By Ashadeep Mohanty
Bhubaneswar: At a time when the State Government is leaving no stone unturned to develop Bhubaneswar as a Smart City, little attention is being given to the needs of the transgender community.
Though a number of developmental programmes are being taken up for the Smart City that envisions improvement in the livelihood of the citizens, particularly the marginalised sections, the transgenders (kinnars) have been left behind to fend for themselves. Despite being accorded with the third gender status, they are yet to lead a dignified life in the society. With a very few source of livelihood and sans social security, they are facing a whole lot of problems, including discrimination.
Sadhna, a transgender, said unlike other states, transgenders in Odisha have no alternative source of income except sex work and begging. “Though we have been given the third gender status, there is no specific government policy to enable us to apply for government jobs. However, the government can engage us in various works under the Smart City programmes. It should create better livelihood options to help us lead a dignified life. I am not asking for any special treatment towards the community, rather the government should include the transgenders in various programmes under the Smart City,” said Sadhna.
Meanwhile, in a great achievement to the community, the US Government has saluted Sadhna Mishra and Kinnar Meera Parida as leaders and invited them to the country for a one-month tour programme. "We would visit several places, including California, Washington and Boston in the country and tell the transgenders there about our works and initiatives in Odisha for development of the community," Meera said.
"If the US government can invite us for the programme, why not the Odisha Government make efforts to make us the ambassador of Smart City," she added.
Meghna Kinnar, another transgender, said “We had given a list of demands to the state government in a recent meeting convened by the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) of which a few of them have been fulfilled. Though water and electricity connection have been provided in some slums in the capital city, there is no separate toilet facility for us in the public areas, we do not feel comfortable using the same toilet meant for men and women.”
All Odisha Eunuch and Transgender Association President Pratap Sahu said a 14-point charter of demands was given to the BMC authorities at a meeting when the Smart City campaign began. Around 200 transgenders had attended the meeting and apprised the authorities of their plights. Unfortunately, none of the demands have been fulfilled till date for reason best known to the concerned authorities, he added.
Highlighting the demands, the association president said the transgenders are suffering a lot as they do not have their own land. “We have been demanding four decimal land for each Kinnar under the Rajiv Awaas Yojana, education, social security, rehabilitation of displaced transgender, proper water and sanitation facilities in the slums, etc. But no step has been taken by the Government so far,” Sahu stated. He said if the Government is taking steps to make Bhubaneswar a Smart City, it should also focus on making the Kinnar smart citizens.
Sahu further said that though the government has recently included many transgenders under the BPL category, they are yet to get any benefits under it.
“Under the Smart City provisions, the government must give special emphasis on welfare of the marginalised section of the society including the daily wage labourers, domestic labourers and street vendors besides the transgenders”, he pointed out.