Ondede, an advocacy and social justice group in Bangalore working for trans and queer people, had filed an application before the Karnataka High Court to direct the state government to provide social security benefits to transgender people.
With many trans people engaged in begging and sex work, the lockdown imposed by the government to fight the Corona virus pandemic has impacted their source of livelihood. Akkai Padmashali, a transgender activist from Bengaluru and founder of Ondede, told Gaylaxy, “After the lockdown, transgender people were struggling to get basic necessities. Despite reaching out to various officials, the government was not looking after the vulnerable people. So we decided to approach the High Court.”
The petition, which was filed on April 1st, had sought free ration, provisions including vegetables and fruit to members of the transgender community through PDS, free of cost medicines for HIV+ persons and those undergoing hormone therapy, diabetes patients, and a monthly cash payment of Rs 5,000 for six months. It had also requested for free LPG cylinders and electricity bills to be waived.
Ruling on the petition, the court noted that the state government, in its reply, had mentioned that under the Mythri scheme, 1657 persons of transgender community are getting monthly pension of Rs.600/- and on considering the situation, two months of pension is being paid to them in advance. The court then directed the govt that receiving an application from a trans person under the Mythri scheme, the application must be acted upon immediately and to extend the benefits under the Mythri Scheme to all the eligible members of the transgender community.
The court then went on to say that in an order dated 30th March 2020, it had directed the government to provide ration to people who might not have a ration card, upon producing a valid identity card, and the same must be extended to marginalised groups like transgender community, sex workers and beggars. It also noted that a report in The Hindu newspaper had mentioned that the Chief Minister had said that free ration will be provided to those holding a BPL (Below Poverty Line) card. The court instructed that those who cannot pay for the ration, but do not have a BPL card, must also be provided free ration.
While Akkai welcomed the judgement, she said this was only a partial relief. “Many trans people are not registered under the government scheme. Also, the pension of Rs 600 being given is too low. Even with 2 months of advance payment, it will be only Rs 1200. We are demanding that the pension amount be raised to Rs 5000 and free medicines should also be provided to trans people. Also, this should be extended throughout the country, and not just in Karnataka. The governments need to think seriously on how to extend these benefits to all, irrelevant of whether they have an ID or not.”