The call for reforming the quota system in public service recruitments is getting louder as demonstration over the issue has spread to various educational institutions across the country.
Thousands of students from different public universities and colleges staged sit-ins and held rallies at their institutions yesterday, demanding an end to the "discrimination created by the disproportionate quotas” in BCS (Bangladesh Civil Service) exams and other government recruitment tests.
Under the banner of "Bangladesh Shadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad", the protesters started the demonstration around 11:00am to press home their five-point demand, including reducing the allocation of quota privileges to 10 percent from current 56 percent.
The other demands include recruiting job seekers to vacant posts on the basis of merit if suitable candidates are not found from those who are eligible to get jobs under the quota system, preventing special recruitment tests for candidates falling under the quotas, and ensuring unified age for all job seekers.
Also yesterday, children of freedom fighters formed a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club in favour of the 30 percent posts reserved for them in government jobs.
Under the banner of "Muktijoddha Sangsad Santan Command”, they slammed the demonstration demanding reformation of quota system.
"It's a conspiracy. It's the Jamaat-Shibir activists who have been staging demonstration demanding reformation of the quota system under the banner of general students," said Mehedi Hasan, president of the association.
The anti-quota protesters held the existing system responsible for many meritorious candidates' failure to get the jobs they deserve. Currently, only 44 percent job seekers are recruited on the basis of merit. The remaining 56 percent candidates are recruited on the basis of the privileges under various quotas.
Of the 56 percent, 30 percent are kept for freedom fighters' children and grandchildren, 10 percent for women, 10 percent for people from districts lagging behind, 5 percent for people of indigenous communities, and people with disabilities have the remaining one percent.
The aspirants claimed that the existing quota system is hugely disproportionate and it has been there for ages. They said it has left the nation with two grave consequences -- competent candidates being driven to other jobs and bureaucracy being devoid of merit in the long run.
There had been protests against the quota system earlier in Dhaka and other places. On February 17, jobseekers held a demonstration at the base of Raju Vashkarjo (Raju Memorial Sculpture) on the Dhaka University campus.
Yesterday around 11:00am, the protesters, holding placards with the demands written on them, tried to form a human chain at the Shahbagh intersection.
But police barred the protest in order to avoid “public sufferings”, said Abul Hasan, officer-in-charge of Shahbagh Police Station.
Being obstructed, more than 1,000 students and jobseekers from different universities and colleges of the capital -- mostly from Dhaka University -- started their sit-in around 11:30am.
They demonstrated for over an hour there and later sent a four-member delegation to the Prime Minister's Office to submit a memorandum, having the five-point demands.
The delegation -- comprising three DU students and one from Dhaka College -- submitted the memorandum.
"We, the general students, are facing huge discrimination," said Masud Ahmed, a DU graduate.
Another job aspirant, Mohammad Russell, said, "There should be a certain quota for our freedom fighters for their contributions in the war, but not such a large chunk like 30 percent. The government must reduce the percentage gradually and keep it to 10 percent."
He said if anyone from a family enjoys the benefit of quota, its other members should not get it.
Al Mamun, a student of Dhaka College, said a large number of posts in civil service exams remain vacant as jobseekers applying under the quotas were not found suitable against the available posts.
But, thousands of qualified candidates are not getting jobs despite appearing in the recruitment tests repeatedly, he added.
He also demanded that the government recruit job seekers based on merit if the posts under quota remain unfulfilled.
In the last few civil service recruitment examinations, a total of 3,500 posts remained vacant as eligible aspirants were not found under the quota. A total of 813 posts remained vacant in the 28th BCS, 792 in the 29th BCS, 784 in the 30th, 773 in the 31st and 338 in the 35th.
The protestors also announced to hold a protest programme wearing black badges at different colleges and universities across the country on March 4.
More than a thousand students of different departments of Rajshahi University (RU) joined the demonstration on the campus yesterday, voicing similar demands.
The students formed an hour-long human chain in Paris Road area of the university at 11:00am and brought out a silent procession that paraded different roads on the campus.
Salahuddin Sayem, son of a freedom fighter, said, "Being a child of a freedom fighter, I do not want cancellation of this quota. But as its proportion is too high, it is taking away opportunities from thousands of meritorious students. That's why I want this system to reform.”
Sayem, a student of history department, said, "My father fought in the Liberation War for the welfare of this country, not for creating any discrimination among its people."
Another demonstrator, Mominur Rashid, a student of philosophy department, said, "We do not want the cancellation of the quota system, we want its reform”.
At Jahangirnagar University, more than 600 students yesterday demonstrated on the campus by forming a human chain in front of the university central Shaheed Minar.
The students started the programme at 11:00am to press home their five-point demand.
A masters student of public administration department, Saleq Muhid, also a son of a freedom fighter, said, "It's not ethical that we are getting advantages as sons of freedom fighters. Those who gave away their lives in 1971 did not make the sacrifice only for them and their children. Their dream was to make a society equal for all."
In Chittagong University, over 300 students of different departments formed a human chain at Central Shaheed Minar premises around 11:00am to press home their demand.
Coordinator of the protest programme, Mizanur Rahman, a fourth year student of political science department, said that they are being deprived of government jobs because of the quota system.
"We are not against the quota. But the government should emphasise merit and give priorities to 90% general students. We want an immediate review of quota system," he said, seeking prime minister's intervention in removing the "discrimination" in government jobs.
A similar demonstration was held in Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University in Tangail.
Students of all the departments joined the one-hour human chain in front of the administrative building with a slogan -- "Bangabandhur Banglai, Boishommer thai nai" (There is no room for discrimination in Bangabandhu's Bangla).