Cabinet approval of quota abolition met with protests from freedom fighter families, small ethnic communities
Students and jobseekers, who have been on the streets on and off again since February this year demanding reform of the quota system in government recruitments, have welcomed the Cabinet’s decision to approve a proposal to abolish the quotas.
But they also urged the government to withdraw all police cases against the demonstrators and bring to justice those who attacked them on several occasions.
Meanwhile, freedom fighter families and ethnic community-based groups protested the decision and demanded that their quota privileges be retained.
Nurul Huque Nur, joint-convener of the Bangladesh General Students’ Rights Protection Council (BGSRPC), the platform that spearheaded the quota reform movement, told the Dhaka Tribune: “We take the move positively but the government must issue a gazette notification regarding this immediately.”
Speaking to reporters after cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Shafiul Alam said the decision would be conveyed to the Public Administration Ministry, which will then publish a gazette.
Nurul expressed concerns about supposed ambiguities in the cabinet secretary’s briefing, saying it was not clear from his statement whether the government wanted to abolish the quota system or not.
He further said that their demand had always been a reasonable reform of the quota system, not abolition, and if the government wants to keep quotas, they should be in line with their five point charter of demands.
“The government must also realize our two other demands - withdrawal of all false cases against students and exemplary punishment of attackers,” he added.
“The students do not want to see more drama. The government must realize all our demands; otherwise we will take to the streets again.”
Meanwhile, an ethnic community-based group has issued a three-day ultimatum to the government demanding that the 5% quota privileges for these communities remain the same.
Adivasi Quota Sangrakkhan Parishad gave the ultimatum at a rally on the Dhaka University (DU) campus.
Alik Mree, joint-coordinator of the platform, also announced that they would hold a nationwide strike if the government does not pay heed to their demand.
Muktijoddha Sangsad Sontan Command’s DU unit General Secretary Al Mamun told the Dhaka Tribune that the decision was ‘disappointing and humiliating’ for freedom fighters and they would launch a larger movement to preserve their rights.
On September 17, a government committee led by Cabinet Secretary Md Shafiul Alam recommended the abolition of the quota system for first and second class government jobs.
The committee had suggested abolishing almost all the quotas in government jobs to prioritize merit-based recruitment.
On July 2, the Public Administration Ministry formed the seven-member committee to review, reform, or revoke the existing quota system—following a nationwide movement of public and private university students demanding reform to the quota system.
The movement, which started in February, intensified in April after clashes between activists, police, and Bangladesh Chhatra League on the DU campus.
In response to that, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on April 11, announced that all quotas would be abolished.
Currently, 56% recruitment in government jobs are reserved for candidates who fulfill various quotas 30% of government jobs are given to the offspring of freedom fighters, 10% are allocated on the basis of the district quota, 10% are reserved for women, 5% for ethnic communities, and 1% for people with disabilities.