THE committee that the government instituted on July 2 on reforms in the public service recruitment quota — 56 per cent of which is now reserved in various categories and 44 per cent left to be decided on merit — in its report on Monday recommended the abolition of all quotas in the recruitment of Class I and II public servants. Students, mainly in their tertiary level of education and just off the courses planning to get into public service, took the streets in the middle of February demanding reforms in and rationalisation of the quota system until April 11 when they called off their protests as the prime minister in the parliament announced the cancellation of all quotas in public service recruitment. They took to the streets again to push for the demands — facing attacks by both the law enforcers and activists of the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League — in the first week of July when the government set up the committee, which in its extended deadline of 90 days made the recommendations. Later, on July 12, the prime minister in the parliament said that the freedom fighter’s quota could not be changed; and the cabinet secretary on August 13 said that the 30 per cent freedom fighter’s quota could not be abolished.
While the recommendations appear to have attended to the demand of the students in a way, which also leaders of the quota reforms movement welcomed, but the abolition of all quotas was not the original demand of the students. They wanted the rationalisation of and reforms in the quota system, which we also found legitimate. Now the committee in question recommending that no quota should be there in public service recruitment only reflects what the prime minister said in the parliament on July 12, which viewed by many as an expression of anger. We have written in this column earlier, as most of the thinking sections of society reckon, that quota should be there, even in small percentage, as is proportionate, at least for some categories such as freedom fighters, women, national minorities and people with disabilities. Although the cabinet secretary at a briefing after the cabinet meeting on the day has sought to say that they have found no merit in reserving quotas for certain groups of people, we strongly hold brief for the retention of quota — rationalised, proportionate and in small percentage — for certain groups of people in the recruitment of public servants, in what is called a positive discrimination for those groups in question, to take forward society until a later time when it will no longer be required. And the rationalised quota system should apply to all classes of public servant recruitment.
The public administration ministry is yet to seek the approval of the prime minister for the recommendations and the cabinet is reported to be discussing them in the first week of October before an official notification. This still leaves the government with the space to rethink the public service recruitment quota and reform and rationalise the system to the benefits of society.
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