Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ruled out abolishing the quota reserved for freedom fighters’ families in government jobs, Agencies report.
In her closing speech at the budget session on Thursday, she cited a High Court verdict in support of her position on the quota issue.
The prime minister also said the government will neither meet the protesters’ demand for release of those arrested on charges of attacking the Dhaka University VC’s house during protests.
The quota protesters are not clear about their demand, Hasina observed. “We asked them repeatedly what they wanted, but they could not say it in clear terms,” she said.
“The High Court in a verdict said quota for freedom fighters will be preserved. Then how will we violate the court verdict? We can’t do that,” she added.
The quota system allows the government to preserve 56 percent posts in public jobs for different quotas. These quotas include 30 percent for families of freedom fighters, 10 percent for women, 10 percent for particular districts, 5 percent for small ethnic groups, and 1 percent for people with disabilities.
Students and jobseekers have been protesting against the system, demanding that the total posts preserved for different quotas be brought down to 10 percent.
The protests reached peak when they clashed with police and Bangladesh Chhatra League activists on the Dhaka University campus in April.
The protests halted when the prime minister told parliament on Apr 11 that she would rather have the quota system abolished than see students create chaos, miss classes and cause public suffering.
A committee has recently been formed to review the quota system in government jobs following Hasina’s comments in parliament in April as the protests continued for a gazette notification clarifying the abolishment of quotas.
“Yes, I had asked for abolishing the total quota system, but there is a High Court verdict on it. I will face contempt of court charges if I do this (abolish quota),” she said on Thursday
“We have formed a committee with the cabinet secretary in it. They (protesters) have seen it. Then what’s their problem?” she asked.
The prime minister also said the government was appointing candidates from the merit list if posts for quota candidates remained vacant for past few years.
She criticised the protests in April. “Can it be called a movement? Disorder can never be allowed,” she said.
Some of the quota protest leaders have been arrested in cases over violence during the protests, including the attack on the VC’s house.
The protesters are also demanding their release now, but Hasina’s tone was uncompromising.
“They (attackers) are being traced one by one from camera footage. Those who rampaged through the VC’s house and carried out arson attack cannot be released.
“They are being arrested. The investigation is ongoing and many of them have admitted to the charges.
“They will not be released no matter how intense the protests get. They must face action, because they have not come to study,” Hasina added.
But Leader of the Opposition Raushon Ershad, in her speech on Thursday, urged Hasina to show sympathy to the quota protesters.
Hasina responded by saying: “The leader of the opposition said children can protest. But attacking the VC’s house, torching furniture, cars, ransacking even the bedroom, looting jewellery, cash – can these be any student’s job? The members of the VC’s family had to hide to save their lives.”
“They called strikes, locked classrooms. Who will be harmed? We have removed session jam, now it is returning because of them,” the prime minister said.
She recalled the moments of the overnight protests.
“They broke down hall gates, female students left halls after midnight. I was very much worried. I asked police, Chhatra League and the Awami League to prevent anything that could harm the girls.
“I went to bed after they returned to their halls at 6am,” added the prime minister.