With no ration card, Aadhaar or govt schemes, transgender community struggles to survive amid lockdown

With no ration cards, Aadhaar or bank accounts, transgenders are facing a tough time to find daily meals and survive every day during lockdown. Members of the transgender community claim, "Everyone is highlighting the plight of migrants, daily workers and labourers but what about us? Why is the government neglecting the already neglected minority of the community?"

Out of over 1 lakh transgenders in Mumbai according to the 2011 census, a majority are forced to depend on daily wages. Facing implicit job rejections due to their choice of lifestyle, most of them are compelled to rely on begging, sex work, performing art, make-up and styling. But now with trains shut, silent traffic signals and deserted red light areas, these transgenders are battling every day to find basic meals without any source of income.

We cannot work from home, claim Hemangi Shinde, a transgender who is a make-up artist and hairstylist. Shinde said, "I started with begging in trains so I can imagine the state of my fellow members who are now facing a tough time earning a basic Rs 100 per day. Trains and traffic signals are major spots where we earn our living because it is a known fact that most of us are denied usual jobs."

It has been almost 56 days of lockdown yet both the central and state government has not declared a single beneficial scheme or fund allocation for transgenders. Apart from the monthly fund of Rs 1,500 per person given to 4,500 transgenders in India in April by the National Institute of Self Defense under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE), Government of India, there has been no other aid.

Priya Patil, a transgender social activist, said, "There are over 1 lakh transgenders in Mumbai alone, over 4.88 lakh in India. What is Rs 1,500 for a month? It is a negligible drop in the ocean. Both the central and state government have not provided any funds, ration or shelter."

Most of the transgenders do not have a ration card, Aadhaar card, Voter Id or bank account. Sridevi, the first transgender student of the University of Mumbai (MU), said, "How are we supposed to avail subsidised rice or wheat without ration cards? The government announces schemes for which one requires bank accounts or identity documents. Most of us do not have basic identity documents."

Several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and residents have volunteered to support, provide meals, water and health check-ups for transgenders. Rasika Aluddin, a transgender involved in sex work, said, "We are at the mercy of humanitarian aid. It is appalling to see how the authorities are ignorant or just do not care about our community.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal