THE students who had held protests since mid-February seeking reforms in the public service recruitment quota, called off their protests on April 11 after the prime minister had announced the cancellation of all quotas in public service recruitment, then took to the streets again in the first week of July to be beaten and harassed by both the law enforcers and Chhatra League activists have given the government till August to release all their detained fellows before Eid-ul-Adha, falling on August 22, and to make an official notification on reforms in the quota system by end-August. The students, banded together under the Bangladesh General Students’ Rights Protection Council, in Dhaka on Sunday, also threatened a tougher movement if the government does not meet their demands, which also includes an immediate arrest and punishment of the attackers on the students during the protests. The government in the middle of July made an about-turn from its earlier position saying that the quota for freedom fighters in public service recruitment would remain, citing a court order, which was, in fact, an observation of the court.
The students, who rose up in protest seeking reforms in the quota system fearing an uncertainty looming large over them as regards employment in an environment where the creation of jobs has almost stopped both in the public and the private sector, came to be beaten up, harassed and intimidated by both the law enforcers and Chhatra League activists whenever they took to the streets to peacefully raise their voice and concern. Twenty-two of them have been arrested. The handful of teachers and civil society actors who came forward in support of the just demand of the students also came to be attacked and harassed by Chhatra League activists. Now that the government has yet to do anything meaningful in plain sight about this all — effecting reforms in the quota system, making an official notification on the issue and arresting the people who attacked the student protesters, the next obvious step for the protesters is to take to the streets again to push for their demands. And they have now announced their next step. The students sought reforms in or rationalisation of the quota in public service recruitment, that too out of uncertainty created by the socio-economic issues. It has been reported that a fourth of the education youth, or more than a fourth of them, are unemployed. In a situation like this, the students, along with their guardians who are mostly from rural areas, have every right to be concerned about their future.
A situation like this is enough to prompt students willing to take up government jobs to seek reforms in public service recruitment quota and, thus, dispel the worry of their parents and guardians. The government now must understand that in such circumstances, the students would take to the streets again to press home their demands. The government should, therefore, understand that it needs to attend to the issue in some way or the other. The government must also work to create jobs and facilitate job creation in the private sector if it means a sustainable solution to the problem that prompted the students to take to the streets.
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