Transgenders deprived of income as vehicles don’t stop at traffic signals

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NGOs reach out  to members of  the community

Bengaluru: Kavitha, a transgender woman living in Hebbal who begged to earn money at traffic signals, has lost all her savings to survive during the lockdown. 

“There are very few people on the streets now. Vehicles don’t stop as there is no signal. I have no income, and it has become difficult to arrange food for myself and my family,” Kavitha said.

Kavitha is one of the many transgender women who are affected by the lockdown. A lot of them don’t have ration cards. They want the government to help them.

Aanandi, a transgender woman living near Vijayanagar, said: “I don’t have a ration card, Aadhaar card, or voter ID card. I’ve been yelled at by those officers every time. They always say the server is down.”

Aanandi recently opened a pushcart tea stall with the help of a few friends near Hudson Circle. Because she does not have any identity card, she will not be able to avail of the relief of Rs 2,000 announced for street vendors by the Karnataka government.

The Covid-19 lockdown has taken a severe economic toll on the lives of socially marginalized groups. The government has not been helpful, they say.

Mainstream media houses have not highlighted their misery, complain transgender women. 

“TV channels show labourers as helpless, but nobody, including the government, is talking about us. In foreign countries and other states, people like us are treated well…. Even we voted for this government. Why are they not helping us? We might be different, but we are still human beings,” said Kavitha.

Aanandi said that even after eating food from her stall, a lot of people refuse to pay her. “Police officers abuse us when we are working. This life is hell; people neither help nor let us live peacefully.”

Girish K, who lives near Hudson Circle, helped Aanandi set up her stall. “I have known her for two years. I found her genuine and in a lot of trouble. So my friends and I gave her some money to set up a tea stall. I think she will be an inspiration to others who are still begging.”

Aanandi says she does not want to go back to begging and doing sex work. “I am taking care of three abandoned children. I don’t want to go back to my old life. I hope people and this government will let me live like this,” she said.

The Karnataka government released a Covid relief package of Rs 1,250 crore for those affected by the pandemic.

When The Observer asked why transgender women are not included in this package, Annarao, an official in the women and child development, said: “Relief funds are provided to people with families, not others. Other yearly schemes are there to help them.”

To help transgender women, multiple NGOs have supplied them food, groceries, medicines, and mental health consultancy.

Vinay Kumar, a counsellor at Swabhava Trust, Bengaluru, said: “A lot of these people call us regularly. This lockdown has not only affected them financially but also mentally. Society still treats these women differently, and their family members abandon them. Adding to that this instability caused by the lockdown is bad.”

Karthik M. and a team of 10 volunteers are distributing ration kits among members of the transgender community every day. “We have given them our numbers; they can contact us any time they want,” Karthik said.

On May 24, the ministry of social justice and empowerment announced a one-time financial aid of Rs 1,500 for transgender persons whose livelihood has been impacted by the second wave of Covid-19. They must submit their Aadhaar cars and provide bank account numbers. Many transgender persons do not have these.

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