For the first time, the finance minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has made budgetary allocations for the transgender community of the state. While presenting the Budget in the Assembly, finance minister Haseeb Ahmad Drabu recognised the transgender community as one of the most marginalised sections of the society and acknowledged the difficult conditions they live in.
“Their plight is pathetic, especially when they are past their prime as social attitudes towards them are quite unfriendly, if not hostile. With no one to look after them, no shelter to live in and no apparent source of income, they are forced to live the last days of their lives in abject penury,” he said. He then announced that every transgender in the state shall be treated as living under BPL (Below Poverty Line), unless stated otherwise. They would be entitled to all the benefits under the BPL scheme, including cheap food-grains, LPG, electricity connections etc.
The minister also proposed free medical and life insurance cover and monthly pension for all transgender people in the state who are over 60 years and registered with the Social Welfare Department. Mr. Drabu further announced that the state government will bear the cost of sex reassignment surgery (SRS) for transgender people of the state and made an initial allocation of Rs 1 Crore for it in the budget.
Welcoming the move by the Government, Dr. Aijaz Ahmad Bund, a researcher and trans rights activist from Jammu and Kashmir, said, “It gives us immense pleasure to learn that finance minster responded positively to our request of including interventions for the welfare of transgender community. This is a welcome step to uplift the victimised population. Treating transgender members as living under BPL and covering them under insurance will certainly help in mainstreaming the community which is living a life of abuse, discrimination and violence, to a considerable level.” Pointing out that there would be many challenges in implementing the scheme properly, Dr. Bund said, “The biggest challenge to the government is to create a conducive environment in the state which would help the community members to come out of the closet to avail the services.” He demanded that the government set up a separate transgender welfare board and sough reservations in government jobs and educational institutions for the community.
Transgender Rights movement has been moving forward slowly in the state. A PIL filed in the Srinagar High Court by Dr. Bund has demanded implementation of NALSA judgement in the state. The Court has already sought the response of the government on the petition. A book by Dr. Bund titled “Hijras of Kashmir: A Marginalised form of Personhood” too was released recently in the state. The book is a first of its kind ethnographic study of the transgender community of Kashmir and through interviews of 24 transgender people, details the socio-economic plight of the community as well as the abuse and challenges faced by them.