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Indrajit-2uwetwouwier (31)There are no two ways of saying this. I am proud of my parents. And it is not in a politely humble way that we are often taught to be. Both my parents are freedom fighters. I am proud that my father is a Bir Pratik, one of the three doctors in Bangladesh to have won a gallantry award in the Liberation War. I am proud that my mother was a nurse in a war hospital. My uncle is also a Bir Pratik. He was among the few war-time inductions of the First War Course, familiarly called the Murti Commission.

I had nothing to do with the events that happened before I was born and I have done nothing since to earn this pride. My exalted status, if I may say so, befell me at birth and I have embraced it as a birthright, just as it was my right to speak in Bengali or live in a free country.

My parents belong to that group who answered their calling. They would either go down as seditious rebels or gallant saviours. It was a gamble. They took it. They risked their life and limb for a cause they considered worthy enough to fight for, and quite rightly so. But why should I be rewarded for their actions? Why should that privilege extend to my children too?

The preference, in the form of special quotas, that freedom fighters were initially given in government institutions, was eventually allocated for their children and now for their grandchildren. Even today, 30 percent quota is reserved for freedom fighters’ families. It might have been acceptable if almost a third of the seat were reserved for a group of people who make up significantly less than one percent of the population if it were the freedom fighters themselves. After all, many of them gave up their opportunities for a better life. Many sacrificed bright careers to end up dead or, worse, crippled for life for the sake of what was to become independent Bangladesh.

Photo: bdnews24.com

In total, preferential quotas account for than half the government jobs with freedom fighters’ families still taking up 30 percent. Other groups include women, ethnic minorities and the disable. The provision for special preference through quotas has been typically applied at latter stages of the Bangladesh Civil Service examinations. But this year, according to a bdnews24.com report, the special quotas were applied from the very outset meaning that even those sitting for the preliminary examinations were put through the quotas, which would understandably eliminate a number of eligible candidates favouring those falling under one of the special categories. Many deserving candidates, therefore, feel deprived, and rightly so. They took a stand in protest at Shahbagh and brought the whole city to a virtual standstill on Wednesday.

The freedom fighters’ quota stands out for two reasons. First, that it is grossly disproportionate and eats up almost a third of all government positions. And second, because ‘freedom fighters’ family’ does not constitute a disadvantaged group by definition, as do ethnic minorities or the disabled.

The rationale behind these preferential schemes should also be quite clear. Beginning from the parliament to the primary school, women are given preference because that half of the population must be lifted up. The hill communities are remote and deprived of the civic amenities that governments are more comfortable providing the urban elite. It is difficult for such sections to compete with the more privileged sections on the same plane and prevail. Special quotas for such communities are commonplace in many other countries but only when such reverse discrimination becomes imperative for lifting the backward communities to a higher standard of living. And that too only after ensuring a minimum level of competence among the beneficiaries. But that cannot apply for freedom fighters’ children or their grandchildren. They cannot be considered ‘disadvantaged’ by dint of the mere fact that their ancestors had fought in the Liberation War. For instance, I am not disabled. I do not belong to an ethnic minority either. I have a stable job. I am reasonably well off, especially compared to the average Bangladeshi. I live in Dhaka, where the best of services and amenities are available. In fact my children, as was I, are already among the most privileged sections of this society. Any added preference on top of their natural advantage over their peers, will not just be unfair. It is criminal.

It is most likely due to the perceived political incorrectness that people, even those wronged and deprived, do not point their fingers at such gross injustice, lest they be labelled ‘anti Liberation’.

Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

I heard it first, or rather overheard it, in an under-the-breath mutter. It did not matter that I was not meant to hear it. And my disclaimer that day, still stands. I don’t want this privilege. Nor do I want it for my children. I just want to stand proud.

There is no reason that I should be put ahead of my peers solely because of a decision my parents had taken years ago. There must be a concrete rationale behind giving privileges to certain underprivileged sections. That is where such preferences are perhaps more acceptable and better utilised.

Surely there are freedom fighters’ family members who are poor, disabled or disadvantaged or all three. But there are also separate schemes for such sections of the people. Admittedly, the government’s schemes are not sufficient compared to the number of people who need them. Nor are these schemes developed in such a manner that enables the disadvantaged groups to gradually gain self-sufficiency and enter into the mainstream or graduate to a better standard of living. But that is a different debate altogether.

Many would argue that freedom fighters deserve recognition. Sure they do. And those who were wounded in the war should have been rehabilitated long ago. The fact that freedom fighters still need government assistance to barely get by is enough of a testimony that none of the ruling governments since the country’s independence was sincere enough and whatever schemes or programmes there were, were merely an eyewash.

One need not go farther than the finance minister’s annual budget speech. The allowance for freedom fighters comes in the same section, which also announces allowances for the blind, disabled, widowed and the elderly. It appears that freedom fighters merely constitute another group that the government deems fit for giving alms. They constitute another group to provide the government with the ability to claim that it supports the spirit and cause of the Liberation War — and gain political mileage. This is no way to honour the sons of this soil.

By the same token special quotas for the freedom fighters’ families imply the presumption that they too are disadvantaged by definition. The government is in fact creating another privileged section out of the freedom fighters’ families. That is ironic, to say the least, since such undue privilege for certain sections of the erstwhile Pakistan was one of the ills that the freedom fighters themselves had supposedly stood up against. If anything, the Freedom Fighters’ quota is an affront to the spirit of Liberation War and an insult to the people who fought it.

This post was updated and revised on Saturday, July 13 2013.

Tanim Ahmed is a journalist.

29 Responses to “Freedom Fighter’s quota: A son explains his burden”

  1. Mamun

    I am son of freedom fighter. But its really sorry to say before some day`s ago controller general defense finance (CGDF)have been published Auditor exam result, but there written exam sheet did not follow differently as freedom fighter son. freedom fighter quota did not maintain exactly.

  2. Farouk

    Ethane sudhu mukti joddhaar quata batiil korleeyo hobena. Tribal quota ekta headache hoyee gese. Chakma chele meyera quoata khataaye chakri peyee kintu porey administration r kono kaaj paree na. Jaa ta obostha kore felee. Tribal quoata ta batil kora dorkar immediately. Muktijuddho quota khub loop thaka uchit not more than 7 percent. Karon amader gram gula toh mukti joddhaara onk koshtee achee and government officer der Kache gorib mukti joddhaara kono help payee na borong heyo hoy. Tai jatir Shrestha shontander Kotha bibechona kore eyi quota rakha uchit. Tailey ek Jon obholoito muktijhodda ek ek Jon muktijuddhar quota r officer k tar shommossa r kotha bolte parbe. Tobe je eye din desh ek Jon o gorib muktijuddhar bechee thakbee na tokhon eta batiil korte hobe.

  3. Mehzabin Ahmed

    And regarding recruitment of merit through BCS exams, there are bigger issues we need to worry about as well. As per a paper titled, Bangladesh Public Commission: A Diagnostic Report (DRAFT), by Transparency International Bangladesh, March 2007, the leakage of question papers has been happening on regular basis since the 24th BCS examination. And they have termed the BCS recruitment examination system as archaic and outdated, lacking the scope of proper assessment of the competency of candidates.

    Other Examples given below:

    -34th BCS Preliminary Exams Held Amidst Rumours of Question Leakage http://www.justnewsbd.com/english/details.php?jnewsbd=MjUzMA%3D%3D

    -33rd BCS written exams were postponed amidst allegations that questions were leaked http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/index.php?ref=MjBfMTBfMTVfMTJfMV8yN18xNDY5NzQ%3D

    -27th BCS questions alleged to be leaked out http://dev-bd.bdnews24.com/details.php?id=22412&cid=2

    • Mehzabin Ahmed

      *As per the paper titled, Bangladesh Public Service Commission: A Diagnostic Study (DRAFT), by Transparency International Bangladesh, March 2007

      • Mehzabin Ahmed

        The paper Bangladesh Public Service Commission: A Diagnostic Study (DRAFT), by Transparency International Bangladesh, March 2007 also finds that discrimination against religious minorities has happened in the BCS examinations.

      • Mehzabin Ahmed

        As per the Bangladesh Public Service Commission: A Diagnostic Study (DRAFT), by Transparency International Bangladesh, 2007, for BCS exams, you can have seating arrangement with your group, by only paying bribes of Tk 500 – Tk 1,000 per examinee, get access to a preliminary test question for Tk 50- Tk 2,000, and change or replace exam scripts with Tk 3,000 – Tk 5,000 per script. While, contract for good marks in viva voce is Tk 3 lac – Tk 5 lac.

      • Mehzabin Ahmed

        The Transparency International Bangladesh paper above also finds that PSC never publishes data on the specific quota of recommended candidates. And that the quota system is implemented without transparency. Outcome of the quota policy has never been made public by PSC or ME. Official documents, gazette notifications do not have data regarding quota of the BCS cadres.

  4. Golam Arshad

    Excellent! Quota must go! Merit must be the only yardstick in selection of Civil Servants. We are all FREEDOM FIGHTERS, there is no Majority or Minority in liberating our motherland. Prime Minister must take note of this “Grim situation” arising out of prevalent quota in Civil Service and must annul the special quota in all categories.

  5. Rajib Khan

    কে নিজেকে নিয়ে বেশি গর্বিত – ”মুক্তিযোদ্ধার পুত ” নাকি ” ফকিরনীর পুত ”।
    ”মুক্তিযোদ্ধার পুত ” – বাপের সার্টিফিকেট নিয়ে ধান্ধাবাজী করে ।
    ” ফকিরনীর পুত ” – নিজের মেধার দাপটে চলে ।
    [বিঃদ্রঃ- মুক্তিযুদ্ধের পক্ষে তো অনেক কথাই বললাম জীবনে। অথচ এই মুক্তিযু্দ্ধ-ই আমাকে চরম বৈষম্য দেখিয়ে দিল ]

  6. Ratul Hasan

    Tumi gadha ghora hoyleo to 1st class job lagbe. r medhabira ki machi marbe.

  7. Sraabon Sham

    Shudhu ei quota r jonyo baba maa er bishal orjon ke eto choto kora? Hai rey quota!

  8. hamim Rocky

    nijer joggota die job e aso. desh theke r koto niba. tomar baba srodheyo but who are you?

  9. Md Anwar Khan

    No quota only merit should be the only criterion to get jobs.

    • icebergz

      I agree , its time people stop franchising any ‘ism’s or any event in our history . Face the reality people , it don’t matter to the majority of youngsters anymore . you get what you need in life through the same playing field.Life is too hard as it is. Freedom fighters children should be the last people looking for a hand out.

  10. Shazzad Chowdhury

    সব কোটা বাতিল করা উচিত, বিশেষ করে মুক্তিযোদ্ধাদের আর কত চাকুরী দরকার। নাতি পুতি সহ চেৌদ্দ গোষ্ঠীদেরকে চাকুরী দিলে আর সাধারন মানুষ কবে চাকুরী পাবে?

  11. Mahmud Pintu

    Quota system should be reserved only for disabled, women and ethnic minority which should account no more than 20%.

  12. Mehzabin Ahmed

    And as for a daughter of a Bir Bikrom freedom fighter like me, who comes from the priviledged class, I have myself never applied for any freedom fighter quota or scholarship.

  13. Mehzabin Ahmed

    Most freedom fighters and their families are not priviledged. Most of them live poor lives in the villages of Bangladesh, where they are even at times unable to access the minimum freedom fighter’s allowances they are entitled. I have even seen one freedom fighter selling bananas on the streets of Dhaka. And ofcourse, not to mention the many biranganayas, who have never received any status recognition as such to receive any preferences what so thereof.

    • prohor

      this is not all about “YOU”, it is all about “them” who are not able get any help from government. “they” could not prepare them-self for life because of freedom fight. “You” have to take responsibility for “them”. other thing is “does it mean a freedom fighter’s son/daughter has no merit?” let me ask you other question, cricket game requires a toss to decide a start, does it mean that the looser of toss lost the game? viva is always like a toss, nothing else at least our traditional way of selection.

      all type of quota should be removed, cause all are making troubles. one more thing, we should not blame or say anything to ff or their sons what they did not.

  14. Shabnam Nadiya

    Good post. A minor point which isn’t related to the main thrust directly.

    Although the writer, quite rightly, acknowledges and is proud of both his mother and father for their roles in the war, he ends by claiming honor for the ‘sons of the soil’. This may seem just a question of casual phrasing to many, but it isn’t. Words are important. And when an idea such as this–our brave boys, our sons, fought–is repeated constantly in public and private conversations, it shapes our thoughts. So a different kind of quota begins to be applied-men fought, women were violated; men gave their lives, women gave their ‘honor’; men were the muktijoddha, women Birangona.

    And this is how the varied roles Bangladeshi women have played in the war get marginalized and erased.

    • Shabnam Nadiya

      Sorry, I should have been clearer. My second sentence should have been:

      I would like to comment on a minor but important point which isn’t directly related to the main thrust of the article.

      Thank you,

    • afsan chy

      shabnam, on the role of women I find that we all derive glory of 1971 from male driven/dominated perceptions. Women are glorified as assistants to FFs, mothers of FFs, wives of FFs, violated women, or in a small number, actual combatants.

      Most women look for the combatant as their role model, the one who has fulfilled the conventional male duty of a warrior. Not what they did most successfully.

      What no one wants to accept that women kept the households going which made the war possible. not even women want to give themselves credit for this.

      My video on “war and women in 1971” attached.


      • Shabnam Nadiya

        You are absolutely right! But then something as mundane as keeping the household never gets acknowledgement anyway.

      • afsan

        spot on. In the video circa 2000 I ask this question and almost everyone agrees including our sole female team member that its taken for granted that women will do the work.

        I found that women also looked after the safety and security of other women. And after the war, the guarded the secrets of being raped.

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