Time to make room for merit

MH Bari

The bottom line is that we should not compromise the selection of employees at the highest level of government service.


The quota system is a hiring policy where a specified number or percentage of members in specific groups is to be hired. In Bangladesh every government job indulges the quota system.

The quota system was introduced in the recruitment of government services after independence, aiming to elevate the more disadvantaged sectors in our society. It was hoped that this system would be abolished after a certain period, but it exists still. The quota system was introduced into the government service by an executive order in 1972, where 45% of the jobs are reserved on merit, while 30% are distributed among the children of freedom fighters, 10% among women, 10% among districts, and 5% among indigenous people.

Recruitment into various cadres of the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) is in accordance with the provisions of this rule. No direct appointment can be given in BCS cadre service without the recommendation of the Public Service Commission.

But the present quota system has proven to be a serious obstacle in recruiting deserving candidates into civil services. It has weakened the standards of the civil service tremendously, causing an administrative snag.

Taking this matter into consideration, the Public Administration Reform Committee’s (PARC) recommendation of abolishing the quota system in government services is praiseworthy. The PARC report said: “The region-based or other quotas are contrary to the spirit of the constitution, and are also making the government employment system complicated.” The Public Service Commission’s annual report also advocated quite heavily for the abolition of the quota system in government services.

The quota system should be abolished on the following grounds
  1. According to Article 19 of the constitution describing the policy of Equality of Opportunity: “The State shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens.” If 55% of all candidates come from the quota, how will the state ensure equality of opportunity for all citizens? Is the quota system not violating this article and going against the spirit of the constitution? 
  2. The quota policy, as enshrined in the constitution, is an exception for the advancement of the backward sections of society. Hence the quota system can in no way supersede the universal principle of merit for ensuring equal employment opportunities for all citizens without discrimination. 
  3. Since our liberation in 1971, the majority of the posts in civil services have been reserved for people from preferred groups under the quota. Moreover, the quota has always been implemented without much transparency. 
  4. Quota may be necessary for the advancement of the backward sections of society, but it can never be continued for an indefinite period. The country has been advancing steadily and now there are no specific sectors that need a special quota.
  5. Due to the quota policy, officers of relatively poor calibre get entry into the civil service. This has long-term bad impacts on the whole administration as it has lowered the quality of our civil servants.
  6. The 30% quota reserved for the wards of freedom fighters, though sanctioned by a wave of sympathy and gratitude, has no legal leg to stand on unless the beneficiaries are proven to be disadvantaged. 

The bottom line is that we should not compromise the selection of employees at the highest level of government service. We have obligations to the children of our freedom fighters, and we also want women, tribal people, and people from less developed districts to have a higher level of participation in the government service. But how should we do that?

We should ensure better education for the children of our freedom fighters by giving support to their families, by lending stipends and scholarships to their children, by enrolling them in better schools and colleges. We have already extended a lot of support for the education of women which has yielded results with more female candidates qualifying based on merit, and we should extend support to the tribal children in the same way.

For less-developed districts, we should take measures towards improving the schools and colleges in those districts so that students come out with competitive results. As a conscious citizen, I am in favour of a long-term plan to support the needy without compromising the ultimate selection. The issue is delicate but we would not be prudent in trying to tend to the interests of all.

Almost all non-partisan segments of the academia and civil society concur that the quota system needs a total revision. None think that quota should be completely wiped off. None disagree with keeping quota for the family of the deceased or disabled freedom fighters or minorities, up to a rational level, to comply with constitutional provisions. But it is also necessary to make space for meritorious applicants so that they can take part in respectably building our nation.

Source: Dhaka Tribune


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