Photo credit: Ishan Khosla / Flickr
Photo credit: Ishan Khosla / Flickr

On happiness and democracy

Is India both the most democratic and among the unhappiest countries in Southasia?

When the United Nations released its annual World Happiness Report (WHR) in March this year, India's rank towards the bottom of the list received considerable coverage in the press. The country's slide down from 122nd the previous year to 133rd, out of 156 countries, seemed to particularly irk the Indian media, which also glumly reported Pakistan's 75th position on the list. In Southasia, only Afghanistan, it seemed, was less happy than India. This was in contrast to another report that was significantly more favourable to India. The Democracy Index 2017, published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), placed India 42nd among 167 countries, declaring it the most democratic country in Southasia. (Maldives is not included in either of the studies.)

There are few reasons for Southasians to cheer. The region continues to be ranked significantly lower in comparison to other regions in both of these reports. However, what is one to make of the apparent contradiction between the two reports when it comes to India's ranking? Both studies purport to map the quality of citizenship around the world. Is India then simultaneously the most democratic and among the least happy countries in Southasia? Should we expect the results of these two reports to overlap? And what exactly is being measured in these assessments of national happiness and democracy?

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Himal Southasian