Merit or quota: Which is more desirable?
(Translated by Kirtton Chandro Das)
I had only a single chance to sit for an exam for a government job. As I luckily passed in the written exam, I was called for viva. Although at that time I was suffering from severe fever. However, accompanied by my father, I went to Dhaka to face the viva board. I performed exceedingly well. Members of the viva board were satisfied.
They told me that I was one of the examinees who stood first on the basis of written exam in the list. They added that appointment letters would be sent to those who were to be recruited. Since I did not get any letter for the next few weeks, I curiously made a call. They informed that there were some candidates with quota; they would be recommended for appointment. They kept me in the waiting list. My waiting has not yet ended. I felt hurt on the day. Aggrieved, I became at a loss with the excruciating sorrow. I got at least the sense that the struggle was not easy for the people like me who were quota-less, meaningless, powerless, void of rich parents; though they are eligible enough. It becomes hard to harder for them. With multiple efforts, I started applying abroad. In that year, I went to Stockholm. I started cultivating knowledge of research in that land; I in fact expressed my deep gratitude to the Almighty God. Because if I was not deprived of the job on the plea of nothing, I would not be able to see the excellent environment, I would not enjoy the ecstasy of creation; I would have missed nearness of the most enlightened institutions, people and learned individuals. I would not have that knowledge that one could be the child of the world, and this entire world would not be my habitations. A shut door opens many doors ahead when one believes in work. Mismanagement of a society cannot stop a person who is workaholic. When I applied in Europe-America and at other Eastern countries, no one asked me of my religion. No one asked me of my language, identity of my parents, my hereditary significance, my race or my colour. They just wanted to know about what I have done, experienced, my expertise and what I am interested in and committed to do. I have no quota. And interestingly I have not been kept in the waiting list because of people enjoying the quota privilege.
The developed countries do not give importance to anything by birth. Action is only adored thing there! For this, they are developed. The independent Bangladesh has not learnt yet to properly value merit. The talented are still to swelter here. In the grinder of corruption, nepotism, political consideration and quota, they are exhausted. Still, we have no feeling of angst and in quietude. Quota is important for the backward and deprived community of our society. But there must have explicit policy for quota system and a particular timeframe. The people of that particular community will have to be educated and provided with opportunities and amenities in order to make them eligible. Where merit is essential, recruitment based on quota system is ominous. Moreover, quota for every job cannot be reserved. Based on quota system, peon or workers can be appointed but a university teacher or researcher can never be recruited. Though actions of all people play a role in the society, impacts of their actions are not equal. If one is deprived of due to unplanned quota system, consequently the entire society will be deprived.
Innumerable meritorious individuals of our country are victims of quotas like district quota, service holders' quota, minority quota, freedom fighters' quota etc.I had no control over that I was born in Comilla. Besides, I am not a son of a public service holder. Furthermore, I am not responsible for not having born in a minority group and not being a son of a freedom fighter. The curse of nature comes down in the society where people are only deprived by birth.
When birth is considered higher than the individual's action, believers of action start decreasing. Action-oriented people continue declining. Net productivity of that society also declines. Quota or merit? Birth or action? Which is more important must be determined.
The writer is a Postdoctoral researcher at University of Pennsylvania, and the translator is a freelance contributor, currently studying at Dhaka University. This article was first appeared in Prothom-Alo on 14 March, 2018.