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Quota versus merit: Deserving candidates being deprived

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THERE are thousands of others who hold the existing quota system responsible for not getting the job a meritorious candidate deserves. Currently, only 44 percent are recruited on merit and the remaining 56 percent on privilege allocated under various quotas.

The quota system draws two strong criticisms. Firstly, it is hugely disproportionate and secondly, it remains enforced for ages. And 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.

A number of former top bureaucrats termed the system bizarre and warned that the government would be run by the mediocrities in future. During a lecture session at Dhaka University on January 20, Akbar Ali Khan, an adviser to a caretaker government, termed the quota system the biggest problem in the cadre service. He mentioned that there were 257 types of quotas.

The quota system was introduced through an executive order in 1972 and was amended several times. From 1972 to 1976, 20 percent was recruited on the basis of merit. Merit-based recruitment was increased to 40 percent in 1976 which continued until 1985 when the percentage of merit-based recruitment was upped to 45 percent. But in 2012, one percent quota was introduced for the physically challenged, reducing merit-based recruitment to 44 percent.

The quota provision is, however, not unusual. Many countries in the world have introduced the provision to ensure representation of society's disadvantaged groups in the service of the republic. But the quotas are applied differently. In the US, those eligible for quotas are given a head start with some marks, and then they compete for the jobs with everyone else in competitive exams.

The Bangladesh Public Service Commission (PSC) had recommended simplifying quota system for recruiting officials to public service due to the existing complexities in applying quota. The application of the existing quota related rules is complicated and a matter of multidimensional restrictions. Sometimes, it becomes impossible to select suitable candidates accurately by applying the quota system, said the Commission in its Annual Report-2016.

We think, it becomes essential to reform our quota system. Thirty percent jobs for freedom fighters children and their grandchildren are not necessary 47 years into our independence. Especially for the Grade 1 posts the number of meritorious candidates should be increased through reducing quota system.

Depriving those who do well in exams is also not just, either-- the exams are fiercely competitive  in reality as only one in every two hundred get jobs once the quotas are taken into account. There must be a middle ground which will be suitable for all.  

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