Development economist Jean Drèze, a leading advocate of welfare policies, on Friday said his name was struck off the speakers’ list at the ongoing Delhi Economics Conclave in the national capital at the eleventh hour and was even asked by a “finance ministry” official to stay away from the event.
The Economics Conclave is being organised by the finance ministry and was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.
Drèze has been critical of the NDA government’s policies, including a wholsesale shift to cash-transfers in social programmes. Asked if he was blocked out because of his dissenting views, Drèze said: “Your guess is as good as mine.”
Drèze said he was “disappointed” and also “concerned” that the summit had turned into a “mutual appreciation society with everyone on the same side”. The Belgian-born Drèze, now an Indian citizen, served on the previous UPA government’s National Advisory Council and helped shape key programmes, such as the National Food Security Act.
Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, who had sent the letter of invitation to him, said that the cancellation was due to “last minute adjustments” in the schedule of the conference and it had nothing to do with his views.
“As soon as we had decided, we informed Jean Dreze about it. Just want to make clear, this has nothing to do with views, because the Finance Minister himself personally called the Kerala Chief Minister. It is not based on views or anything and everyone is welcome to attend,” he said.
Subramanian, who had originally extended an invitation to Dreze to attend the one-day Conclave, said Kerala Chief Minister, who belongs to the Congress party, was invited.
He said Nandan Nilekani, who headed Unique Identification Authority during the UPA regime, “is of course is going to have prominent seat in the programme”.
He said they respected Professor Dreze very highly and he is welcome to attend the conclave.
Dreze however said he was told he would not even be allowed to attend the Conclave.
“On the train to Delhi (two days ago), I received a call from a functionary from the ministry of finance who explained, with some embarrassment, that I had been dropped from the programme and would not even be allowed to attend (it),” Dreze said in an email interview to HT.
(With PTI inputs)