Bhopal’s transgender community is struggling to survive amid a livelihood crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. The devastating pandemic has left the community with no work and no food.
Transgenders, living mostly in “Deras” with their Gurus in the Mangalwara, Itwara and Budhwara areas of Old Bhopal depend on traditional livelihoods, such as badhai (blessing weddings and other festivities). But all forms of celebrations, including weddings, have been cancelled due to Covid. With all sources of incomes shut, they are now totally dependent on their Gurus and the Deras.
Speaking to NDTV, Alisha from a Dera in Mangalwara said, “Sometimes we go out as we don’t have enough ration. But then we have witnessed the sufferings of the common man. How can we ask them for food or money? So we bless them and come back.”
Shabana, who lives in the same Dera, said, “Most marriages are being cancelled. We do understand they do not have enough to feed themselves. What can we expect? Our guru took care of us.”
“Some of us are unable to get even one meal per day. While others, who live in small groups, are going to bed on empty stomachs,” she added.
Last year the Social Justice Ministry said they would give transgender persons a one-time financial assistance of Rs 1,500. Social Justice Minister Thawarchand Gehlot had said, “Immediate subsistence assistance of Rs 1,500 to trans persons would be given through direct benefit transfer.”
But Suraiyaa Nayak, the Guru in Mangalwara Dera, said, “We haven’t received any help or financial assistance. No ration, not a single paisa. No one has asked how we are living. No vaccine camps have been set up for us. We are just praying that coronavirus should go. The lockdown has hit us hard.”
Most of the transgenders don’t have Aadhaar cards and other government identifications and hence are finding it difficult to get vaccinated to protect themselves from the deadly virus.
There are 167 third gender people in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal district whose names are on the voters’ list – seeming a small vote bank for the rulers to care about them.