Six things you need to know about government job quota debate

Mushfique Wadud | Update:

Students brought out a procession with placards demanding reforms in quota system. Photo: Prothom Alo  There is an ongoing debate as to whether the quota system in government jobs should be reformed or remain as it is now. A group of students have been carrying out movement in demand of reforms in government job quotas, while other groups have been voicing support for the system. Academicians and former senior government officials recommend reforms in the existing quota system. Some experts even say the present quota system is against the spirit of the country’s constitution.

Here are the six key things you need to know about the quota debate.

Quota system first introduced in 1972

The quota system in civil service was introduced in Bangladesh in 1972. On 5 September 1972, the ministry of cabinet affairs issued an interim recruitment policy through an order. As per the policy, 20 per cent of the positions were to be filled up by merit, 30 per cent by freedom fighters, 10 per cent was for war-affected women and 40 per cent for district quotas. In 1978, there was a reform in the quota system and the merit-based position was increased to 40 per cent, 30 per cent quota remained for freedom fighters, 10 per cent for war-affected women and 10 per cent was introduced for women and 10 per cent for the district quota. There was another reform in 1986, when the merit quota was increased to 45 per cent, 30 per cent remain for freedom fighters, the quota for war-affected women was abolished, and 10 per cent for women remained and five per cent quota was introduced for ethnic communities.  

In 1997, the quota system was expanded- the offspring of freedom fighters was included. And it was mentioned that if they are not found, the posts designated for them would be kept vacant.

56 per cent recruited under quota system

Currently, only 44 per cent recruitment takes place through merit while the remaining 56 per cent position is filled from the quota system. Out of 56 per cent for the quotas, 30 per cent is carried out through the quota system for the offspring of freedom fighters, 10 per cent is the district quota, 10 per cent women quota, five per cent quota for the ethnic communities and one per cent for the people with disabilities.

PSC also for simplifying quotas

The Public Service Commission in its several annual reports including that of 2009, 2011 and 2016 recommended simplifying the quota system for the civil service examinations saying that the present quota system is complex and difficult to implement. In 1977, all Pay and Service Commission members except one were against quota system. The one member who supported it had said that the quota system could continue for the subsequent 10 years till 1987.

Student groups divided

A group of students has been carrying out a movement since 2013 for reforms in the present quota system. They said that they are not against the quota system but the present quota system needs reforms. On February 25, several thousand students staged demonstrations at different campuses demanding reforms in the existing quota system in Bangladesh civil service and other government jobs. On the day, a four-member delegation also submitted a memorandum comprising a five-point demand to the Prime Minister's office.  Their five points included 10 per cent fixed quota instead of existing 56 per cent. On Sunday, students agitated again in different campuses. They gave an ultimatum till 13 March and said that they would carry out a sit-in programme in all university campuses if their demands were not met by the ultimatum. Convener of the movement Hasan Al Mamun said that the quota system was creating discrimination in the government. “Quota system was introduced to reduce discrimination but it itself now creates discrimination,” he said   

On the other hand, another group of students who introduce themselves as children of freedom fighters are demanding that the existing quota for freedom fighters should remain as it is now.  Under the banner - “We are children of Freedom Fighters”, they formed a human chain at the National Press Club on Sunday. They said that a vested group was trying to destabilise the country in the name of the protest against quotas  

Academicians and former bureaucrats also for reforms

Former adviser to the caretaker government and cabinet secretary Akbar Ali Khan on several occasions called for reforms in the quota system in the government jobs.  In 2008, he suggested increasing the recruitment in civil service on the basis of merit to 50 per cent from 45 per cent that time. Now the recruitment through merit is 44 per cent.  Last month, while speaking in a seminar at the University of Dhaka, Akbar Ali Khan said that quota system cannot be for an indefinite period in any country. He said that there were 257 types of quotas in the country and this type of system is nowhere to be found in the world.

In a Prothom Alo op-ed published recently, Dhaka University law department proferssor  Asif Nazrul also suggested reforms in the existing quota system.

“From an ethical angle, the quota system in Bangladesh needs to be reformed. In the current quota system, the quality of the civil administration is not only downgraded, but also instigates extreme discrimination and injustice which goes against the spirit of the liberation war. Many of our heroic freedom fighters have been wounded and killed. These freedom fighters have to be identified properly and there should be quota for the offspring of these freedom fighters. The district quota should be revoked. Quotas for women and indigenous people should be kept. The government can keep quotas for the physically disabled. The quota should not exceed one third of the entire recruitment,” he said.

HC rejects writ filed against quota system in govt job   

The High Court on Monday rejected a writ petition filed seeking reforms in the quota system in government jobs.

The HC bench of justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Md Ataur Rahman Khan passed the order after hearing the petition.

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