PUNE: Lockdown in the country due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has severely hit those transgenders who earn their living by either performing at social gatherings or begging.
A city-based transgender activist Sarang Punekar has called for help and appealed to the public to come forward with financial support the community members to survive this national crisis.
A vast majority of transgenders in Pune and Maharashtra survive on daily wages. “There are many who get their daily food by begging on streets or at shops. Some dance at weddings or any occasional functions organised by people or communities. All of these sources of income has currently stopped, leaving transgenders to starve,” said Sarang.
“I received help calls from at least 50 of the transgender members who are running out of ration and don’t have money on them. So I took the initiative to appeal to people for financial help so that at least necessities are met. At present, this initiative has been started for Pune transgender community. I have friends across the state and looking for more people to join it so that the help can be extended to others in Maharashtra,” Sarang told Sakal Times.
Disha Pinky Shaikh, an Ahmednagar-based transgender activist also stated that while a few community members managed to collect and save monthly ration, there are many who are facing shortage of food items. “When the state government had announced the first lockdown which was for about a week-long, I had asked our community members to store some ration that can be sufficient for at least a month. However, it was not possible for everyone to do so. Many have helped each other by distributing food items amongst the community, but it won’t be enough to survive till April 15-- the last day of lockdown,” said Shaikh, highlighting how financial crisis has hit them inspite if grocery stores being operational.
“It will get more difficult if the lockdown extends further,” she added.
Shaikh also stated that transgenders are likely to face discrimination owing to the present circumstances. “Transgenders generally face discrimination at hospitals and clinics despite the Supreme Court’s ruling government bodies recognizing the third gender. Now, there are chances that they may face more problems when they go for regular check-ups,” she said.
Sarang also added that taking advantage of this national crisis, the community members can also be victim to exploitation. “Exploitation- sexually or mentally -- of the transgenders is another threat, as there are people who would want to take advantage of the financial shortage. They might receive inappropriate proposals as well,” said Sarang.
Shaikh stated that the Maharashtra government should release some funds from the allocated budget of Rs 5 crore for transgender welfare board. She said, “The state government can distribute Rs 5,000 to each transgender or at least those who hold voters ID. There are about 2,000 of them who have voters ID. Also, try to facilitate the community members with free food supply so that they survive through the lockdown.”
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