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Conflicting reports on child labour in Uzbek cotton fields
Sep '12
After Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev pledged last month to end child labour in the country’s cotton fields, school children in Bukhara and Romitan districts are kept out of cotton fields.
Instead, adults, including college students are in the fields plucking cotton. Several state-run institutions, including banks and hospitals, have also deployed their staff to work in the cotton fields, to replace child labour.
This is because the Ministry of Labour has set cotton harvesting quotas for local authorities in various cotton-growing regions of the country, as an extreme measure to stop child labour.
However, in spite of the extreme measures aimed at recruiting adults for plucking cotton, children as young as 13 are still made to work under harsh conditions in cotton fields, claim human rights activists.
The Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan said Prime Minister Mirziyayev has failed to completely end child labour in the country’s cotton fields in cotton-growing regions of Kashkadarya and Jizzakh.
According to the Alliance, some schools are directly sending pupils to the cotton fields. However, the number of school children plucking cotton is less compared to previous years.
Meanwhile, activists of Uzbek civil society have alleged that there is use of forced labour of Uzbek citizens in the country’s cotton fields and have called for an international boycott of Uzbek textiles. 
The appeal made by about 90 signatories asks foreign investors and partners of Uzbek textile firms to demand observance of international human rights standards from the Uzbek Government.
It was in 2007 that Uzbek civil activists first gave a call for international boycott of Uzbek cotton. Within a year, several textile and retail companies from the West joined the boycott and at present there are more than 80 companies that do not use Uzbek cotton in their products.
Activists are now asking these firms to stop buying Uzbek textile products, in addition to cotton. They say most of the cotton purchased by domestic enterprises was used to make yarn and textiles for export to the EU and the US.
Uzbekistan is the world’s third-biggest exporter of cotton. Last year, the country produced 3.5 million tons of cotton, fetching US$ 550 million, as per Government data.
In Uzbekistan, farmers have to sell cotton to state-owned enterprises at a rate fixed by the Government. This year, the Government has fixed US$ 266 for a ton of cotton.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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