Money first, cotton right after: Uzbek doctors to be taken to the fields in a week time

Looking at the current situation on the eve of the Uzbek cotton harvest, the mass mobilization of doctors and other “state employees” will take place after September 12th. Currently, employees of medical institutions are primarily engaged in collecting money in order to reach a “deal” with hired workers, who are willing to replace doctors and nurses during the cotton harvest.

“Certain rumors indicate that cotton has not reached maturity yet. So, apparently this is the reason for the delayed mobilization. The district Khokimiyat (District council) has not requested a list of people that will be sent to the cotton fields yet. So, we are waiting till September 12th-13th. One will have more clarity by then. The delay may be also related to the upcoming Eid-al-Adha holiday. Perhaps, mobilization will kick off right after the holiday”, said a source at the sanatorium “Turon”, located in the Mirzo-Ulugbek district of Tashkent that is well familiar with the current situation.

The district administration has requested to allocate one doctor to look after the cotton growers within the assigned area close to the clinic. Doctors sign up with pleasure for this particular job – in this case they do not have to actually pick cotton or pay for the missing kilos of “white gold”.

Employees of the Metropolitan Children’s Surgical Hospital №2 tell the same story. According to them, the centrally organized forced mobilization of medical employees will take place despite statements by high-profile government officials condemning forced labor, designed for Western audiences.

This year, the employees are expected to go to the Syrdarya region (while last year they were taken to the Jizzakh region). If anyone for some reason is not able to go, he or she is obliged to send out a replacement worker to work on the cotton field for a certain fee for a period of two weeks (rates for this job normally amount to about 30 000 Som per day).

“Every year, during the cotton campaign, we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place”,  complain the doctors.

“On the one hand, we are forced to give up our main job, leave our families and children. On the other hand, we are assigned to fulfil an impracticable plan and forced to pay fines for not being able to do so. At the same time, authorities strictly prohibit to disclose ‘inner secrets’ of this unlawful process to the public , threatening us with all sorts of repressions.”

It must be said that doctors from Tashkent were expected to go to the cotton fields for two-week shifts on September 3rd. However, the death of President Karimov apparently brought some unexpected changes to the “strategic” agricultural campaign.