Gross National Happiness: Bhutan, a small Himalayan kingdom and an economic nonentity, developed a new concept of assessing development in the early 1970s—the Gross National Happiness (GNH). Without rejecting the idea of human development propounded by UNDP, the kingdom has been officially following the targets set by the GNH. Bhutan has been following the GNH since 1972 which has the following parameters to attain happiness/development:
(i) Higher real per capita income
(ii) Good governance
(iii) Environmental protection
(iv) Cultural promotion (i.e., inculcation of ethical and spiritual values in life without which, it says, progress may become a curse rather than a blessing)
At the level of real per capita income, the GNH and the HDI are the same. Though the HDI is silent on the issue of ‘good governance’, today it should be considered as being promoted around the world once the World Bank came with its report on it in 1995 and enforced it upon the member states. On the issue of protecting the environment, though the HDI didn’t say anything directly, the World Bank and the UNO had already accepted the immediacy of sustainable development by then and by early 1990s there was a seperate UN Convention on the matter (follow up on this convention has been really very low till date which is a different issue).
It means the basic difference between the GNH and the HDI looks at the level of assimilating the ethical and spiritual aspects into our (UNDP’s) the idea of development.
An impartial analysis sufficiently suggests that material achievements are unable to deliver us happiness devoid of some ethics at its base. And ethics are rooted in religious and spiritual texts. But the new world is guided by its own scientific and secular interpretation of life and the world has always been suspicious about recognizing the spiritual factor in human life. Rather the western the idea of secularism was defined after rejecting the very existence of anything like God and also rejecting the whole traditional hypothesis of spiritualism as instances of ignorance and orthodoxy. And there should not be any doubt in accepting it that the western ideology in the name of development has ultimately, dominated the modern world and its way of life. The idea of development which was followed by a large part of the world has been cent per cent ‘this-worldly’. And anybody can assess today what kind of happiness the world has been able to achieve in the end.
A recent study by a senior economist from the UNDP on the Bhutanese development experience under the GNH has vindicated the idea of ‘gross happiness’ which development must result in, As per the study, the period 1984–98 has been spectacular in terms of development with life expectancy increasing by a hopping 19 years, gross school enrolment reaching 72 per cent and literacy touching 47.5 percent (from just 17 percent).
After the terror attack on the World Trade Centre in the USA the whole world has gone for a psychic metamorphosis and at least the euphoria of development from this world to that world has been shaken from its very base. The world which is in the process of globalization at one hand has started introspecting whether multicultural co-existence is possible. The Human Development Report of 2004 was titled Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World. We may conclude that mankind is passing through a phase of serious introspection and transition where the dominant view in the world may metamorphose into redefining the very idea of development by including ethical values and spiritualism as important parts. But till now the proponents of development look a bit shy in believing and accepting whole-heartedly that there exists a non-material part of life, which needs to be realised to make our development result in happiness.
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