Bengaluru, April 11, 2020: The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday directed the Karnataka government to provide pension and take a decision on providing ration for the next two months to members of the transgender community in the state.
The High Court bench was hearing an impleadment petition filed by advocates on behalf of Ondede, an LGBTQIA+ organisation, in an existing Public Interest Litigation (PIL) about the restrictions faced by vulnerable groups because of the lockdown.
In its observations, the bench noted that members of the transgender community should be paid two months worth of pension amounting to Rs 1200 in advance due to the lockdown in effect in the state. Currently, 1657 transgender persons in the state are paid Rs 600 pension every month, according to a written submission by the counsel representing the state government to the High Court. The bench hearing the case directed that this provision should be extended to all eligible members of the transgender community.
The bench also directed the state government to take a decision on the question of providing ration to vulnerable groups including, beggars, transgender persons and sex workers. "As directed under the order dated 30th March 2020, the state government shall immediately take a decision on the question of providing the ration to this category of citizens on production of an authenticated proof of identity. While the state government takes its decision, it will have to bear in mind that those who belong to the marginalized category may not be in a position to pay for the ration," noted the bench.
Akkai Padmashali, an LGBTQIA+ activist and the founder of Ondede, welcomed the decision. "The lockdown was particularly difficult for vulnerable groups like street vendors, sex workers and transgender persons because many were forced to starve due to lack of access to food. This is because the government has ignored these communities since imposing the lockdown. Going to the High Court has given the community hope that we can survive the next two months," Akkai says.
The lockdown also underscored the struggles of the community, particularly in places where it was imposed stringently. Radha, a transgender person from Nanjangud in Mysuru district, says, "Five of us live together and we were forced to gather groceries from our neighbours after the lockdown came into effect."
The stringent lockdown measures in Nanjangud were prompted by a cluster of coronavirus cases that emerged in Jubilant Life Sciences, a pharmaceutical company based in the town. The state health department has reported 25 cases connected to this cluster and is yet to report the source of the infection. No patient in this cluster has a history of travelling abroad or coming in contact with a COVID-19 positive person.
"We have to struggle for food because we neither have the money to buy essentials nor could we find shops that were open. We are apprehensive to go out in the streets at this time because we are told that there are very strict lockdown measures," Radha adds.
Madhushri, a trans woman from Raichur and president of the North Karnataka Jogappa Trust, a pro-LGBTQIA+ group, says that the members of their community are all indoors now, which means they will struggle to support themselves and their family. "Usually, we earn our income on a day-to-day basis and many are involved in sex work. We are all indoors now and unable to earn any money. We are being provided food every day but we have to pay our rent in the next two months at least," she says.
While the High Court’s decision comes as a relief to the community, Akkai Padmashali says that there are more issues to be addressed. The petition has asked that medicines for HIV positive persons and those undergoing hormone therapy, diabetes patients be provided free of cost. It also asked for a monthly cash payment of Rs 5,000 for six months, free LPG cylinders and a waiver of electricity bills. "Many people in the community borrow money from money-lenders and they will need the money to pay it back," Akkai adds.
She also stresses on the importance of educating the LGBTQIA+ community that COVID-19 spreads via mouth and nasal droplets, especially among those involved in sex work. Since a significant proportion of the community earns money through sex work, safeguards and preventive measures to educate them on the transmission of coronavirus would be helpful, she says.
Courtesy:The News Minute