New Delhi: Andhra Pradesh will soon set up a happiness commission and evolve a standardized index to measure happiness.

In an effort to build momentum towards these goals, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu said that the state’s new greenfield capital at Amaravati would be planned and developed keeping happiness at the forefront of governance priorities.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Happy Cities Summit in Amaravati on Tuesday, Naidu said: “We want Amaravati to be among the top 3 happiest cities in the world on globally recognized benchmarks."

In April 2017, Andhra Pradesh became the second state in the country, after Madhya Pradesh, to set up a department dedicated to happiness.

“We have already requested several municipalities to earmark some space to organize ‘Happy Sundays’, so that people can come out to a public space and play, dance or sing," Naidu said. “We used to talk only about development. But governments should focus on happiness too. People need to be able to lead a meaningful life," he added.

The happiness commission is expected to launch a series of concrete initiatives to achieve these broad, abstract goals. A framework for measuring city happiness will also be launched at the end of the summit.

Borrowing heavily from Bhutan’s Gross National Index, the Thriving Places Index from Bristol, UK, and the Indian government’s Liveability Index, the framework is expected to capture citizens’ freedom to make life choices, extent of safety net, access to clean environment and perceptions of corruption.

While Bhutan is the global pioneer, several countries such as the United Arab Emirates have recently created a national ministry to promote happiness. Earlier this year, the UK appointed a minister to tackle loneliness, especially in urban settings.

Many of these initiatives have also received their share of criticism. Madhya Pradesh which has had a dedicated government wing to promote happiness for two years has been accused by critics of treating the initiative as nothing more than a publicity stunt.

In the case of Amaravati, there is also the issue of factoring in the farmers who gave up their land to build the capital. While the government claims the 34,000 acres accumulated through land pooling is a result of farmers giving up land happily and voluntarily, there are many reports of coercion. The farmers are expected to receive a portion of their land back as developed plots under the terms of the pooling policy and will thus become the first citizens of the new city.

In the most recent World Happiness Report released in March 2018, India was ranked 133rd out of 156 countries. Except for war-torn Afghanistan, every country in South Asia has ranked higher than India for several years. Pakistan and Bangladesh were placed at 75 and 115, respectively.

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