A high-powered government committee has recommended abolishing the quota system for class-I and class-II jobs in civil service.
The development comes in the wake of months-long quota reform demonstrations that saw arrests of the movement's leaders and attacks on students.
"Our findings are that there should be no quota for appointments to the posts in 9th to 13th grade, previously dubbed as first class and second class jobs,” Cabinet Secretary M Shafiul Alam, who heads the committee, told reporters at the secretariat after the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday.
The committee also opined that quota is no longer indispensable to small ethnic groups and physically challenged people, he added.
Earlier in the day, the seven-member body submitted its report to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, suggesting that officials of grade 9 to 13 should be recruited "completely on merit".
Under the 8th National Pay Scale, class-I officials -- cadre and non-cadre -- join 9th grade positions while class-II officials are appointed to posts from 10th to 13th grade.
Quota movement leaders welcomed the recommendation, but said they would continue demonstrations until their three-point demand is met.
Apart from a gazette on quota reforms, they want withdrawal of all cases against the students who took part in demonstrations over quota or road safety and punishment to those who attacked the protesters.
The committee, formed to “review, reform or cancel” the quota system, unveiled the recommendation six days after quota reformists announced their decision to launch fresh agitations for the gazette.
Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, the platform spearheading the quota movement since February, will stage demonstrations today at all universities demanding immediate publication of the gazette.
"We will continue our movement as we are still doubtful about the implementation of quota reform recommendation which has been sent to the prime minister," Nurul Haque Nur, a joint convener of the platform, told The Daily Star.
"Our prime minister in parliament declared that there would be no quota in public service, but we did not see its implementation. We will stop our movement once the gazette is published," he said.
At present, about 56 percent of government jobs are reserved for candidates from various quotas. Of the 56 percent, 30 percent are for freedom fighters' children and grandchildren, 10 percent for women, 10 percent for people of underdeveloped districts, five percent for members of indigenous communities and one percent for physically challenged people.
The cabinet secretary said it's a big report but with brief findings.
The appointment system for the positions from 14th to grade 20th will remain unchanged. It was, in fact, not in the committee's terms of reference, he added.
Class-III and class-IV employees are appointed to the 14th to 20th grade positions. However, the government documents now mention “grade” instead of “class” while referring to the tiers in the public service.
About the next step, Shafiul said the prime minister will formally approve the committee's recommendation through the public administration ministry. Later, it will be placed before the next cabinet meeting.
Once the cabinet gives its approval, the government will issue a gazette, he added.
Asked whether the recommendation will have any influence on the 40th BCS exams advertised by the Public Service Commission recently, he said the circular of the BCS exam mentioned that the quota will be fixed accordingly if the government takes a “different” decision.
Replying to a query on the court's observation about quota for freedom fighters' children and grandchildren, he said the committee took opinions from legal experts.
"They [the legal experts] said the judgment would have no effect on the proposal as this is a policy decision of the government," Shafiul said.
In a verdict in 2015, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court said, "The High Court Division observed that the reservation of 30 percent quota for the children of freedom fighters shall be followed strictly."
The cabinet secretary further said the committee has examined the needs of small ethnic groups and the physically challenged people and found that they can do without the quota system.
In February this year, a large number of students of public universities and jobseekers, launched the movement demanding reforms in the quota system.
The movement intensified in April when students across the country took to the streets. They blocked key points in the capital and roads and highways elsewhere.
In the wake of mass protests, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 11 announced in parliament that the quota system would be scrapped.
But as no gazette notification was issued in this regard, the protesters began boycotting classes and examinations in all universities and colleges later on.
On June 30 and July 1, alleged BCL activists attacked protesters at Dhaka University and Rajshahi University, leaving a number of students injured. Law enforcers in the following days arrested and remanded a number of leaders of the movement.
The quota reform movement lost momentum following attacks on demonstrators and arrests of some of its leaders.
The government formed the review committee on July 2 with secretaries to the public administration ministry, finance ministry, Liberation War affairs ministry, law ministry (legislative division), PSC, and the acting secretary to the Prime Minister's Office.
The committee was asked to submit a report within 15 workings days. On July 19, it was given 90 working days as it could not finish gathering information about the system.