Where is the quota reform movement headed?
In the wake of the quota reform movement, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had earlier suggested the complete abolition of all sorts of quota reservations in the highly competitive government job examinations.
She also mentioned that an alternative mechanism would be in place for those in need of quota reservations.
Furthermore, a review-committee was also formed to assess all the issues pertaining to a possible quota reformation. After much deliberation, the review committee has finally placed their decision to the cabinet, recommending the complete abolition of the existing quota reservations, while the cabinet also approved the recommendation by scrapping the quota system for class-I and class-II jobs on October 4.
This decision was, however, unable to quell the demands of the protestors -- since they have been fighting for a more rational reformation over the abolition of the entire system.
Furthermore, as the demonstration witnessed a series of cases filed against their leaders, followed by a few arrests, they also demanded the withdrawal of those cases.
However, within hours of this news, those who stood to benefit from the quota system launched their own demonstrations. After the PM’s statements, the reform protestors expressed their concern about those who actually need the quotas to get government jobs.
Children of freedom fighters, under the banner of “Muktijoddha Shontan Command,” have occupied Shahbagh in protest as of this writing, one of the city’s busiest intersections -- causing great stress among citizens.
The PM recently made a comment after the abolition of the quota system mentioning that if the demands are raised properly, quota reservations would be reintroduced. This leaves the agitators in a fix about the outcome of the gazette notification.
Bangladesh has not reached a position yet where it could scrap the quota system altogether. Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are still in need of the quota.
Although Article 28(1) of the Constitution of Bangladesh says the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, the constitution also has provisions which say that if the state thinks it proper, it can make special provisions in favour of women or children for the advancement of any less-privileged section of society under Article 28(4).
In addition, Article 29(3) of the constitution also made a provision in order to secure adequate representation in public service for the less privileged sections of the state, having considered their socio-economic predicaments.
It would have been a wiser decision if the government, instead of abolishing the system in total, had made rational reformations of the quota system by taking into consideration the socio-economic needs of the less privileged.
Any alternative mechanisms for quota-holders may lead to further agitation and hamper the peace and tranquility of public life.
The general people are not willing to see any further agitations and blockades on the road. This problem needs a solution, and it needs one now.
Muhammad Zubair is Research Assistant, Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs.