Authorities have begun to mobilize school-children in Andijan province for the cotton harvest, the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights reports.
Starting October 6, children from Uzbekistan's most densely-populated province of Andijan were taken to pick cotton. Earlier, local administrators (the khokimiyat) had stated that this year, they would not force middle-school children to take part in the harvest.
But once again, the children were brought to the fields of farmers who in the past year could not manage to meet the state quota for cotton deliveries.
Children from grades 7 through 9 in the middle school (from ages 12 to 16) are now working in the fields. They are being paid 120 soums per kilogram of cotton, i.e. the equivalent of 5 cents per kilo.
Under instructions from the khokim, or local administrator, farmers who have school-children working in their fields must provide them with one hot meal a day (lunch) and clean drinking water.
But not all the farmers have the capacity to build temporary housing for the cotton-pickers, or to prepare them hot food, or to put a samovar on to boil in the fields.
Most of the children are bringing food from home, and are putting down old newspapers by the side of the road to sit on and have their lunch.
In the local press in Andijan, there was a notice that as of October 1st, Andijan province had submitted 71 percent of its quota to the government. There is a lot of cotton left unpicked in the fields. Adults are able to pick about 100-120 kg per day. They are paid 150 soums per kilogram of cotton (more than 5 cents per kg).
According to the state media, President Islam Karimov visited Andijan province from September 30-October 1, and it was reported that he went to inspect the cotton fields. Special fields were prepared for his visit, which had been sprayed with defoliants not long before that and no cotton-pickers were allowed in the area. But the field was left filled with snowy-white cotton bolls to show to the leader.
According to the available information, the harvest is expected to be completed before early November, that is, local people are hoping to gather in the whole crop before the onset of rains.