TODAY -

Bhutan and 'Gross National Happiness'

Kajal Chatterjee *



It's indeed a wonder why questions should at all get raised revolving around the increasing migratory pattern of the Bhutanese citizens and the country's unique concept of "Gross National Happiness"!

Aren't we aware of the ultimate reality that migration is an international phenomenon being witnessed throughout the globe since the dawn of civilization in search of greener pastures! So what's the big deal if the Bhutanese people venture beyond the country's border to flourish in their respective trade!

Far from getting ashamed, Indians are extremely proud of their diaspora around the globe and zealously beat the trumpet of the "intellect" "efficiency" and "quality" of the countrymen ! Perhaps Indians are the global leaders as far as giving up citizenship is concerned so as to permanently settle in various parts of the globe!

Similarly Chinese, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis Sri Lankans, Arabs are spread all across the world. If migration of people from other countries does not invite any question, rather praise by riding upon the slogan "Global Village"; why should reservations be expressed upon the quality of life in Bhutan by latching upon the phenomenon of Bhutanese migration!

The concerned question of linking Bhutanese migration with "failure" of the concept of "Gross National Happiness" reminds us of the blatant hypocrisy revolving around the migration of Bengalis.

When Gujaratis to Biharis, Punjabis to Tamils migrate to Bengal and various States of India and around the world; it bears "proof" of their talent, intelligence, knowledge, expertise, adventurism and hard work! But if Bengalis venture to Delhi, Kerala, Gujarat, Haryana or foreign lands; it bears testimony to Bengal's "laggardness"! What do these Bengal-bashers (specially of a particular dispensation) talk about !

It seems that within the boundary of India, Bengalis hold no right to migrate; in the international sphere, Bhutanese have no right to do so! As a matter of fact, just like the prosperity of Bengalis in the professional sector all around the country and the world prove the success story of Bengal and the top quality of education in the State; similarly the increasing global presence of the Bhutanese around the globe prove the excellent quality of education and upbringing in Bhutan.

It has also been reported that the PDP President Tshering Tobgay, who was the Prime Minister of Bhutan from 2013 to 2018, had charmed the audience in Vibrant Gujarat Global Economic Summit (Gandhinagar, January 2015) which included the likes of Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Adi Godrej.

Indeed Tobgay had humbly termed his visit as "economic pilgrimage" and said "Our economy is small with a GDP of merely $1.7 billion. I'm aware that many of the delegates here are worth more (Mukesh Ambani alone --- $18 billion!)".

However, perhaps the corporate honchos didn't get charmed on hearing the concluding part of that very speech as the then PM Tobgay had asserted that he would welcome investment only if it is CLEAN, GREEN AND SUSTAINABLE because his Nation desires well-being through GNH (GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS) which (according to Bhutan) is much more important than GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT. Tobgay quoted the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk so as to define GNH in three simple words --- "DEVELOPMENT WITH VALUES".

Indeed Bhutan could have also "modernised" itself through rampant industrialisation by eradicating greenery, heartlessly throwing out indigenous population from their own soil, polluting the rivers and harming the environment.

But Bhutan has refrained from doing so as it respects the VALUES without which "development" itself would get threatened as being witnessed throughout the world with innumerable islands and coastal areas set to get submerged by the rising oceans due to global warming in near future and nearly 5 million people dying every year globally due to active/passive tobacco consumption.

Not only has Bhutan banned sale and consumption of tobacco outright so as to ensure health for its citizens, it has presented a new concept to human civilization (GNH) which measures prosperity and well-being not through the statistical jugglery of GDP or Sensex figures; but vide non-economic factors like health, education and ecology.

No wonder why Bhutan has become the first carbon negative country in the world which means its forests absorb more Carbon dioxide than it produces. Thanks to Bhutan's strict environment protection policies; 72% of its area is forested and its Constitution guarantees that 60% of it will remain that way. Bhutan has shown the world the way to reverse global warming.

If survival of humanity and world civilization is indeed the call of the hour, all States should treat Bhutan as its role model. And so no luck to the Indian industrialists even if Tshering Tobgay gets reelected as Bhutan Prime minister!

And instead of casting aspersions upon the efficacy of Bhutan's unique humane concept or gift named Gross National Happiness ; we can remain assured that the tiny Himalayan nation is traversing in absolutely correct path of morality, which rest of the world must try to emulate for the sake of the global future and the people as well.


* Kajal Chatterjee Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on 14 January 2024 .



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