Noted economist Jean Dreze along with two other activists were detained by Jharkhand Police on Thursday for allegedly organising a forum on social issues without prior permission.
The trio was taken to the Bishnupura police station and was let off after four hours on personal bonds. Dreze, 60, was holding a public meeting on 'right to food' after he was invited by an NGO. He was detained along with Vivek Kumar and Anuj Gupta.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Vipul Shukla told The Indian Express that the three were detained as the Model Code of Conduct is in place. "They were holding a meeting on social issues and did not take permission from SDO," Shukla said, reports Indian Express.
According to reports, the NGO had written to the district administration asking for permission to hold the forum, but as there was no response from the authorities they went ahead with the programme as it has no connection with elections.
Garhwa Deputy Commissioner Harsh Mangla told the daily: "When Model Code of Conduct is in place, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code is imposed, so assembly of four or more people is unlawful. Dreze had asked for permission to hold a public meeting and it was rejected. We will look into it on why it was rejected."
"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," said Dreze over the incident, reports NDTV.
Dreze is a Belgium born Indian economist and activist, who was a part of the National Advisory Council during the UPA-era. He had conceptualized and drafted the first version of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
He is an honorary chair professor of the Planning and Development Unit of Government of India, in the Department of Economics at the University of Allahabad. He was a professor at the London School of Economics and Delhi School of Economics.
He has written many books and articles over various issues and has also co-authored many books with Nobel laureate authors. Dreze is well recognised in his field of development economics and his commitment to social problems including hunger, famine, education, gender inequality, childcare, school feeding, and employment guarantee being a few among them.