,000 high nets worth individuals in India. Since 2000, this elite group has grown an average of 11 per cent annually. Between 2006 and 2007, the number of wealthy individuals in India surged by 23 per cent, which is the highest growth rate in the world. While this may be good news, here is the other side of the India growth story.
Today, more than 400 million people live below the poverty line in India. The global meltdown has pushed an additional 25 million to 40 million citizens below the poverty line.
"The wealthiest have the lowest level of giving at 1.6 per cent of household income. While the 'high class', which is ranked one level below the 'upper class' on the income and education scale, donates 2.1 per cent to charity, the middle class gives 1.9 per cent of household income to philanthropy," says Arpan Sheth, partner, Bain & Company. It falls short of other developing countries.
Six, among other countries India has one of the oldest traditions of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). However, CSR practices are regularly not practiced or done only in namesake especially by MNCs with no cultural and emotional attachments to India. Much has been done in recent years to make Indian Entrepreneurs aware of social responsibility as an important segment of their business activity but CSR in India has yet to receive widespread recognition. If this goal has to be realised then the CSR approach of corporate has to be in line with their attitudes towards mainstream business – companies setting clear objectives, undertaking potential investments, measuring and reporting performance publicly.
India`s new Companies Act 2013 has introduced several new provisions which change the face of Indian corporate business. One of such new provisions is CSR. The concept of CSR rests on the ideology of give and take. Companies take resources in the form of raw materials, human resources etc. from the society. By performing the task of CSR activities, the companies is giving something back to the society but very little is being done so far.
If the present government keeps striving for better governance, remove inequality in the distribution of well being measures, takes into account the GDP per capita, improves life expectancy, provides social support to the economically weaker sections of society, freedom to make life choices and concentrate on development, it will be able to improve the happiness index of the country in the world.
(Dr P.K.Vasudeva is retired Professor, International Trade from Icfai University)