Scrap almost all quotas

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Asianbangla, Dhaka : Almost all quotas in civil service should be abolished and merit-based recruitment prioritised, suggests the committee formed to evaluate the quota system.

The panel, however, would seek the Supreme Court’s opinion about the 30 percent quota for freedom fighters’ children and grandchildren.

Cabinet Secretary M Shafiul Alam, who leads the seven-member committee formed on July 2, told this to journalists at the Secretariat after a cabinet meeting yesterday.

He said time has come for open competition and this is the key finding of the committee, which has almost finalised its recommendations.

There is an SC verdict regarding freedom fighters’ quota and if any post under this quota is not filled, it should be left vacant, he said.

“This quota [for freedom fighters’ children and grandchildren] will be abolished if the court wants,” said the cabinet secretary.

In a verdict in 2015, the Appellate Division of the SC said, “The High Court Division observed that the reservation of 30 percent quota for the children of freedom fighters shall be followed strictly.”

Legal experts, however, said observations, also known as remarks or opinions of judges, in a verdict are non-binding.

When his attention was drawn to it, the cabinet secretary said even an observation by the court becomes legally binding for the executive branch. He said they analysed the verdict but could not fully understand and thus would seek opinions.

About the consequence of abolishing the quotas, the cabinet secretary yesterday said those receiving the quota facility for being backward have already advanced to a certain stage.

On Monday, students and jobseekers pressing for quota reforms threatened tougher agitation if the government did not meet by August 31 their three-point demand: a gazette notification on the reforms, unconditional release of their detained leaders and exemplary punishment to those who had attacked them during demonstrations.

Of the 56 percent spots reserved in the civil service, 30 percent are for freedom fighters’ children and grandchildren, 10 percent for women, 10 percent for people of underdeveloped districts, five percent for members of indigenous communities and one percent for the physically challenged.

Amid a quota reform movement, the government formed the committee and asked it to submit a report within 15 workings days.

The committee, which includes secretaries to the public administration ministry, finance ministry, Liberation War affairs ministry, law ministry (legislative division), Public Service Commission, and the acting secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, later got 90 days more time to do its job.

Talking to The Daily Star, Hasan Al Mamun, convener of Bangladesh Shadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, a platform that spearheaded the quota reform movement, said the government going to court is nothing but a delaying tactic.

“The government told us that the quota system would be abolished totally, but we do not see it yet. We want the government to reduce the quota to 10-15 percent from the existing 56 percent,” said Mamun.

“Besides, the privilege the grandchildren of freedom fighters are enjoying under the quota system is not logical and there is no such directive in the court’s verdict.”

He added they would continue their agitation until the logical reforms were made.

In February, students of different public universities and jobseekers, under the banner of Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, started the movement.

Amid countrywide agitation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 11 announced all quotas in civil service would be abolished.

But as no gazette notification was issued, the protesters began boycotting classes and examinations in all universities and colleges from May 14.

The quota reform movement lost momentum following the attacks on demonstrators allegedly by Chhatra League activists and arrests of some of its leaders.

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