I was invited by the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan to participate as an observer in monitoring the preparation and conduct of Elections of the President of the Republic on December 4, 2016. I arrived in Tashkent on December 1, 2016, this was my 5th visit to this beautiful country. People of Uzbekistan have always occupied a special place in my heart because of my past experience during last visits and also because of their love for Indian people which is based on    long standing historical and cultural ties between India and Uzbekistan. During present visit, Uzbek hospitality began at the airport with pleasant and smiling faces of the officials of the Central Election Commission who were there to receive us.  

As desired, my first destination was to Ferghana Region. My experiences in the Ferghana Region are unforgettable. Not only was I exposed to the ground realities but also to the rich art, music and culture of this Region. I had the opportunity to travel to Kokhand city and meet the famous Uzbek artists like Alisher Nazirov and Said Akhmedov and see the great work which these people are doing. The traditional ceramics master, Alisher Nazirov is not only grooming the young artists but also helping create next generation of the Uzbek artists. The art work of Alisher is not only reflective of the traditional culture of this region but also conveys deep rooted philosophical meaning. His humbleness is his greatest asset. Love, affection and care with which he and his sister received me will always stay with me throughout my life. Similar was my experience in Rishtan town in the workshop and gallery of art ceramics of Said Akhmedov, it was a  startling  experience to see  a 12 year boy who was painting the ceramic plate, the most intricate workmanship that one can ever imagine. The relationship between teacher and students was such that is difficult to see in these times. Dedication and commitment of both for one to learn and for other to carry forward the legacy of Fergana art and culture is worth appreciating. For me, the love, affection and special attention given to me by the elderly people in Rishton touched my heart. These memories are unforgettable. 

The second revelation came during my visit to music school in Fergana city. This school was the reflection of deep-rooted love of people for music both vocal and instruments. School has young talented musicians, all very young and motivated. The classroom full of students playing different kind of traditional instruments appeared to me like a garden of music. The violin performance by 11 year old  girl  touched the hearts of all of us. The effort of the government in this respect deserves high appreciation. The Fergana valley only echoed the sound of love, art and music, there was no sign of extremism today.

Not only art, culture and music were important features of this region but impressive infrastructure development was startling feature which was noticeable. I was told that   government was building 15000 houses every year for all regions in Uzbekistan. The view of these newly build houses is sign of welfare activity of the state. These houses are provided to the people at very marginal interest rates. The presence of industrial complex of Indorama Joint Venture was yet another developmental effort to provide jobs to the local people. The region is flooded with fresh fruits and vegetables, self sufficient in agricultural products. The building of huge underground storage space by government for keeping the agricultural supply throughout the year for its people is praise worthy. The administration of the region to restore the historical sites can not go unnoticed. Kokand Regional Studies museum is living example of the restoration of historical sites in the region. The warmth and interest with which the lady director her staff took me around the place has registered in my memories. I have been overwhelmed by the hospitalities of the Uzbek people. I travelled to Fergana with the perception of seeing some underdeveloped region infected with threat of extremism but this was not to be seen anywhere. What was visible was major development work being carried out in the region, highly enterprising and progressive people, their warm and care was visible in their great hospitality for the guests.

My visit to Samarkand was equally impressive, though I had very little time but my experience was same as in Fergana. To Samarkand, I had come back after 12 years.  The changes and developments in the city was amazing – many new buildings, new roads, Institutions, hotels and also industrial units. My visit to Mann Auto Company tells the story of industrial growth of this country. It would be worth mentioning that in last 25 years Uzbekistan has achieved more that what any developing country could have in such short span of time. In Samarkand, it was emotional moment which I experienced while paying visit to the grave of first President Mr. Islam Karimov. He is a true hero, a nation builder and father for his people. Presence of huge crowd of men women and young children to pay tribute to their leader cannot go unnoticed.  

To conclude, I would only like to say that I was overwhelmed with the love and care shown to me by Uzbek people which was coming from their heart, very natural without any artificiality in their behavior. This is all rooted in the rich culture of this country. I am short of words to express my gratitude to the people of this country. I am carrying back very warm and sweet memories but only with a desire to come back soon.

Impressions about Elections

Today, Uzbekistan has entered into new era of development and progress both in political and economic arena.  The election process, which I witnessed in Fergana, Samarkand and Tashkent were very impressive. The arrangements made by the administration extremely organised, with all the information displayed for its voters. The information about all presidential candidates and their agenda were displayed in every polling booth. All arrangements were very systematic. The unique feature noticed by me can be summarized  in seven points:

1.  Arrangements for the Children – A well  equipped room for kids to facilitate mothers and family to cast their vote was very unique feature.

2.  Medical room with all emergency medical care and presence of doctor and nurse.

3.  Special arrangements for old and sick people were made. Those who were unable to come to polling station were provided with facility of casting vote at home in special box being carried by the official to these old people at home.

4.  It was for the first time that special voting paper for blind voters was provided to enable blind voters to cast their vote without any help from others.

5.  It also for the first time that voters in prison were given opportunity to vote in this election.

6.  Most importantly, those who could not make it to come to vote on 4th were allowed to cast their vote ten days in advance.

7.  Finally, the first time young voters were given gifts for participating in the election process. This was reflective of encouragement which government wants to give to young voters for their greater political participation in selection of new leader.

Overall, the election process was very clean without any trouble and reflective of greater enthusiasm on part of young and old people who turned out in huge numbers to participate in this very significant Presidential election. My interview with both officials and people convey one thing , that people are looking for  continuity of development and progress which country has achieved in past 25 years.