One demo brings city to a halt
A demonstration closing off Shahbagh intersection halted traffic in the surrounding area and the cascading effect crippled the entire capital yesterday.
People missed appointments, trains, inter-district buses and were even late for exams.
Witnesses said several hundred students of Dhaka University brought out a procession on the campus around 10:00am and blocked the Shahbagh intersection around 11:00am demanding that the results of a preliminary exam for government jobs be cancelled.
Traffic between Kantaban and Shahbagh and Matshya Bhaban and Shahbagh came to a halt, said Shahed Ali, a sub-inspector of Shahbagh Police Station.
Police had to divert traffic heading towards Shahbagh at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel and Matshya Bhaban intersections.
Seventy-year-old Nasreen started from her Uttara home around 10:45am to attend a lunch meeting in Gulshan. She reached Gulshan around 1:50pm. “After being stranded near Khilkhet, I got out of the car and started to walk, otherwise I would not have made it.”
Office executive Hasan Imran, who was in Banani, had to cancel his lunch appointment at Dhanmondi failing to go anywhere near Dhanmondi in two hours. He was on the Mohakhali flyover for 30 minutes.
Dhaka University student Rezwana said she reached her master's final exam hall an hour and a half late, which seriously compromised her performance at the four-hour exam.
She was stranded for three hours on her way to the campus from Mirpur. She eventually had to walk a considerable distance to get to the university.
Even late into last night, the city had standstill traffic on many streets, as the demonstrators, who had failed to qualify for the civil service, were occupying Shahbagh intersection until 10:00pm.
They had staged a sit-in demanding the Bangladesh Public Service Commission cancel the results of the 34th Bangladesh Commission Service preliminary examination published on July 8 and withdraw the quota system the commission uses for appointing civil servants.
The commission later in the day decided to reconsider the results of the exams, says a press release from the commission.
The unsuccessful government job seekers, however, vowed to continue their protests until their demands were met.
“Whether we will suspend the result will be decided at our meeting,” AT Ahmedul Huq Chowdhury, chairman of the commission, told The Daily Star, adding, “There is no question of cancelling the result without reasonable grounds.”
Regarding removal of the quotas, he said, “The quotas have already been declared for the 34th BCS preliminary exam and cannot be withdrawn.” It would be the government which decides if there would be quotas in future, he added.
The agitating job seekers, however, claimed that despite getting high scores, they had been disqualified in the 34th BCS preliminary exam due to the quotas.
In public service, 30 percent spots are reserved for freedom fighters' children and grandchildren, 10 percent for women, and 5 percent for people of indigenous communities.
In addition there is a 10 percent quota for job seekers of some districts and 1 percent quota for the physically challenged people.
The commission used to apply these quotas during the interviews the candidates faced after qualifying in the preliminary test and the written test.
However, this year the commission applied the quotas, excluding the district and disability quotas, at the preliminary examination, the first of three major exams before one gets a government job.
At the 34th BCS preliminary exams, only 12,033 job seekers got through to the next stage out of 2,21,575 who sat for the exam.
Dhaka University Proctor Amjad Ali, who had expressed solidarity with the agitators around noon yesterday, said it was unacceptable that someone could qualify for a government job scoring just 50 while another person gets disqualified scoring 80.
An elderly sick person had to be walked out of a hospital in Shahbagh intersection yesterday as there was no transport. Two of the largest hospitals in the capital are at the intersection and a demonstration blocked all vehicular movement there. Photo: Star