Hyderabad: Madhushalini, a transwoman living in Alwal in the city says that she doesn’t know of any pro-transgender policies introduced by the Telangana government. She says that she has no access to ration, that her pistarakulu (paper plates) business fell flat and that she has no family to help her out. “Memu ekada polemu (We transgender people have nowhere to go),” she adds.
Her hardships persist in spite of the Telangana high court recently asking the Telangana government to consider transgender persons as a seperate category in the disbursement of the state’s Aasara pension schemes.
The court came up with the suggestion considering the social and economic havoc caused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Telangana. But the scheme did not come through. While to an extent the court has been supportive, the lack of even basic ration supplies has renders a lot of transgender people in the state destitute.
Kiran R, a transman and a member of the Society for Transmen Action and Rights (STAR) established in 2019 by the Telangana government, narrates an equally compelling story. Kiran says that a lot of transmen have no access to ration at all and are unclear on where to apply for a ration card and how to approach officials.
Kiran added that the problem is compounded by the fact that there is little to no understand of transgender identities and issues.
Mekala Harshini, a Dalit (Mala) transwoman from Hyderabad states that her two identities further worsened her troubles. “Being born into a Mala family, made life difficult. But being a transwoman as well, has made survival difficult. I even face discrimination within the trans community. While I have managed to build myself up, a lot of transwomen have to resort to either prostitution or begging to feed themselves,” she added.
While the Civil Supplies department of the Telangana government has been pulled up by the high court for cancelling ration cards abruptly in the recent past, the problem doesn’t end there. A transgender person’s lack of access to ration cards is a far more technical problem.
Poor census collection
The Samagra Kutumba Survey (SKS) was conducted by the Telangana government soon after state formation in August 2014 in an attempt to provide information about the total population residing in the state based on caste, tribe and gender parameters.
As per the SKS data in 2014, 58,918 transgender individuals reside in Telangana. In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by transgender activist Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli in the Telangana high court, the Civil Supplies Department of Telangana argued that as of 2020, 2404 families with transgender persons as heads of families, received ration from the state.
“Going by the Telangana Government’s very own affidavit in the high court, ration card is used, on an average, by around three individuals per family. Even if we were to argue hypothetically, that the 2404 families covered only transgender persons and multiply the number by 3, that would mean that 7212 transgender persons (which would amount to 12.22% of the total transgender population of 58,918) receive ration from the state as of 2014,” Vyjayanti explained.
The transgender activist pointed out to Siasat.com that since the Telangana government relies on the SKS data till date. “If we were to account for the rise in the number of transgender persons, doubling every year as it doubled each year between the 2011 census and the 2014 SKS, then as of 2022 there are 4 lakh 71 thousand transgender women alone in Telangana.”
Lack of representation for transmen in data collection
Vyjayanti explains that this problem is further compounded by the fact that the SKS survey only takes into account transwomen. Transmen do not in anyway figure in the SKS data which could mean that there are around 5 lakh transgender persons in the state (again a conservative estimate) who receive little to no benefit from the state government.
NALSA judgement of 2014
The National Legal Services Authority v Union of India judgement of 2014 paved the way for transgender people to be legally identified as the third gender. Paragraph 129 (3) of the judgement abundantly mentions transgender persons as “socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and extend all kinds of reservation in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.”
However, the NALSA judgement wasn’t implemented for two years as the Union government put forth a clarification petition before the court. The court responded to the government and said, “No such clarification was needed as this aspect is amply clarified in paragraphs 107 and 109 and other parts of the (NALSA) judgment.”
Finally, from June 30, 2016, the Union government recognised transgender people as the third gender and as such and select state governments implemented policies accordingly.
No policies, no proper welfare
“Despite the verdict, till date Telangana has no transgender policy or government orders on transgender education, vocational training, employment, reservations, healthcare and housing which benefit the transgender community. While Karnataka and Kerala have clear-cut policies, and Andhra Pradesh has issued various government orders, the transgender community in Telangana has had no such luck,” says Vyjayanti.
Only in August of this year, does the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 get a mention. In GO Ms No 21, the state government accepted the Director for Welfare of disabled and senior citizens proposal to constitute a welfare board for the benefit of transgender people.
Even in a report published by the Telangana State Legal Services Authority (TSLSA) in 2020, which asked district legal services to collect data on the population of transgender individuals in their respective districts. The data collected was compared to the SKS data. The report by TSLSA fell woefully short in tabling the number of transgender people residing in Telangana in 2020, further adding to the data problem.
The lack of data, fear in approaching government officials and prolonged legal battles have made it difficult for the state’s transgender to get access to ration. Despite repeated attempts by Siasat.com, no official from the civil supplies department was willing to comment.
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