FF quota to stay

Prime minister says in parliament

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said it is not possible to reform the freedom fighters' quota in public jobs due to a High Court verdict.

“There is a High Court verdict for keeping the freedom fighters' quota. How can we violate the High Court verdict? ... We cannot do this,” she said in parliament.

“I had earlier spoken of cancelling the entire quota system. But there is a verdict of the High Court in this regard. If I violate the verdict, I'll face contempt of court. Nobody can do this,” Hasina, the leader of the House, said in her valedictory speech in the budget session of the current parliament.

She, however, said the vacant posts under the quota will be filled up with candidates from the merit list. “This process has been followed for the last several years.

“I formed a committee headed by the cabinet secretary which is now looking into the matter. Then what is their [demonstrators] problem?

This is my question.”

Pointing to the quota reform movement, Hasina said the demonstrators cannot say what they actually want.

She further said those involved in the attack on the residence of the Dhaka University vice chancellor will not be spared.

“They cannot be spared. They are being arrested, and an investigation is underway. Many of them have already made confessions,” she said, adding that all the culprits will be arrested, no matter where they are.

Attacks on the VC's residence, torching of vehicles and looting of valuables cannot be acts of any students, she added.

No country other than Bangladesh offers higher education at such low costs, the PM pointed out.

Many of the demonstrators who are university students pay only Tk 15 a month as seat rent at dormitories and Tk 30 for a meal, yet they are carrying out movement, she mentioned.

“Is it a movement? It is chaos that can never be tolerated,” she said, referring to vandalising of hall gates and female students coming out of dormitories at midnight.

“If they continue to do so, should not they pay seat rent and costs of meal at the current market prices?”

In her over 50-minute speech, the PM also praised the opposition leaders and all MPs for playing a very constructive role in the budget session.

A decent and fair atmosphere prevails in the current parliament, and the House operated the way it should, she mentioned.

Hasina said the current parliament formed through the 2014 election did not see any untoward incident or hear any unwarranted words. “There were very constructive discussions here which increased the dignity of parliament before the nation to a large extent, and people's confidence in it has been restored.”

About the next general election, the PM hoped all including the opposition -- the Jatiya Party -- will participate in the polls.

“If people want, they will again cast votes in favour of boat [the election symbol of the Awami League] and give us the opportunity to serve them.”

Referring to the government's various development activities, Hasina said Bangladesh is marching forward and will continue to do so. “Nobody can neglect it now.”

Opposition Leader Raushan Ershad urged the PM to consider with sympathy the students' demand for quota reform.

In her winding-up speech in the budget session, she called upon the PM to raise the age limit for entry to government jobs to 35 and fix the retirement age at 65.

“There is confusion among our children about quota. It's usual that they will seek jobs after completion of studies. It's also usual for them to stage demonstrations [demanding quota reforms]. They are our children. We must provide them with jobs at any cost,” Raushan said.

“I would like to urge the prime minister through you [the Speaker] to consider with sympathy the quota reform issue.  I know our prime minister has a motherly heart. I request her to consider the issue. I know she will do it as she loves the country and its people.”

Pointing to the current 10th parliament, the opposition leader said this parliament is the most effective and successful parliament in the history of Bangladesh no matter who says what about it.

“Many people criticise the present parliament. But no parliament in the past, especially in the last 20 to 25 years, was as effective as the present one,” she added.