Amid the ongoing movement to reform the existing quota system in government services, experts have said that the system should be reformed for the greater benefit of the country.
They have pointed out that most candidates were recruited through the discriminatory quota system instead of merit, which discouraged qualified candidates from applying for public service.
Former caretaker government adviser Dr Akbar Ali Khan said that there was no country in the world with an everlasting quota system in government services. Rather the system operates for a certain period in order to bring marginalized communities into the mainstream.
“In Bangladesh, the quota system was started in 1972 and still there are 218 types of quotas in public services without any reform in the last 46 years. If the government wants to recruit 100 or 75 candidates, it becomes tough to decide who is going to get the job,” Akbar told the Dhaka Tribune.
He said: “The qualified candidates are not coming into the public services due to the quota system which is why the country is often being deprived of capable manpower.”
Currently, 56% of a range of government recruitment under Bangladesh Public Service Commission (BPSC) is done via quotas like the freedom fighters quota (30%), women’s quota (10%), district quota (10%), and small ethnic group quota (5%), while the remaining 44% is merit-based, a source said.
Akbar said: “It is a waste of time when candidates do not get the job after taking preparations for two or three years. According to the constitution, there are quotas for women in the parliament but these quotas are not eternal. The parliament is supposed take decision about the quota by evaluating the progress after 15 years.”
“Thus, evaluation should take place regarding the quota system in public services as well,” he added.
On Sunday, thousands of students and graduates staged a demonstration at Shahbagh in Dhaka protesting the system and demanded that the quotas be brought down to 10% from 56%. Carrying posters and placards, protesters tried to form a human chain but were eventually barred by police.
The protesters made a five-point demand that also included recruiting candidates for government service from merit list if eligible candidates are not found under the quota, cancelling special recruitment tests for quota candidates, setting a unified age limit for all government service and stopping the repeated use of quota privileges.
A number of freedom fighters’ children, including current and former student leaders of the ruling party, expressed solidarity with the ongoing movement and demanded reform of the existing quota system. Similar movements have also taken place in different public universities across the country, including Rajshahi University, Chittagong University, and Jahangirnagar University (JU).
Arefin Sarif, a graduate from Dhaka University, said: “My father is a freedom fighter who is still carrying his arm in a splint. As the son of a freedom fighter, I express my solidarity towards the movement for reforming the quota system. Until this system is changed to a tolerable form, as a nation we will be heading in the wrong direction.”
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“My father did not fight against Pakistan to secure a quota privilege in the job market for us, but they fought for a just society without any discrimination,” he added.
Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said that the government should concentrate on the public service recruitment process to ensure the entrance of meritorious candidates in the service of the country.
He said: “The impact of excessive quota in public service may cause serious trouble for the country. The civil service officers run the country. If talented candidates do not come into the government, the country will not perform properly.”
Prof Serajul further said that a significant number of youths in the country were still unemployed while so many posts in public service remained vacant because of quotas, causing anger and frustration among applicants.
In the last few public service recruitment examinations, a total of 6,000 posts remained vacant as eligible candidates were not found under the quota system. A total of 821 posts remained vacant in the 28th Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) exam, 816 in the 29th BCS, 803 in the 30th, 811 in the 31st, 592 in the 33rd, 723 for the 34th, 338 in the 35th, and 366 in the 36th BCS exam, according to a source.
The 32nd BCS was special for quotas only.
Former BPSC member and former JU vice chancellor, Prof Shariff Enamul Kabir said that at present no public service posts remain vacant because of quotas, as the PSC appoints candidates from merit lists to fill those posts.
“With the permission of the government, the PSC recruits the candidates from merit lists for vacant posts under the freedom fighters quota,” he said.
However, Prof Shariff opined that the existing quota system was due for reform.
DU teacher Prof Anwar Hossain said that the quota system should remain untouched in consideration of freedom fighters and marginalized communities of the country.
“I do not think the youth are getting frustrated because of quotas in public services. As long as there are marginalized groups, the quota system should remain. Besides, the freedom fighters quota is recognition for the brave sons of the nation,” he said.
“We need to create more employment opportunities in the country. From our current education system, we can earn a degree with a certificate, but we cannot utilize our learning in the job sector. If we can provide meaningful reform in the education system, our youth will not be frustrated over unemployment,” Anwar, also a former JU VC, told the Dhaka Tribune.
BPSC Chairman Dr Muhammed Sadique was not available for comment.