- Activists detained allegedly for organising a meeting without permission
- Jean Dreze said he was invited to a meeting for right to food and pension
- He has in the past criticised the PM Modi government's economic policies
Noted economist Jean Dreze and two other activists working to ensure Right to Food, were detained by the Jharkhand police for two hours today, allegedly for organising a meeting without permission. The activists alleged that the police initially said a case would be filed against them for breaking the law. They were eventually released without any charges.
Mr Dreze told NDTV that he was invited to a meeting for right to food and pension, organised by a local non-profit, in Jharkhand's Garhwa district this morning.
He said the organisers had sought permission in writing from the district administration 10 days ago. But as the administration did not respond, the organisers decided to go ahead with the meeting, since it had no direct connection with the election.
"If people are not even allowed to hold peaceful non-political meetings about issues like the right to food at election time, then democracy has no meaning," Mr Dreze told NDTV.
One of the activists later told reporters that the police had asked them to "sign a bond that says we have no complaints against the government".
Attacking the state's BJP government led by Raghubar Das, the Congress tweeted:
World renowned economist & social activist Jean Dreze & 2 others have been arrested by the BJP govt. in Jharkhand for daring to hold a meeting on Right to Food. In a state with so many hunger deaths, you'd expect the govt to be more receptive to help. https://t.co/ivXgtOK4q9— Congress (@INCIndia) March 28, 2019
The 59-year-old is one of the leading development economists, who has been working in India since the 1970s. He has authored a number of books on development and policies in India, some of them with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.
Belgian-born Mr Dreze, now an Indian citizen, is known for his sharp criticism of the economic policies of the Narendra Modi government.
"The government should shed its obsession with economic growth and take a broader view of what development is about," Mr Dreze, who served as a member in the former UPA government's National Advisory Council, has said. "Economic growth can certainly contribute to development, in the sense of a widely shared improvement in the quality of life, but it does not go very far on its own".
In various interviews, he has also contended that the Centre is "abdicating" its responsibilities in many sectors and handing them over to the corporate, or to the state governments.