Ranchi: On Thursday renowned development economist Jean Dreze was detained by the Jharkhand Police in Garhwa district. The news shocked many as people both from Jharkhand and outside are much aware of his regular visits to various places in Jharkhand for issues related to social welfare schemes.
On Thursday, he was about to participate in a public meeting where issues of Right To Food were to be discussed but he along with the programme coordinators Vivek Kumar and Anuj Kumar were taken in custody by the Garhwa police.
Jean and others were accused of violating election’s Model Code of Conduct and that they had not taken permission to conduct the meeting. Police had threatened to send them jail under section 171, 172 and 173 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Significantly, a hand written press communiqué issued by the organizers mentioned that at the place where the meeting had been scheduled, a grand four-day religious function had been organized from March 16 to 19. During this meet several political parties even did their political campaigning amid loud music (50 loud speakers) which was played from 4 to 11 pm under the guidance of local police all the four days.
“It seems because of political pressure, police administration is harassing the people who are working for the poor,” read the letter.
Jean and others were detained for two hours at Bishunpura Police Station and later released only after furnishing some bound.
Garhwa police said that Jean was questioned for holding meeting without permission in the Police Station.
But even after getting released, Jean’s primary concern was that the meeting did not take place and not that he had been detained by the police.
After the incident, noted economist said on the entire episode to eNewroom, “It is disturbing that the administration did not feel it important to allow a peaceful meeting concerning the issues of livelihood to be organized in an area where poverty and exploitation is still rampant. The government’s understanding of democracy seems to be getting narrower by the day.”
The 60-year-old economist has played an instrumental role in the implementation of several social schemes including Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and Right to Food. He has even co-authored many books with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
Jharkhand, which has over 40 per cent its people living below poverty line, is one of the worst affected states when it comes to starvation. At least 16 people had died of hunger in 2018, in Jharkhand. One of the main reasons for the deaths was the cancellation of ration cards, on grounds of it not being linked to Aadhar. Thereby, depriving the poor of their rations and eventually causing starvation deaths in the state. The worst hunger death case, which had grabbed India’s attention, was of Santoshi Kumari’s who died asking for bhaat (cooked rice) from her mother.
Coming back to Jean’s arrest, right from Congress President Rahul Gandhi to former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Hemant Soren to student leader Kanhaiya Kumar to Swaraj Abhiyan’s National President Yogendra Yadav and over millions expressed shock over the detention of the economist on social media.
Rahul Gandhi even attacked on the ruling BJP, and said that BJP is in a state of war, with those who work for poor.