Students and job seekers have called off their protest programs for quota system reform following the decision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to cancel quotas for government jobs.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has accepted our demand. We are suspending our program until a gazette notification is published in this regard,” Bangladesh Shadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad Convener Hasan Al Mamun said in a briefing in front of Raju Memorial Sculpture at Dhaka University’s TSC intersection on Thursday.
Demonstrators have paid tribute to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with the title of “Mother of Education.”
Joint Convener Nurul Haque read out a written speech outlining some demands. The demands include the publication of a gazette concerning the prime minister’s declaration about the cancellation of quota system at the earliest, unconditional release of all protesters detained in the last few days, state responsibility for all treatment expenses of victims of ‘police torture,’ withdrawal of the five cases lodged by police and Dhaka University authorities over protest and vandalism, and ensuring that no protester will be harassed in the future.
Students will resume protests if there is any harassment of protesters, Nurul added.
After the press briefing, students and protesters brought out a celebratory procession on the Dhaka University campus.
After three days of intense demonstrations around the country against quotas in public service, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced on Wednesday in an impassioned address to parliament that there would be no more quotas for government jobs in future.
Currently, 56% of all jobs in the public sector are reserved for quota groups, while 44% are filled from the merit list. Of the quotas, 30% are for freedom fighters and their descendants, 10% for women, 10% based on districts, and 5% for national minority groups.
The protests against the quota system began in mid-February. A road blockade that began at Shahbagh Sunday evening turned violent after a police crackdown, and demonstrations escalated over the last three days.
‘You are the Mother of Education’
Parishad Convener Hasan Al Mamun thanked the prime minister on behalf of the students and job seekers for cancelling the quota system for government jobs.
He referred to Sheikh Hasina as the “Mother of Education.”
After the press briefing, students shouted slogans praising the prime minister.
‘Gazette as per PM’s directive’
A gazette on the quota system in government services will be issued after receiving Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s instruction in this regard, Public Administration Ministry’s Senior Secretary Mozammel Haque Khan has said.
“There is no rush. No recruitment process is scheduled to begin immediately,” he told reporters at the Secretariat in Dhaka on Thursday.
Asked whether the system would be reformed or repealed, the senior secretary said it would be known later as the decision would be taken following the prime minister’s order.
Replying to another question, Mozammel said they were now waiting for her directive.
“People are coming up with different opinions and speculations and creating confusion. This is not an easy task, rather it’s complicated to some extent. However, everything will be clear after we receive the prime minister’s orders.”
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Md Shafiul Alam said a committee would be formed to scrutinize the quota system.
‘Reform, not abolition’
A group of teachers from public universities have issued a statement saying they support a reform of the quota system but not abolition.
The quota system is required for unprivileged people like ethnic minorities, the statement said.
It said reserving a 56% quota for government jobs is irrational and students’ demonstrations demanding the reforms to the system were reasonable.
The teachers also expressed concern over the attacks on the protesters. They condemned the vandalism at the residence of the Dhaka University vice chancellor.
“An expert committee should be formed to work on quota reforms in line with the constitution. We think abolishing the quota system will be contrary to the constitution,” the statement said.