01:59 GMT +321 September 2019
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    Gov't Waste or Good Intentions? Indian State Sets Up ‘Happiness Department'

    Gov't Waste or Good Intentions? Indian State Sets Up ‘Happiness Department'

    © AFP 2019 / PUNIT PARANJPE
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    A "Happiness Department" has been set up to measure joy in the lives of people in the Indian state of Madhya, but it could be nothing more than an expensive distraction.

    The taxpayer institution is now the first of its kind in India. Its budget has been set at 38 million rupees a year ($550,000 USD).

    "The Cabinet has decided to constitute Happiness Department in the state," said Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan after the Cabinet decision. He will be the head of the ministry.

    The government plans to spend money to form a panel of experts that will determine the happiness level in the country and give suggestions on how people could be happier.

    Chief Minister Chouhan further added that, "Besides the basic necessities of food, cloth and shelter people need something more to be happy in their lives."

    ​ "Normally, happiness is measured with economic growth rate which is not entirely correct as our country for ages believed otherwise. There is something more which can bring happiness in the lives of people," Chief Minister and head of the Happiness Department told the media.

    The Ministry, however, has been criticized as a ploy to distract attention away from the Vyapam scam, a bribery scandal concerning entrance and admission exams for government employees and other high paying jobs. In the wake of the scam, between 20-40 people died under mysterious circumstances.

    Other politicians took issue with the department as well.

    "In a state where people are in tears all the time, where bodies are affected by hunger, setting up a department of happiness is like rubbing salt in the wounds of the people of the state," said Congress spokesperson K. K. Mishra.

    The average monthly salary for Indian citizens is 20,000 rupees ($295 US dollars).

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