Mobilisation of cotton pickers to the fields 2015 (Source: UGF monitors)

More Students Mobilized to Pick Cotton due to Slowdown of Cotton Harvest

Weather conditions in Uzbekistan have been deteriorating since the end of last week and as a result, more people are being mobilized to pick cotton. Due to cold weather and frequent rain, more cotton pickers are deserting the cotton fields, leading to more students and teachers from universities in Tashkent being forced to pick cotton, including fourth-year students of Tashkent State Technical University (named Beruniy).

One student of the physical engineering department informed Ozodlik that they had been mobilized to work in the Zarbdor district of the Jizzakh region.

The student expressed his resentment as their transportation to the Jizzakh region was not organized as it is usually done and that students were being made to pay for their own travel to Jizzakh.

“We were told to pick cotton in the Zarbdor district of the Jizzakh region. Students of three different programs of the energetics department, as well as students of the geology-mining department, are now returning. Now, students of the mining department have been mobilized. Most of them were able to get out of picking cotton and came back after some time. The cotton harvest process is slowing down which is why we have been mobilized too. Initially, only second-year students were mobilized. They did not send first and third-year students. First year students were considered too young and third year students have to pass their military preparation courses. Fourth year students are travelling to Jizzakh on their own. Most of them do not have money which makes transportation difficult”.

The student who was interviewed informed Ozodlik that he was forced to ask his parents to give him money for transportation.

The Technical University’s administration told Ozodlik that the present mobilization is organized based on the requirements of Tashkent’s Khokimiyat (local government).

“All students of all departments were mobilized on September 10. The first group of teachers has already returned as they were replaced by another group of teachers. The Khokimiyat is asking to send more people which is why more people are now being mobilized”.

At present, it is not only university students from Tashkent who are being forced to pick cotton, but also college students from other regions.

According to reports, third year students of Kokand’s medical college are being mobilized to pick cotton on a continuous-stay basis. Second year students, as well as college teachers, are forced to travel to the cotton fields to pick cotton on a daily basis.

“First and second year students are not mobilized. They are currently studying. 450 third year students from our college have been sent to three different cotton camps in the Uchkuprik district on October 4. Moreover, there are also 40 teachers and other employees of our college picking cotton over there. As for the daily trips to pick cotton, we send 160 students and 10 teachers every day”.

There are not enough places to stay in the cotton camp so some students are forced to travel to the cotton field on a daily basis. Students are taken by buses to the cotton fields in the Dangara district in the mornings and return at 5-6 o’clock in the evening. They were given a daily quota of 30 kilograms each.

According to some students who contacted Ozodlik via social networks, they have been threatened with expulsion from their studies for refusal to pick cotton.

So far, students of higher educational institutions such as Navoiy State Pedagogical Institute, Samarkand State University, Ferghana branch of Tashkent Medical Academy, Navoiy State Mining Institute, Tashkent Institute of Irrigation, Andijan State University and Gulistan State University have been forced to work in the cotton harvest. This extensive list was made just from limited information that Ozodlik could access.

October 6, 2016.