A malaise so heartbreaking and deeply disquieting has entered our society. Look around and you will agree that there is something so utterly rotten in this our proverbial land of Gross National Happiness.
Suicide rate in the country is increasing by the day even as we continue to bask in the sun of international renown that we have managed to earn over the years. We still believe that we are one of the most welfare-driven societies in the world where citizens enjoy higher level of contentment than all others.
But it takes courage to look deep into our own soul and find our face staring back, twisted with shame, guilt and unease. But that we did exactly, as boldly as we felt compelled to. And we found that we need to fill in so many gaps that we created as we hastily marched along the path of development – sometimes called progress.
More than 60 percent of those who attempt or commit suicide are young people between the ages of 15 and 40 years. Men constitute more than women. This speaks clearly of the pressure certain groups of people are hurled in to handle, failing which, there is little option left for them than to evict themselves out of their skins.
Employment is becoming scarce. In the meantime, rural to urban migration is increasing. Why? Are we not consulting demographic shift when we plan our development? Our streets are increasingly being filled with elderly orphans. Yet we continue to debate whether as a GNH country we should have old-age homes.
A study on reported suicide cases in Bhutan says that almost half, 49 percent, of those who attempted suicide earned less than Nu 3,000 a month. The report also says that a majority of those who committed suicide were farmers and students. Civil service is already saturated and private sector is in no position to create jobs. Where must our young people look for hope?
More significantly, what is happening to our national objective of achieving rural prosperity and urban well-being? We must bring our citizens on the fringes back to the fold.
The magnitude of the problem will only grow if we do not act sooner to address some of our gaping social problems. As things stand, is it not a bitter irony, a darn hard smack on the face of our own hallowed national development philosophy of Gross National Happiness?