Will BBMP empower sexual minorities?

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Pramita Sarkar

It is quite heartening to hear something positive from Mayor R Sampath Raj who is not only talking
about filling up potholes but also adding helipads and introducing taxi pods to make Bengaluru a livable
city. The latest announcement is aimed at bringing the most neglected community to the mainstream of
society.
The mayor wanted to use the unutilized funds to empower transgenders in the city. Recently, he
convened a meeting with transgender community leaders to discuss about the welfare programmes for
the benefit of sexual minorities in Bengaluru.
He has questioned the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) welfare department officials on the
failure to implement welfare schemes for the sexual minorities in the city. He advised the BBMP officials
to be lenient in scrutinizing transgenders’ applications seeking financial assistance from the civic body.
“The needs of transgenders are unique. Apart from medical expenses, we are ready to pay for their
education, to buy a laptop, start a business. The scheme cannot be restricted to a pre-set kind of uses,”
Mayor Sampath Raj said.
Rs 2 crore
According to Mayor Sampath Raj, the BBMP had allocated Rs 2 crore exclusively for the upliftment of
transgender community in the city but not a single rupee was utilized due to administrative hurdles.

Lack of interest or failure in submitting proper documents are attributed for the welfare schemes ending
up as a non-starter. “Most of the transgenders have no permanent address because they do not own
houses. The BBMP officials insist address proof. How is it possible for us to submit the documents that
we actually do not have?’’ asks Veena, vice-president, Samara, an organization working for sexual
minorities.
Only on paper but nothing…
Many transgenders opine that the authorities forget about the welfare schemes as soon as they are
announced. For example, the BBMP had announced skill development programme for transgenders a
few years ago. The sexual minorities were supposed to hone up their skills at a training centre situated
near Hebbal Police Station. But the much-publicised training programme did not take off due to the
reasons best known not only to the BBMP authorities but also the stakeholders.
“The scheme was forgotten as soon as it was announced by the BBMP authorities. Many of us were not
aware of the programme that was announced a few years ago,’’ said Akkai Padmashali, a social activist
who received Karnataka State award for her contribution in the field of sexual minorities.
Emphasising on the need to accept sexual minorities as human beings, Akkai Padmashali, has recalled
how the sexual minorities have been discriminated in society.
“There is always an issue on where to sit while commuting on BMTC bus? Whether to sit in the men’s or
the women’s seats. We identify ourselves as female but no female likes to sit next to us. A few years
ago, a woman sitting next to me got up and walked away the moment I answered my phone in the bus.
Until then she thought I was a woman,” Akkai said.
Main requirements
There are thousands of transgenders, most of them migrated from neighbouring states, in the city.
Majority of them do not have shelter of their own. They have to rent a house in a backward or under-
developed locality in the city because no house-owner in developed areas in the city likes to rent out his
house to them.
The leaders of sexual minorities demand the BBMP to allot houses for them on a priority basis.
According to them, there are some bright students among the sexual minorities who desperately
needed financial assistance to pursue higher studies. They said the BBMP and the state government can
provide employment to them instead of wasting time in announcing welfare schemes that would remain
on paper.
“It will be a great help for sexual minorities if the BBMP authorities employ one transgender at each of
Indira Canteens in the city. We have also appealed to the Mayor to consider filling up Group-D posts in
the BBMP with eligible transgenders,’’ opines Veena.
Ward committees
The community leaders want the BBMP to select one transgender for all ward committees to involve
them in meetings aimed at discussing development of the respective ward.

“We have demanded the BBMP to select one transgender representative from each ward. It will help us
to be a part of the governance and help the BBMP to chalk out development programmes,” Veena
added.
Confident
Shakeel Ahmed, newly elected chairman of BBMP social welfare standing committee, is confident of
extending helping hand to the sexual minorities.
“I am aware of the problems of transgenders. Recently, they met Mayor Sampath Raj seeking utilization
of Rs 2 crore allocated for the welfare schemes. I have convened one more meeting with the leaders of
sexual minorities within a few days. I am confident of doing something for the benefit of transgenders
during my tenure as the chairman of standing committee of social welfare,’’ Shakeel Ahmed said.
Govt schemes
The Karnataka State Women Development Corporation (KSWDC) has been facilitating training
programmes all these years to empower transgenders. Apart from providing guidance and counseling
for the sexual minorities on how to start a business on their own, the KSWDC has been providing subsidy
to them.
The KSWDC has trained 1,176 sexual minorities in 2012-13 and provided Rs 39.77 lakh subsidy to them.
It has trained 759 transgenders and provided Rs 151.70 lakh in the year 2013-14. It has trained 720 and
sanctioned Rs. 144 lakh subsidies in the year 2014-15 and Rs 2 crore for 1,000 transgenders in the year
2015-16.
“We gave training and guidance for 1,000 transgenders across the state last year. Each of the beneficiary
got Rs 20,000 subsidy,’’ said Sreenivas of KSWDC.
The KSWDC encourages the transgenders to be empowered by starting small business like opening a
small provision store or a foot ware shop or a beauty parlour.
“From this year onwards, the state government has amended the norms by insisting the beneficiaries to
avail Rs 25,000 loan besides Rs 25,000 subsidy but they are not ready to avail the loan. We are writing to
the government seeking relaxation of the norm which makes compulsory to avail loan to get the subsidy
amount,’’ Sreenivas said.
Promises galore
Meanwhile, Mayor Sampath Raj said that he would write a letter to housing minister M Krishnappa and
chief minister Siddaramaiah requesting them to consider the sexual minorities while allotting houses.
He has also said that a letter would be written to the Commissioner, Bengaluru Development Authority
to consider allotting sites for sexual minorities.
All in all, it seems the new Mayor is not only confident but also enthusiastic to bring the sexual
minorities to the mainstream by utilizing Rs 2 crore that was allotted a few years ago. The million-dollar
query is whether Sampath Raj will follow the footprints of his predecessors who have forgotten the
existence of sexual minorities in the city or will he honour his tallest commitment. Will he, or won’t he?
The sexual minorities have to wait and watch.

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