The demonstrations held by various university and college students on February 25 demanding an end to the existing Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) quota system are unsurprising given that such calls have been made numerous times in the past. What is surprising, however, is how little has been done during all these years to reform the flawed disproportionate BCS quota system as a whopping 56 percent of candidates are recruited under quotas.
We believe that the demands of the protesting students are entirely justified due to many reasons. First, they are not demanding the abolishment of the quota system altogether; rather they simply want the allocation of quota privileges to be brought down to 10 percent from the current 56 percent. Second, under the reserved-seat policy, many posts ironically remain vacant which cannot be opened up for recruitment for the general candidates which is wholly unfair. Third, the quota system—to no one's surprise—has repeatedly been abused by both major parties for political ends. And finally, given the current state of civil service in the country, it is safe to say that a change in our approach to recruitment for government jobs is essential.
We must remember that the quota system exists for good reason. Affirmative action is necessary to uplift certain sections of the population—women, indigenous communities and the disabled. But the challenge is to strike the right balance between a reasonable share of quotas—instead of a large percentage as 56—and meritocracy in an equitable manner so that no single group is disproportionately favoured.