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The Week That Was:

From: Vartaa Editorial Team on Mar 20, 2016

Aadhar Bill Passed

Reversing its stand when it was in opposition, the NDA government pushed through the Aadhar Bill in its original form through Lok Sabha this week. The Bill will utilize Aadhar cards to target subsidy payments to needy groups and policy makers hope it will, when combined with the government's bank account initiative, eventually avoid leakages and graft in subsidy payments. Passed as a money bill to avoid its stalling in the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha also rejected many amendments proposed by the Upper House. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defended those rejections stating that the Rajya Sabha's recommendations would have pushed the Bill into the realms of unconstitutionality. The original author of the Aadhar scheme, Nandan Nilekani came out in support of the Bill and commented that in its present form the Bill had stronger privacy provisions.

Beating a Live Horse

If you ever needed evidence of the sheer insensitivity and idiocy of some of India's politicians, look no further than the depressing story of Shaktiman, a police horse in Uttrakhand. This past week, in a demonstration, the BJP MLA from Mussorie, Ganesh Joshi smashed a blow with a stick at the horse's hind leg when it came in his way. Shaktiman, a fine stallion who has participated in many police events, had to unfortunately have its injured leg amputated and now faces an uncertain future. The MLA 'saahib' though is not getting away scot free. He received a round of verbal lashing on social media and was arrested and remanded to two weeks of custody on charges of animal cruelty.

RSS Changing

There were winds of change blowing through the BJP's parent outfit the RSS this week. The Sangh decided to let go of the khakhi shorts in its uniform and instead ask its workers to wear trousers. More important was the declaration coming from it that while it did not socially approve of homosexuality, it also did not want it to remain criminalized. There were of course the usual voices of scepticism against the Sangh while the BJP itself did not seem sure whether it wants to keep treating homosexuality as a crime or not.

Cricket World T20

The World T20 cricket tournament kicked off in India this past week with its Super 10 group stages. The tournament has already seen a few upsets with New Zealand defeating both India and Australia, the two favourites in their group. In the other group meanwhile, Chris Gayle blasted a 100 of 48 balls and ensured that the West Indies would not be taken lightly by their opposition. India though, managed to recover some lost ground by defeating arch rivals Pakistan in a high octane game in Kolkata on Saturday.

Opinions you must read:

  • Author Sunil Khilnani writes on how we in India often exaggerate the lives of our historical figures
  • Ex-Cisco CEO and a doyen of Silicon Valley, John Chambers writes in the Mint on how the start up culture can drive a wave of digitization in India

Chart of the Week

World Happiness Day is on March 20th and in anticipation the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network has released the 2016 World Happiness Report. At the release, one of the editors of the report said "...human well-being should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives. Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just, and environmentally sustainable.” We couldn't agree more and so we have created a visual of the state World Happiness based on the WHR.

Aristotle pontificated that happiness depends on ourselves, Kierkegaard preached it lies within, and Tolstoy sermonized "If you want to be happy, be." Clearly neither were fleeing a civil war, dying of starvation, or afflicted with malaria when they penned these thoughts. Although, the great philosophers may be right in a broader sense, some basic 'Maslowian' needs have to be met before humans can aspire to happiness. The report suggests there are six variables that are highly correlated with happiness- Levels of GDP (Purchasing Power Parity), Life Expectancy, Generosity, Social Support, Freedom, and Corruption. The rankings use data that come from the Gallup World Poll. The poll asks for answers to the main life evaluation question asked in the poll. This is called the Cantril ladder: it asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale.

Denmark is number 1 this year, replacing Switzerland which occupied the spot last year. The usual Scandinavian suspects follow. Most of the top 20 spots are occupied by wealthier European countries with the exception of Israel and Brazil. Israel, which lives under the constant shadow of terrorism is a surprise. Brazil, going through a tough economic phase is also somewhat of a surprise but the Brazilians are known to be a happy people. Most cities went ahead with Carnaval celebrations despite the grim economic outlook, budget cuts, and a toxic political climate. India, at 118 (it was ranked 117 last year) does not fare all that well. There is reason to be hopeful though- GDP and Life Expectancy are certainly on the rise.

The UN (and we) hope this study creates awareness and leaders around the world make happiness and well-being part of their development agenda. The tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has been way ahead when it comes to policy-making around happiness. In 1972 Bhutan's King introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and its four development pillars at an international conference and the country has closely tracked this metric since.

*Chart renders best on Desktop. We publish a modified version for phone.