Police said Wednesday 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.
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 this rosy department.
But 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 told AFP they were “hopeful” of catching Arya before he is scheduled to appear in court on December 19.
“Police teams are still looking for him. We are positive that we will track him down by then,” Prashant Khare, police superintendent in Bhind, told AFP by phone.
Police launched the hunt Tuesday for the minister 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 modelled on the “gross national happiness” index used by India’s northerly neighbour 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 said in January the ministry would even “rope in psychologists to counsel people on how to be always happy”.