By Nikita Jain:
“All we want is a job so that we can live a decent life,” said Shabana, a trans woman who I was interviewing for this story.
Sitting in a small room with five trans women, we got to talk about various issues that trans people face and the fact that the media is not covering this is both sad and agitating.
The trans community is a minority in India and many members aren’t afforded the means to live a dignified life. One of the many reasons is that regressive mindsets of many people in this country has led to marginalisation and ostracisation.
Recently, after a lot of protests, a tsunami relief organisation in Chennai allotted 236 tenements to the trans community out of which 70 have been occupied and the rest lie vacant.
The colony is located in AIR land in Thiruvottiyur and it took us three hours to find the location as it is located in a very remote area.
It has been at least six months since they have shifted but the struggle for basic necessities still prevails. The community only gets water once a week, while the rest of the colony has continuous water flow.
While walking through all the parts of the colony, each corner had a hand pump and people were filling buckets of water. So, when I heard that this part of the community receives water only once a week, it was quite shocking.
“We had to buy these big bottles of water and climb three floors,” pointed Aashima. who was sitting next to me. It was the same bottle from which they had offered me water.
“We are washing our clothes, making food, taking bath and drinking from the same bottled water because we don’t have access to hand pump water,” she continues.
On entering the colony, I observed that the rest of the lanes had street lights while there were none on their side of the lane. The reason for the streetlights not working in their area was not quite clear to them as well.
“We have complained about this to the authorities but nothing is being done about it” said Shabana.
But they were still not complaining, all of them were satisfied with the rooms they have got.
“The neighbours are helpful and it is quite safe here,” said Shilpa.
But the basic opportunity to earn money is not given to them. None of them are employed and nobody wants to hire them even though all they want is to get employed.
“We have to beg everyday so that we earn,” they said.
“We leave by 8:30 a.m. in the morning, go around different areas to beg and come back by around 6 p.m.,” said one of them.
“It is difficult to pay the bhada of Rs. 500 every month,” said Shabana.
India has always been ignorant to the needs of minorities and many in the trans community are no exception to that having been deprived of employment.
Moreover, wherever they go, people stare at them, make comments or harass them. This comes from the recent news where a doctor, who identifies as trans, in Puducherry was harassed by a patient.
What about the numerous NGOs working with the community? Don’t they claim to help and support them? When asked about this they said that they are the ‘worst kind’ and make their lives even more ‘miserable’.
“I was working in an NGO where my salary was Rs. 9000, but they used to take away Rs. 4000 of my earnings as compensation and so I left that job,” said Renuka.
They said it was better to beg than to give away half of their hard-earned money to people who don’t even seem to care about them.
Where at one side, Manobi Bandopadhyay became the first person from the trans community to head an educational institution, it is appalling to see people from the same community being deprived of the basic needs.
Questions arise in terms of government schemes and policies for minorities like the trans community when it comes to employment and safety from harassment.
It is time to take action. Rage is important, but what good is it, if you do nothing to curb the issue that angers you?