The coronavirus pandemic has had a global impact, affecting the world population. To curb further transmission, the government of India declared a nationwide lockdown and announced financial aid packages for all vulnerable groups. The Finance Minister gave these packages to daily wage workers, construction workers, garment workers, and migrant workers. The transgender community, which constitutes 4.88 lakh population (as per the census of 2011) were left out. A majority of these community members earn a living by begging on the streets or as sex workers, earning a mere salary that makes livelihood difficult and savings impossible. Thus, their exclusion of the government aid package came as a devastation. Without any monetary support, the thought of living a life in complete lockdown was terrifying. Such was the situation of the entire transgender community in India.
Realizing a need, the Regional Program Officer of Swasti approached the National Institute of Social Defence (NISD), Delhi to discuss solutions. The NISD had funds allotted to help transgenders, and they immediately agreed to provide monetary relief to the transgender community who reside in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. So, Swasti’s team got in touch with the district Community Based Organisations (CBO) in the state of Tamil Nadu. Some of these districts included Salem, Dharmapuri, Namakkal, Coimbatore and Thiruvallur. The CBOs of Tamil Nadu agreed to provide information about vulnerable groups. The vulnerability of the transgenders was based on factors like comorbidities, homelessness, old age and people living with HIV. The decision to include the number of transgenders for the relief depended on the number of transgenders residing in that particular district. A total of 10% to 15% of the entire population was considered for the relief. A total of Rs 1500 was deposited to each of the transgender’s bank account the very next day. A similar list was prepared for the transgender community in Karnataka, which included districts like Bangalore and Chikkaballapura. While a monetary fund of Rs 1500 may seem insignificant to most, this aid was influential to the transgender community that is often ignored, discriminated, and without a job.
This aid was especially beneficial, as most government and aid organizations provide vulnerable groups with basics such as cereals, pulses, and oil. The financial contribution could be used to buy groceries that provide essential nutrients, especially since the cost of food has increased because of the pandemic. The deposited money is expected to last about one month, and the NSID has promised to transfer money again as the lockdown continues to be extended. This money has helped the transgender directly and indirectly, as the NSID aid can be used for nutritious groceries while other donor aid has been used for rent or necessary medical supplies.
On receiving aid, those within the community expressed gratitude. Some of the quotes include:
“The relief was truly helpful for us to deal with the crisis”
“As part of the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown, it was difficult for us to lead our lives. The central government deposited Rs 1500 to our bank account. It was beneficial for us. We thank the central government for this. – Sangeetha, a transgender from Kancheepuram
“It was difficult for us to leave our house’s to find work or money for ourselves. We were finding it difficult to manage. The central government provided us with Rs 1500. It was helpful for us. Thank you”
“The pandemic and the lockdown, we couldn’t go out to earn. The central government deposited Rs 1500 into our account. It was helpful. Thank you for this”
“We have been earning a livelihood by begging in shops. Due to the outbreak, we have been staying at home for days together. It was difficult for us to live our lives. During this time, Rs 1500 were deposited to our account. It was quite helpful and we are happy for the money provided. We are thankful to all of them involved in helping us get these funds”
These quotes were among innumerous expressions of gratitude from the community. The support provided by the NSID and the Swasti Health Catalyst made a prominent difference in the lives of the transgender community, a population that is often ignored.
Contributors: Kaveri M.T, Destry Jensen and Priya Babu.