The sensitivity of any discussion about the preferential quotas compels me to begin with a personal introduction. Both my parents are freedom fighters. My father Akhtar Ahmed was an army doctor in Sector 2 — many of his friends and comrades called him Doc — and founded the Bangladesh Hospital in Tripura, which was probably the only organization of its kind during the Liberation War. He also sought out action close to the front. One anecdote of going inside occupied Bangladesh to loot a Pakistani held medical complex for medicine and supplies is quite popular. My mother was a nurse at the war hospital. My uncle, Manzoor Ahmed, was one of the young officers of the Murti Commission, the first war course. Both my uncle and my father were awarded the Bir Prateek.
I had nothing to do with their choices. I was not even born at that time and can say for sure that I have had no role whatsoever in the heroics of my mother, father or my uncle. There is no reason that I should be rewarded for what my parents did. It is false propaganda that quotas are to honour them. The grossly unfair preference seemed little more than charity at the expense of others. I have never availed of this quota, nor did I want to.
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People would be sympathetic to freedom fighters getting privileges and preference in government jobs. After all, they proved their dedication to Bangladesh in battle. So, one might argue that they would be sincere in their jobs too. But their children, like me or my cousins, have done nothing to show that we too are patriotic. There is no way to tell that we would do justice to the privilege we were given. What is more, for certain cases, such privilege would in fact be criminal because freedom fighters are not backward by definition, which is the primary criterion for preferential quotas. There is no reason that certain candidates should be prioritized over others despite having a lower merit simply because their grandfather (or grandmother) was a freedom fighter.
As for ensuring the dignity of freedom fighters, the government should by all means ensure allowances and stipends for them and extend it to their families if needed. But any privilege or preference cannot go on in generational infinity. With one million descendants, at most, the freedom fighters would constitute less than one percent of their country’s population and enjoy 30% of the government jobs!
The official number of freedom fighters more than doubled during this Awami League regime over four decades after the war. To make it worse, of those 200,000 freedom fighters, there have been objections about more than 60,000 cases alleging that they were fake. The generationally infinite quota for freedom fighters, meaning that they or their descendants could avail of this quota as many times for as many children or grandchildren as they wanted, became a source of rampant corruption.
Zero preference is certainly better than 56% government jobs going to undeserving candidates. Now we can begin from scratch and go about allocating preferential quotas to truly deserving people with the proper conditions to make sure it is never abused.