Mega GNH events scheduled in the country in October

GNH: If the attraction to Gross National Happiness (GNH) at international conferences is any indication, momentum for GNH has gained pace.

Executive director of GNH Centre in Bumthang, Dr Saamdu Chhetri, is busy preparing for a “GNH mission in Europe” where he has been invited to talk on GNH starting January 25. He has just returned from the “Ideas Conclave 2014” held at Goa, India.

Bhutan has received six fully funded invitations beginning in Iceland in March, Vietnam and Japan in April, Switzerland in July, Mumbai and California in September, the UK in November.  “However, I have decided to travel abroad only during the lean seasons so that I can concentrate more with our GNH programmes within the country.”

When the new government took over in 2013, skeptics said GNH would take a back seat, especially when Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay was quoted  as saying GNH was distracting the government from tackling the country’s real problems.

“I am not sure what the critics say but I think GNH has already grown wings and it is gaining more momentum for a new hope,” Dr Saamdu Chhetri said.

He said due to global crises in ecology, economy and society and the failure of the conventional economic model (GDP) to address them, the world is looking for a new development paradigm. “In lack of any such model, they are increasing looking upon GNH as a possible alternative.”

Asked if the present government has done enough to promote GNH, the executive director said the government is young and has a great share in their plate to resolve with. He said the government has left it to local and international experts to take GNH further on its stride and not directly involve or interfered.

“However, this does not mean that the government is not concerned with GNH,” he said referring to various state of the nation reports where GNH was mentioned.  “He (the lyonchhoen) believes so strongly in GNH that he lives with and by it.”

One of the biggest international conferences on GNH will be held in October in Bhutan.

The Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) is starting a Masters Programme on GNH. Gaeddu College has incorporated a module on GNH and Educating for GNH, a programme started by previous government, is also gaining momentum under the present government.

There are several Bhutanese and international citizens who are doing PhD under different domains of GNH.

Some critics have also said GNH is overused and masks problems and the real business at hand. However, the executive director said GNH is the answer to the ballooning debt, rupee shortage, unemployment problem and a perception of growing corruption.

According to him, there is a direct correlation between GNH and the problems the economy is facing. For instance, he said, “Job must be defined. I can safely say no Bhutanese is unemployed. We have always something to be gainfully occupied with.”

“By brining so much of materialism in our path of so called development, we are creating greed in every Bhutanese and this if continued will end of our culture.”

Dr Saamdu Chhetri said many nations like UK, Brazil, Bolivia, many states in the US, the EU, Northern Ireland, Canada and other are considering wellbeing and happiness, genuine progress index, better life index and so on under different names, which to us are within the framework of GNH.

Meanwhile, an interim GNH centre is being built in Dewaling, Bumthang to start “GNH in living practice” for students and all walks of life seeking rejuvenation and contemplation of life and living far away from their distressed working place.

By MB Subba