Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 11 scrapped the quota system in government services after thousands of students took to the streets to protest the setting aside of jobs for special groups.
The government’s decision to set aside 56 per cent of civil service jobs for the families of veterans from the 1971 war of independence and for disadvantaged minorities had angered the students.
Hasina’s announcement left the students stumped who will take a call on their future strategy today. Over the past week around 100 students were injured in clashes after police was called into campuses. Thousands of students from public and private universities – in one of the biggest protests witnessed by Bangladesh in almost a decade – were demanding reform in the quota policy, however, the government decided to scrap it.
Hasina asked students to end boycott of classes. “The quota system stands scrapped to stop repeated sufferings [of people] and avoid hassles of tackling movement time and again. This is clear,” Hasina said in Parliament, the Daily Star reported.
“For the last several days, classes and studies have been suspended at all universities. There was an attack on the residence of the VC [of Dhaka University]. There is traffic jam on roads… people are suffering. Why will general people suffer repeatedly?
“If we go for reforms [of the quota system], another group will come up after a few days and say ‘we want further reforms’. This issue will keep coming if the quota system remains. But if it ceases to exist, there will be no problem. So, there’s no need for having the quota system,” she said.
Hasina said she will consider an alternative to accommodate members of ethnic minorities and the physically-challenged in government jobs.
Rashed Khan, joint convener of Bangladesh General Students’ Rights Protection Forum, told the Daily Star that students will hold discussions to decide the next course of action.
“We don’t want abolition of the quota system. We want reform as there is a need for it,” Rashed said.
The quota system was introduced through an executive order in 1972 and was amended several times. As of now 44 percent are recruited on merit and 56 percent under various quotas.
Of the 56 percent, 30 percent is for freedom fighters’ children and grandchildren, 10 percent for women, 10 percent for people of districts lagging behind, 5 percent for members of indigenous communities, and one percent for physically-challenged people.
Since 1972, several public service reform committees and the Public Service Commission, the body that oversees government recruitment, objected to the policy.