By Gyan Pathak
The unhappy Indians voted for a change in 2014 hoping for good days to come with Narendra Modi ascending to the throne. However, it was destined otherwise. The country which ranked 117th in World Happiness Index that year, started becoming unhappier day by day, year by year. After five years of his rule, World Happiness Index shows a steep fall pushing India to the rank of 140th among the 156 countries surveyed. The decline was primarily due to declines in average life evaluations typically suffered from some combination of economic, political, and social stresses.
India scored 4.015 in the scale of 0-10 in 2018, as against 4.190 in 2017 and 4.565 in 2014. The country fell in global happiness ranking by 23 places in the last five years, 11 places from 2016, and 7 places from 2017. Only 16 countries in the world are unhappier than Indians are. It means 89.74 per cent countries are happier than India and their numbers are increasing. Even in 2017, a total of 84.61 per cent countries were happier than India. In South Asia, barring Afghanistan, we have become the unhappiest country. Pakistan is the happiest in the region ranking 67th in the world followed by Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. If we compare the loss of the level of our happiness during 2016-18 with 2008-10, the loss is 0.883 points, out of which 0.55 points were lost in the last five years accounting for 62.28 per cent. In comparison to 2005-08, we have become even more unhappier by 1.137 points.
Measurement of happiness in the life of an individual is done on the basis of eight criteria – per capita GDP, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perception of corruption, dystopia (a perception of everything unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degrades one) and residual, and confidence interval. Except on the criterion of per capita GDP, we have poorly scored in all other criteria. As for the GDP growth rate, it was 7.4 per cent in 2014, which has been revised at 7 per cent for April 2018-19.
India is faring very badly in life ladder index since 2006 when it scored 5.348, which fell down to 4.424 in 2014, and 3.81 in 2018. GDP per capita score has slightly improved from 8.59 in 2014 to 8.83 in 2018. Social support score has declined from 0.70 in 2006 to 0.63 in 2018. Healthy life expectancy at birth for the Indians has increased from 56.1 to 60.09 years in the last thirteen years. Score for freedom to make life choices has increased from 0.77 to 0.89 during this period. However, it was only 0.01 point up compared to 2017.
As for the generosity of the Indians, we had achieved a score of 0.07 in 2013 but it had declined to a negative level of (-0.05) in 2017. In 2018 we are at the level of 2013. We had become far less generous during 2013-2017 during which our scores have fallen to a negative all through those years except in 2016 when it was 0.03, at less than half the generosity which we had in 2013.
We have very disheartening data on perception of corruption index. The score shows that the situation has worsened. In 2011 our score was better at 0.90 which has now fallen to 0.80 in 2018.
Positive affect score has also been declining from 2014 when it was 0.71. After yearly decline it had come to 0.68 in 2017, and now in 2018 it is even less at 0.65. Negative affect score has increased from 0.33 in 2013 to 0.35 in 2018.
Confidence in national government has also sharply declined in the last one year from 0.83 to 0.75. In the first four years of Modi rule it had been going up from 0.53 in 2013. The democratic quality too has deteriorated. The score on this count has always been in the negative for the last 13 years. Democratic quality score data for 2018 is not available but in 2017 it was in negative (-0.22). The delivery quality score has also been in the negative all along these years which stood at (-0.09) in 2017, as per the latest data available. Standard deviation of ladder fell from 2.34 in 2014 to 2.21 in 2018. Household income (gini) score has been reported by Gallup remained almost at the same level at 0.42 in 2018 as it was at the beginning of the Modi rule, which is a decline from 0.62 in 2009. Dystopia, a sense of everything unpleasant, among the people is also very high.
The report has found that links between the government and happiness operate in both directions. What government does directly affects happiness and in turn happiness of citizens determines what kind of government they support. There are evidences of citizen unhappiness to translate into voting against the incumbent government, particularly when the political leaders are perceived as being unable to solve growing inequalities, corruption, violence, and insecurity even when the government fares well in certain traditionally relevant fields, such as economic activity and employment. Unhappier people seem to hold more populist and authoritarian attitudes.
The report also noted the recent rise in populist electoral success as a function of rising unhappiness, but says that the gains of populist politicians may have more to do with their increased ability to successfully chime with unhappy voters, or be attributable to other societal and cultural factors that may have increased the potential gains from targeting unhappy voters. It said that populist politicians typically distinguish between the virtue of ‘ordinary people’ on the one hand and the corrupt ‘elite’ on the other. The recent rise in populism have included a growth in the success of parties promoting nativist or nationalist sentiment, but discontent or unhappiness with the status quo is behind this trend.