Quota is considered as special privileges to certain class or groups of people because they deserve favours on the basis of certain yardsticks. When strict criteria are the rule rather than exception and the acceptance or inclusionin competitive environment for job or any other openings is considered minimal for them; then a sense of deprivation haunts the nationhood.
It transpires that the nation has deprived genuine accomplishers’ rights and privileges. The minority community or less privileged class of people often fails to compete with the privileged class in a society because the initial poor endowment is a barrier in attainment. Consider the episode of Dalit in India. This community constitutes the bottom of the Hindu Caste system and still faces widespread discrimination. It is the consequences of historical deprivation but who once spearheaded certain movement deserves genuine recognition not as a dole but as a token of prestige and honour. Quota is also often resorted to bring equity in a system. For example, the Diversity Visa Programme in the United States was an instrument to help many countries in the world to have proper representation of its citizens in United States.
The practice of quota in a multi- racial system is considered as an essential binding to maintain peace and harmony in delicate social structure. India is multi-racial country. The Indian government is considering certain pragmatic steps to end this cruel episode of deprivation through political patronization and certain measures based on quota system. The 71 year old Ram Nath Kovind is the second Dalit president after K.R.Narayanan. Muslim and Christians in India constitutes 14 percent and 2.3 percent of the 1.2 billion. When they are denied the rights and privileges, they will be marginalized in the process. There were specific recommendation on the National Commission on Religious and Linguistic minorities headed by Ranganath Misra on quota for the job openings of Muslims and Christian Communities though Ram Nath Kovind has reservations on its adoption. Over 60 percent of jobs in Andhra Pradesh are based on quota. Thus, quota may be an absolute necessary in society divided by linguistic, religious or ethnic minority to maintain peace and tranquility in the society. During the erstwhile East Pakistan, there were quota in the central government jobs but candidates from East Pakistan very often were qualified on merit basis. Definitely some were given the central government jobs based on provisional quota.
Quota revision is essential to scrutinize the inequity in the existing provision. Timeliness of quota is another major issue because the perspectives and the justification changes with passage of time. So what you could justify four decades back on noble grounds, may not be tenable now and thus sticking to the norm amounts to deprivation of genuine rights of another group of people. The quota system in job openings which was introduced in 1972 in Bangladesh did not see any major revision during the last four decades though civil society often voiced the demand for quota revision. The quota when devoid of rationality in certain situations by nature is discriminatory and may result in inefficient resource allocation.
The recent commotion on quota revision in Bangladesh is a case in point. This relates to job market of fresh university graduates who aspire to get government jobs through the official organ Bangladesh Public Service Commission. This is the only category of job where previous experiences are not required and thus constitute the only opening for graduates from middle class families. Those who previously worked in civil service are mainly from the middle class societies and many of them belonged to remote villages. Indeed, this worked as a treadle in scaling up of society position.
The current quota provision of 56 percent on different criteria is a hurdle for meritorious and deserving candidates to get a job. This is a deadweight loss to the society on two counts; first, the incumbent spent over four years of his academic career to earn the degree which was subsidized by the government through the public education system and secondly, the quota is blocking the entry of very meritorious students in the job streams. The country indeed requires the services of dedicated, impartial and intelligent officials to shape and guide the nations through inoculations of institutions on which the viability and sustainability of nations rests. It was a dilemma to me as a trainer at the Public Administration Training Centre at Savar for long 22 years. When I read the public examinations answer scripts, I discovered the answer scripts of many brilliant boys but when I see the cohort of qualified candidates to train, I observed lot of divergences. I observed these deviations from 1996 and when I asked an official at the Public Service Commission he sounded, probably the prevalence of different types of quota preempt meritorious boys in the job streams.
Objectivity is another dominant hurdle in placement of candidates for a job in multi-dimensional quota system. It would be even a herculean job for an adept programmer to write software for placement of a candidate in a suitable position maintaining the rigid quota system. Take a simple example. There are 100 openings and 1000 candidates are qualified for the jobs. It would have been very easy without quota system to offer the job to 100 aspirants on merit basis but it is very difficult to guess the job position of the candidate at the 21th merit position, when only 20 percent quota is reserved for merit position. You may well guess the candidates at the 21th position may not even get a job but the candidates at the 60th position may get the job with the blessings of quota. Now consider the flip side of the coin. You could do justice by enlarging the merit quota up to a reasonable bench mark level. Often quota works as leverage to manipulate the position of a favoured or pet candidate to reward at the cost of genuine meritorious candidates. It is a simple math to calculate job position with more merit quota than with dubious fragmented quota. People often tempted to switch position with fake documents such as freedom fighters quota or district quota to cheat in this imperfect market. Thus quota system begets corruption in the society. The most discriminatory in the whole episode is the probability distortion among the different types of candidates with quota and non-quota option. It is a simple math to work out the probability of a job with quota option and non-quota option. You would definitely see a wide divergence in the prospect of a job on quota and non-quota basis.
Indeed, it is the time to scrutinize the existing quota system to consider revision on the genuine demand of students and civil society to expedite the growth and harmony in a homogenized society. It is not fair to dismantle society at the altar of quota system.
The writer is a Professor of Economics, United International University