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Karnataka: Hit by Covid-induced lockdown, transgenders seek relief and vaccines

A LGBTQIA+ organisation has also moved the Karnataka High Court seeking relief for the community.

Ever since Karnataka went into a lockdown to combat and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the transgender community has been suffering like never before as the shutting down of public spaces and cancellation of weddings have led to a complete loss in earnings for them.

Like last year, the community is looking for a relief package from the government to help them tide through these difficult times.

“Alms is the only source of my income and since the lockdown was announced, we are suffering a lot. I don’t have any money to buy ration and have been forced to take a loan from a few people to survive. We were expecting that the government would provide a relief package this year but so far, nothing has been announced,” Chandrika, a member of the transgender community in Bengaluru, said.

Chandrika added, “Social ostracisation has forced the transgender community to largely depend on alms and sex work to survive. In a few places in the city, transgenders are invited to wedding events and other ceremonies like baby showers to bless the couple or newborns. With all events cancelled because of the lockdowns, we have no source of income left,” Chandrika added.

The LGBTQIA+ organisations in Karnataka are also disappointed with the government not announcing any financial support for the community.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Akkai Padmashali, the founder of Ondede, a LGBTQIA+ organisation in Karnataka, said: “The state government hasn’t done anything for the vulnerable communities. Although the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is providing Rs 1,500 per person to our community, that isn’t enough to survive a month.”

“The state government has totally disrespected and mishandled the pandemic. The government has completely forgotten about the transgender community who are facing extremely difficult times owing to the lockdown. We have also moved the High Court on Wednesday seeking our rights. The state government should set aside at least Rs 20 lakh in its Budget for the LGBTQIA+ community so that we can at least survive,” Akkai Padmashali added.

Last year, during the lockdown, the Karnataka High Court had directed the state government to provide pension and extend relief under the ‘Mythri scheme’ for transgenders.  Under this scheme, the government paid two months’ worth of pension amounting to Rs 1,200 according to Akkai Padmashali.

Several people of the community, who are HIV positive, couldn’t even get their Anti-Retroviral Treatment amid the lockdown and vaccination, too, has not been prioritised, said Kiran Nayak, a co-founder and member of the Karnataka transman intersex group.

“Transgenders who are HIV positive can’t go to the hospital because of fear of contracting the virus. They are at risk if they are not getting treatment, and healthy and nutritious food on time. The transgenders should be given vaccines at the earliest and the government should come up with proper guidelines for the same,” Kiran added.

The Karnataka transman intersex group, which is also working in Telangana and Andra Pradesh, has distributed food kits and groceries to a few people of the community in rural Karnataka.

“With help from other organisations, our group is distributing groceries and essentials to our community members for the last few days since we have not received any help from the government,” Kiran said.

Last week, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had announced a Covid relief package of Rs 1,250 crore for farmers, auto and cab drivers, construction workers, artists and various workers of the unorganised sector.

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