Fri, Dec 15, 2017 - Page 6 News List

India ‘happiness minister’ wanted in murder probe

AFP, NEW DELHI

Police on Wednesday said they had launched a manhunt for India’s only “happiness minister” after the state politician vanished when a court order for his arrest was issued over an alleged murder.

Madhya Pradesh Minister Lal Singh Arya, whose only mandate is to put a smile on the face of his 70 million constituents, is wanted in connection with an alleged murder of an opposition politician in 2009.

Madhya Pradesh in January became the first state in India to create a happiness ministry, making headlines with the appointment of Arya to head the rosy department.

However, the 53-year-old from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party disappeared without a trace after a court in Bhind District issued a non-bailable warrant for his arrest over an alleged connection to the murder.

Local police said they were “hopeful” of catching Arya before he is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday next week.

“Police teams are still looking for him. We are positive that we will track him down by then,” Bhind Police Superintendent Prashant Khare said by telephone.

Police launched the hunt for the minister on Tuesday when he was not found at his residence, the Press Trust of India reported.

Arya was tasked by the state in January with responsibility for “the happiness and tolerance of its citizens.”

The happiness ministry is modeled on the “gross national happiness” index used by India’s northerly neighbor Bhutan as a measure of its success.

Madhya Pradesh hopes for its own such “happiness index” and has promised social programs including yoga, meditation and free religious pilgrimages for senior citizens.

The state’s chief minister in January said the ministry would even “rope in psychologists to counsel people on how to be always happy.”

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