The preliminary test result of 34th BCS examination was recently published and has resulted in controversy, and mass disappointment, amongst the candidates. This year, the quota system was applied during the preliminary test, a change from previous years. The idea of the quota is already under dispute. In the BCS, 55% of seats are allocated for candidates who fall under quota, and 45% are for general students under meritocratic recruitment. Merit is virtually disregarded for quota holders, and this is unfair to the majority of students. There are quotas for freedom fighters’ children, women, indigenous people, etc. And the grades achieved can vary substantially between a passed quota holder and an unsuccessful general candidate.
The exam has three phases. The first stage is preliminary exam, consisting of multiple-choice questions that test variety of knowledge. The second is the written exam, which tests the capability of the candidates to express their views. The last one is viva voce and that tests the adaptive and situational skills of potential candidates. The final stage is a background and security check.
The government one of the largest institutions of the country, provides qualified persons through the BPSC (and thus through the BCS examination system) to the justice department, foreign cadre, police, tax and audit, and the different ministries. The government also oversees monopoly some utilities such as electricity, water and gas. Moreover, in every sector government has some business concerns like banks, insurances, telecoms and so forth.
To run this whole apparatus, the most important thing required is merit and excellence of staff. In the age of a market economy, diplomacy and competition, it is very hard to remain competitive and that is the exact reason quality, competence and excellence of the government personnel is needed. But the system of quota runs contrary to the above. Let’s have an in-depth look at the quota systems from both the government and general perspective. It is understandable that the quota system was inducted to mitigate inequalities among the citizens of our country. But this original reason has become outdated. The job of the government includes, but is not limited to, assisting indigenous people, who lag behind others, through the tribal quota of 5%, to pave the way of woman empowerment by reserving 20% for the ladies and to honor the memory of the freedom fighters and to recompense their family for their heroics through a quota of 30%. This system has opportunity costs. The government is losing the best possible workforce, and are instead employing less qualified people in highly challenging positions. That deprived meritorious workforce joins the private sector and are competing against public sector organisations. Consequently public ventures are becoming less profitable, as they lack qualified staff and management. The examples are apparent when one compares private banks and public banks or the telecommunications companies like Teletalk and Grameen Phone. Most of the public concerns are becoming backbenchers in the long term. The multinationals (MNCs) are using local talent and grabbing profits of public companies, and ultimately a large portions of the profits are siphoned away from the country. In another case, less qualified people in governmental jobs cannot compete with their counterparts in India, the US, or Europe in international negotiations where quality, competence and efficiency are regarded as resources, and are given highest priority. So, from a simple calculation we can clearly see that the government is losing much from quota system.
Instead of enforcing quota system, there are several other ways where the government can provide benefits to the quota holders. There are lots of non-cadre jobs which would be suitable for quota holders that would provide steady income and address inequality. Meanwhile the BPSC should reduce the quotas to 20%, and recommend that the government utilise the best human resources in the nation, in the best interests of the nation. If women and minorities are given the opportunity to go to school, college and university, then gender equality and empowerment will come about naturally and the quota will not be needed.
BPSC, the government’s recruiting agency, should contemplate publicising the threshold marks in every phase of examination to make the whole process transparent, formulating a protocol where candidates can only apply to several posts that are compatible with their academic background, for example where an accounting major can apply only for audits and accounts, and tax cadres, candidates with a major in political science, international relations or public administration, can apply only for BCS administration, police and foreign affairs. That is only how the government can implement specialisation and can get the best service.
BPSC must shun any kind of political manipulation and influence in this highly important recruitment process. It is high timeto bring the entire system under scrutiny, and being it in line with international best practices so as to reap the highest benefit. Against this backdrop, if the government annuls the quota system then obviously some stakeholders will be disappointed, but it should be remembered that government’s responsibility is not to take a popular decision, but to take the right decision, which will best serve the attainment of the country's collective interests.