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MP's former "happiness" minister Lal Singh Arya says more rallies by PM Modi could have improved BJP's tally

Arya, the incumbent MLA from Gohad, failed to get re-elected this time.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 14, 2018, 12.17 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: Even as the fate of MP's 'Department of Happiness' created in 2016 by Shivraj Chouhan lies undecided with the Congress coming to power, minister Lal Singh Arya who was appointed as the first happiness minister of the state told ET on Thursday that had PM Narendra Modi addressed more rallies in MP, the results would have been in BJP's favour.

“The PM did around 10 rallies in the state and because of that, core voters voted for us in those areas. He reduced the anger among the upper caste voters due to the SC/ST act. But because he spoke only in a few places, the impact was restricted,” he said, adding the promises made by the Congress, such as the farm waiver or aid for the unemployed, struck a chord with the people, and the CM, though much popular, “could not visit several places where there was considerable anger against the incumbent MLAs”.

“How the Congress will fulfil these jumle-vaade (fake promises) will be known in the next few days. We could have done better as there was very little anger against us and this could have been addressed,” he said.

Arya, the incumbent MLA from Gohad, failed to get re-elected this time. “The PM did rallies in and around Rewa and Bhind where the upper caste voters stayed with us, but not in many other places,” he said, adding his department had prepared a report to increase the happiness quotient of people, with inputs from experts from Mauritius and Venezuela. “We were planning to implement them this time.” Arya had a shaky start to his career as happiness minister. Soon after appointment, he went into hiding and was subsequently arrested for the murder of a Congress leader in 2009

Chouhan had set up an ‘Anand Vibhag’, or the happiness department to think of ways to make people happy and content, and to measure the happiness quotient of people which had then became a global talking point when Bhutan came out with a happiness index and linked it to development that is otherwise based on GDP numbers.

MP's 'department of happiness' now lists over 70 social programmes spanning yoga, spirituality, meditation and the arts, as well as offering free religious pilgrimages for senior citizens and Kanyadaan of girls. But according to officials, the programmes are still in their beginning stages because of lack of experts and resources.Experts from Bhutan and UAE, the two countries that bring out happiness index of their nationals, had helped officials in Bhopal frame the structure of the department in 2016.

DELAY IN STATE-SPONSORED "HAPPINESS SURVEY"
In the beginning of 2018, the MP government had commissioned IIT Kharagpur, to help design a survey that that could ask one lakh people in the state questions about their "state of mind" based on which, they could publish an ‘Index of Happiness’.

While it was anticipated that the survey would be conducted in May and the results of it would be published before the assembly elections, sources within the government told ET that the survey has still not been done, because the questionnaire was not ready.

"After consultations, we finalised over 100 questions that had to be asked to every person - how many people he thinks will help him, do people find him trustworthy, does he think he is respected in family among others, does he feel loved, and others. It was then decided to club multiple questions and reduce it to 30 questions to keep it simple. The work is still in process. Only after the questionnaire is finalised, the survey can be done," an official said, adding that the department has also sought to prepare different questionnaires for urban and rural correspondents.

IAS officer Manohar Dubey, who headed the Anand Sansthan (happiness department) and is now the divisional commissioner of Sagar told ET the happiness programme was specifically designed to help people deal with everyday problems, manage their aspirations and understand that "no crisis in insurmountable." A specific programme for rural youth was aimed at talking to them about the content they watch on mobile phones, while another one, addressed to families dealing with the long term illness of a member, was based on, "Let the attitude be of gratitude," to help them focus on "the good things in their lives." There are also "energizer" games to help people re-connect with friends and neighbours that they are no longer speak with.

Art of Living programmes and TED Talks dubbed in Hindi also form an important part of "Alpviram" the flagship programme of the government's initiative to "Teach people to be happy."

"Nearly 1,000 people have been made part of this programme in Sagar district alone. We have had cases of fathers becoming depressed after their daughters elope and marry boys from other castes. These families reduce social contact and become reclusive. Other cases are of small traders indulging in small scale corruption and constantly being worried about it. Our trainers have helped them address these issues," Dubey said.

Officials however are not sure what will be the fate of the ministry now.

"Right now, the programme is driven by volunteers, with six of us monitoring it. This is clearly not sufficient. We would need around 300 people more to take it to every district. In the new academic year, we are planning to start Anand Sabhas to improve the happiness quotient in children studying in government schools. We have also initiated a programme to train midwives and anganwadi workers in villages who provide maternal health care to rural women to find joy in their work. All these initiatives need resources," Akhilesh Argal, Rajya Anand Sansthan’s chief executive officer said.
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