Guwahati, Wednesday, April 8, 2020
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Lockdown pushes transgenders to the brink of starvation
MANASH PRATIM DUTTA
 GUWAHATI, April 7 - The State government has been taking a series of measures to ease the hardships of common people amid the nationwide lockdown. But, in Assam, a large section of transgenders are yet to avail the benefit of such welfare initiatives.

Leave alone other parts of Assam, even in this capital city, where the Kamrup Metro district administration has been delivering ration at the doorstep of the poor section, transgenders living in Guwahati alleged that benefits of such schemes have not reached their shores.

There are around 14,000 transgender people living in Assam, who eke out their daily bread and butter by begging at the railway stations, bus stops and other public places.

According to transgender activist Swati Bidhan Barua, the hardship of the members of this community started in February when they were barred from begging in the public places as a preventive measure to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Since February, this section of people has been struggling to manage their daily bread and butter. Most of them have no ration card. In most cases, they lag behind in availing facilities under the government schemes. Following the lockdown, their condition has worsened,” Barua told The Assam Tribune.

Barua recently started an online fundraising campaign through the site www.ketto.org to help transgenders living in the State. The campaign was launched under the banner of The All Assam Transgender Association.

In a note attached with the online campaign, Barua wrote that the transgender population is facing this difficulty like never before. The crisis has left them more vulnerable as they are not only at the risk of exposure but also on the verge of starvation as most of them depend on daily begging.

“Through this fundraiser, we would like to offer our good offices for them and for that we need your help. We are starting the campaign for them so that we could continue with the supplies of basic food at their homes. Please help us to help them,” Barua wrote.

In the petition, the Association has set a goal to raise a fund of Rs 2 lakh. But, Barua alleged that the petition is yet to get proper response from the public and only Rs 3,000 has been collected till Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, a section of people in Assam have started collecting fund through various online platforms to help the transgender community, Barua alleged, adding that the people involved in such campaigns have used their personal bank account numbers for the fund collection, which raises the possibility of misappropriation of public money.

It is noteworthy that amid the global medical emergency situation, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), a US-based non-profit organisation, has stated that the transgenders must remain aware of the particular risk that the novel coronavirus poses to them because of several factors.

The NCTE observed that transgenders usually have poor health condition and many of them suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis or asthma. The fear of discrimination also keeps many of them from going to the doctor, which may potentially impact the efforts to check the spread of COVID-19.

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