Uzbek government officials are once again forcing public sector workers to toil in the cotton fields. Officials are forcibly mobilizing teachers, doctors and nurses to prune the cotton plants instead of doing their ordinary work and for no additional pay. Just prior to cotton-pruning assignments, the health- and education-sector workers completed 10-day shifts picking worms from the cotton plants.
Pruning cotton plants is hard work, made more difficult by scorching summer heat and the fact that teachers and medical staff have no agronomy training and are not paid for the work.
A local observer reported: “Our district has cotton plantations in the central desert areas of Fergana region, where teachers had spent 10 days picking worms from cotton plants.”
Teachers, along with staff from the schools and doctors, nurses and staff of medical facilities have now been sent for 10-day shifts to prune cotton plants.
An Eltuz.com correspondent called and asked the education directors of Uchkuprik, Bagdad and Buvayda districts about the mobilization of teachers to pick worms and prune cotton plants. The officials replied that they are dealing with the “requests” of heads of district administrations, and falsely claimed that teachers have not been sent to anywhere and are enjoying summer vacation.
In reality, vacation leave has been a mirage for teachers in Fergana this summer. For example, the teachers of school No. 18 in Uchkuprik district complained that they were recalled from their summer leave, first forced to pick cotton worms, and now have to prune the cotton plants. Teachers from the Buvayda district schools have also began pruning cotton plants in a desert area called Kazakaul. Following a summer of work in the cotton fields, the teachers know that the annual cotton picking campaign awaits them.