Context:

The United Nations World Happiness Report of 2021 ranks India 139 out of 149 countries. India’s dismal performance on happiness is crucial if we look at governance and the law.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (International Organizations and their Reports)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About World Happiness Report
  2. Highlights of the World Happiness Report 2021
  3. Role of Good Governance in Happiness of the Citizens
  4. Way Forward

About World Happiness Report

  • The World Happiness Report is released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations, ranking 149 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.
  • The United Nations World Happiness Report was first published in 2012. Until then, happiness was not considered an objective of governance.
  • Happiness has now emerged as a new measure of the quality of governance.
  • The connection between law, governance and happiness has been gaining considerable attention over the years. This is because the report has shown time and again that countries with a higher GDP and higher per capita income are not necessarily the happiest.
  • The rankings are based on polling (Gallup World Poll) which looks at six variables:
    1. Gross Domestic Product Per Capita (Purchasing Power Parity).
    2. Social Support.
    3. Healthy life expectancy at birth.
    4. Freedom to make life choices.
    5. Generosity.
    6. Perceptions of corruption.

 

Highlights of the World Happiness Report 2021

  • Happiness was measured by also taking into consideration the effects of COVID-19 on the people and their evaluation of the performance of governance systems.
  • The report shows that COVID-19-induced social distancing had a severe impact on happiness as sharing and community life were hugely affected during the pandemic.
  • Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Norway.
  • Afghanistan (149) is the most unhappy country, followed by Zimbabwe (148), Rwanda (147), Botswana (146) and Lesotho (145).

India’s Performance

  • India has been ranked 139, out of 149 countries evaluated – compared to being ranked 144 out of 156 countries surveyed in 2020.
  • India’s neighbors Pakistan (105), Bangladesh (101) and China (84) are ranked higher than India.
  • India’s gloomy performance on happiness is crucial when governance and the law are considered.
  • Happiness has never been considered an explicit goal of public policy in India.
  • The trust and confidence enjoyed by public institutions are quite pertinent in the happiness score sheet.

Role of Good Governance in Happiness of the Citizens

  • Guarantees of rights, participation, dignity and social justice are crucial in the determination of happiness in a society like India.
  • The great degree of unhappiness in Indian society has a lot to do with the way the law and its institutions operate.
  • People live in pain and anguish as their grievances remain unaddressed by the legal system.
  • Every case that is decided by the courts need not necessarily bring happiness to the people.
  • According to the World Justice Report, as many as 40% of people live outside the protection of the law in the world. More than 5 billion people fall into this ‘justice gap’. India’s share is very big in these figures.
  • The estimated figure of 3.5 crore pending cases in various courts of the country is not merely a number as all those connected with these cases are in a state of anxiety. They are certainly not happy people.
  • Typically, the criminal justice system for these people is a source of unhappiness.
  • India’s rule of law rank was 69 as per the World Justice report 2021. It has a chilling effect on the right to life, liberty, economic justice, dignity and national integration.
  • Justice in India hardly seems to take up the goal of happiness in society.
  • Criminal justice drastically impacts the lives of people. It is capable of providing safety but it also leads to fear, stigma and repression. People are rarely satisfied with the police and courts in this country.

Way Forward

  • India can learn from the fact that “Law is capable of creating many positive obligations”, which may lead to a collective conscience, care and cooperation. It is capable of making people feel that they have a role in resolving their problems through distributive justice.
  • Additionally, data suggest that happy countries have lower crime rates. Crime and its resultant suffering are a major source of unhappiness. Hence, there is a need for steps to be taken to reduce the crime rates in the country.
  • Countries scoring high on the Rule of Law Index also score well on the index of happiness. Hence, there can be addition focus on adhering to the principle of Rule of Law.
  • In the report, happiness levels were significantly determined by various socio-demographic factors like health, education, crime rate, criminal victimisation and fear of crime. India should focus on improving these factors.

-Source: The Hindu

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