BENGALURU: When was the last time someone asked you if you were happy? Bengaluru is the first city in India to ask its citizens this question, as the Centre for Sustainable Development (CSD) is conducting a happiness survey this month.A list of 16 questions are to be answered by Bengalureans in a scale of 10, irrespective of job, class or background. The questions range from satisfaction with your neighbourhood to rating public services to pollution levels. The initiative was launched two weeks ago, and the process had been underway for nearly two months before that.
The idea came about when a French intern conducted a presentation at CSD and cited how Paris, from being a tourist hotspot, has turned into a magnet for terrorist attacks in recent times. While an individual debate raged in the conference room, the concerned team wondered about the fate of Bengaluru, and simply wanted to ask Bengalureans if they are happy here.
The 16 questions were curated following the model of Bhutan’s Gross Domestic Happiness index, as well as referring to online surveys on jobs and economy. When the link opens, the Happiness Survey states a study of the municipality; Bengaluru has 12.3 million people and the numbers will increase along with development and economic growth. It is said that infrastructure will not keep up with growing population.
Paradox of city life
The executive director of CSD tells City Express that the present state of the city is a paradox. “People doing well financially, and employment opportunities are higher. But there is also a lot of stress and suicides are on the rise. This is only an attempt to find satisfaction levels,” says Dr Srinivas Ravindra.
The survey is being circulated online, and hard copies are being distributed to reach masses, including cab drivers, government officials, students and senior citizens. The survey is only open this month, after which an internal assessment will identify trends and a comprehensive report will be published and submitted to government agencies.
Dr Ravindra is also the president of Resident Welfare Association of HAL 2nd stage, and believes that the local government has more responsibilities than the country or state government. “Forget about what Narendra Modi is doing, or even Siddaramiah. Question what the local bodies are doing in your neighbourhoods because what happens in Kengeri may not affect me, but what is happening in my area does,” he says. He explains that Bengaluru was once an integrated city, so one local body for the whole city worked. But, this won’t work anymore.
Besides this, he observed an underlying tension among residents due to the growing population and rapid urbanization. “We all share concerns of commercialization of residential areas in this cosmopolitan city, so I observed that despite Bengaluru moving forward, there is an underlying tension,” he says
It is not guaranteed that the survey will find solutions to issues, but will help identify them. It is not confirmed if it will be an annual survey, but Ravindra says doing this once in two years will benefit the city.
Mood will have a say
People who have taken the survey agree that happiness is subjective, and that mood plays a big role in determining answers. Even for Ravindra, if the question on job satisfaction is answered on a Monday, people will rate it low.
“This is a thoughtful survey, but I don’t think rating air pollution would depend on my mood. But if I was in a bad state of mind, then I would give low ratings,” says Anuvarta Binitee Chettri, a student at Christ University, who is also conducting a research on happiness.