With 2020 being an unprecedented year, wellbeing has become more important than ever. This is the reason, why in 2021, International Happiness Day has become all the more relevant to everyone around the globe. Today, we live in a world wherein most places, growth is measured and linked with the economy. We grow only as much as we earn! But is that enough? Are our lives as big as our pockets? No! Our lives are as big and amazing as our smiles; our hearts; our emotional intelligence and our happiness.
The UN recognized the importance of national happiness in line with national growth. The General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution of July 2012 proclaimed 20th March as the International Day of Happiness, recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.
It is a very fresh way to look at growth, probably something which was much important but least talked about. This gives us a chance to talk about Bhutan. A country which is known for its rich cultural heritage and mountainous beauty, in 1970s, adopted the concept of Gross National Happiness. With this Bhutan initiated a conversation, that the world now needs to join immediately.
It’s a model that talks about human development as an index of growth. It’s both progressive yet complicated. To understand happiness the Bhutanese way, we reached out to one of our alumnus from Bhutan, Namgay Dorji.
Dorji is a graduate from Jagran Lakecity University’s School of Law, 2015- 2020 batch. He has been very closely working with many social initiatives, some of which he has found himself. It was our time to learn from our student and that’s the reason why we interviewed him to understand Bhutan’s gift to the world, ‘GNH’ and more.
Here is the interesting and much-needed conversation that we had with our Alumnus:
1. Please tell us what exactly is Gross National Happiness (GNH)?
As per the definition, GNH is a holistic and sustainable approach to development, which balances both material and spiritual values. A sacred gift of Bhutan’s king of Destiny, His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuk to the world. In the early 1970s His majesty said, “GNH is more important than GDP.” Wealth alone doesn’t contribute to satisfaction or happiness in life. His Majesty firmly believed that happiness is an indicator and a sign of progressive development not only for Bhutanese people but for the world.
However, there are 4 pillars identified to measure the GNH viz. Sustainable and Socio-economic Development, Environmental Conservation, Preservation, and Promotion of Culture and Good Governance.
2. How, you think, development is linked with happiness and well-being in Bhutan?
Happiness is a fundamental human goal and all actions are in pursuit of happiness. Whether it’s pursuing higher education, modernization, or cultural enhancement; physical growth should be in balance with mental wellbeing. For instance, no development can have a lasting impact if it means exploiting the limited resource for a short-term gain, and the world is learning this lesson a hard way. In the world of finite resources, modernization alone cannot supersede human wellbeing.
In the words of His Majesty the King, ‘GNH simply means development with values’. So any development should make prudent use of the resources and reduce the footprint of destruction and the same ideals are followed while making any policy decisions in Bhutan and the results are evident.
3. It’s quite interesting to know that Bhutan has a Gross National Happiness (GNH) Commission, what exactly is its role?
The Gross National Happiness (GNH) Commission is an Institution that promotes an enabling environment for all Bhutanese to be happy. Its mission is to steer national development towards promotion of happiness for all Bhutanese guided by the philosophy of GNH.
The main goals and objectives, as statutorily stipulated are, to guide and steer the integration of GNH principles in all policies and plans, while ensuring the effective delivery of Five Year Plan Key Results. It also, institutionalize a robust National Monitoring and Evaluation System
In addition to this, they mobilize adequate resources on a timely basis and ensure equitable and efficient allocation so that no one is left behind and monitor, facilitate, and coordinate implementation of policies, plans, and programs for effective delivery, with a robust feedback mechanism. So, unlike what generally people believe the commission has a lot of substantial responsibilities to fulfill.
4. How does Bhutan measures the GNH Index?
Bhutan calculates the GNH Index as a product of nine domainscircumventing around Physical and Psychological wellbeing, Education, time use, cultural diversity, good governance, and an adequate standard of living.
The Gross National Happiness Index is a single number index developed from the 33 indicators categorized under nine domains. The Centre for Bhutan Studies constructed the GNH Index using robust multidimensional methodology is known as Alkire-Foster method.
The four pillars have been further classified into nine domains in order to create a widespread understanding of GNH and to reflect the holistic range of GNH values.
The nine domains are equally weighted because each domain is considered to be equal in terms of its intrinsic importance as a component of GNH. The 33 indicators are statistically reliable, are normatively important, and are easily understood by large audiences. Within each domain, two to four indicators were selected that seemed likely to remain informative across time, had high response rates, and were relatively uncorrelated. Within each domain, the objective indicators are given higher weights while the subjective and self-reported indicators are assigned far lighter weights.
5. According to you, what role does education play in making sure that the index is high?
I believe education is the foundation of knowledge and wisdom. We give utmost importance to the education sector. For it is the very place where the young minds come together and important values are to be imparted which is going to guide them and their lives in the future. Only an educated mind can understand the need and importance of a GNH and strive to achieve better, year after year.
Royal Government of Bhutan has started so many initiatives such as Green School activities and Educating for GNH policies. Likewise, equal importance is being given to cultural activities and value-based leanings.
6. What are the challenges that your country faces to keep the GNH Index high?
Bhutan is a small nation with a smaller economy thus many challenges show up. More so, with new developments in the world after Covid-19. It is becoming harder to face those unexpected realities of life. However, we are blessed to have our dynamic and caring leader, everyone’s superhero and a true peoples’ king. His Majesty is always there to nurse the wounded, console the losses, building homes for the homeless, providing hope to the hopeless. So everything has been in good fortune and with zero positive cases of Covid 19 in the country. We are slowly bringing back normalcy. All thanks to His Majesty and the Royal Government of Bhutan. May His Majesty’s exemplary Leadership and Legacy of devotion to human development persevere with utmost honor and respect for all times to come.
7. After talking so much about your country, what is the message that you would like to give to anyone reading this?
Well, on International Happiness Day, I wish you tons of happiness and express my gratitude for reading this. Like kindness begins with sharing, so does happiness. If you want to be happier, you got to care about other’s happiness too. Practice good habits that not only give happiness to yourself but also provide peace to the society you live in and maintain harmony in your beloved nation.
The world can become a happier place only if we all perceive happiness as a collective goal and not just an individual responsibility. I’d suggest we should start practicing Loving-kindness, compassion, and empathy in every minute of every day and the world will itself be happier.
8. Final question for you, what makes you happy?
For me there are so many sources of happiness. Being with my family and friends, poetry and singing, traveling and experiencing different lifestyles but above all Doing social work gives me utmost satisfaction and happiness.
While serving my schools as a school leader in various capacities I was too much into social campaigns. While at University, I initiated.The ‘DrinnChenn Scholarship (for the youth, by the youth)’ a Facebook group solely created to assist our younger brothers and sisters in winning a good scholarship and acquire quality education for life. I am also the founder of ‘Give a little, Make the difference’ a Facebook campaign aimed to clean, recycle and refurbish the used shoes and/clothes and distribute amongst the people who cannot afford proper clothing and footwear. For someone’s useless things could be someone else’s luxury. Bridge for Brighter Bhutan; is a comprehensive training, networking, and mentorship process for today’s youth with the intention to provide adequate life skills for employability and entrepreneurship.
I keep myself occupied with the task of helping others and thus I find myself becoming happier day in and day out.
As a university, we understand the power of a happy mind and through the International Happiness Day, we are trying to bring awareness around the idea of well-being induced happiness. As this year’s theme for the day is ‘Happiness For All, Forever”, we, at Jagran Lakecity University pledge to contribute towards creating a healthier, safer, happier, and more growth-oriented environment at our campus to ensure our students and staff have a satisfying, peaceful, and stress-free time at the university. With this small determination, we wish you all happiness and abundance. Let’s together create a happy society for all, by all.
By: Namgay Dorji, JLU School of Law, 2020
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