Maharashtra Government’s proposal to set up a welfare board for the transgender community is not moving ahead for want of exact population of the third gender.
The proposal has been prepared by the Women and Child Development Department (WCD) and sent to Planning Department, which is suppose to earmark funds for the body and clear it for submission before the State Cabinet.
The Planning Department has told the WCD Ministry that since formation of “Transgender Welfare Board” is a policy decision, an official figure of the third gender in the state is required before such a body is put in place.
“It is not possible to take a policy decision without knowing the exact number of beneficiaries,” the Planning Department said in a note to the WCD Ministry.
The WCD department has sought a sum of Rs. 5.54 crore for the board, which according to it, will undertake a survey, run welfare schemes and explore jobs for the community.
Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) has informed the Government that figures available with them are of the people affected by HIV and those active in sex trade.
“About 40,000 third gender members are included in them (those in sex trade and HIV+). There is no separate figure of the third gender,” MDACS said.
However, a Mumbai-based NGO, Astitva, has put their population at over five lakh. Officials in WCD department told PTI that Tamil Nadu is the only state to have a welfare board for transgenders.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced formation of such a board at a meeting with the community members last year. On the occasion, Chavan had expressed his Government’s commitment for welfare and a policy for the neglected section of society, who often face discrimination and harassment.
Meanwhile, the WCD Ministry has informed the Planning department that the exact number of the transgender community members can only be known in the 2021 census.
“As the community is looked down upon, their human rights to live a life of dignity are affected. The State is the first to describe transgenders, including those from the community in sex trade, as ‘vulnerable citizens’,” according to a draft prepared by the Ministry.
The objectives of the board, which would be headed by the WCD Minister, will be to give legal and social protection to the transgenders, prepare programmes and policies for them. Transgenders will have to register themselves with the board to get benefit of these schemes.