The Miniscule Minority and Pandemic
The spread of the Coronavirus Pandemic disease (COVID-19) has led the world to witness the unprecedented times. It is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered virus belonging to the family of Nidovirus. While the countries all around the world are trying to develop a vaccine to cure the infected person of the deadly virus, many nations have imposed certain measures such as social distancing and lockdown in order to curb the transmission that may be caused because of human contact.
These measures, though effective in controlling the spread of the virus, has resulted in economic hardships to many sections of the society such as laborers, owners of small and medium enterprises as well as the daily wage earners. Though the Government at the Centre as well as State, has devised policy measures so as to provide relief to the starving population, however, the one segment of the society which remained visibly invisible from the government policies is the Transgender community.
Despite the ruling by the Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) vs. Union of India, the transgender community in India has often been discriminated against in matters of employment and healthcare. The major source of income for the TG community involves performing at social functions, begging, or doing sex work. However, because of the nationwide lockdown imposed by the Government in view of the pandemic, the earnings of the transgender community have come to a grinding halt. While the policy measures introduced by the Government provides for relief to the poor and laborers, little attention has been paid to the 'minuscule minority’ living in India.
Also, the transgenders are not able to gain the advantages of various social security schemes like rations and pensions because of the non-availability of basic documentation such as Aadhar, ration card, or voter ID. Transgender activists addressed a letter to the Ministry of Finance, Home Ministry as well as Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment highlighting the plight of the transgenders in these tough times. Responding to the letter, the Union Government announced a grant of Rs. 1500 to the members of the community by the National Institute of Social Defence. However, the allowance reached merely 4500 people which is nearly 1 percent of the 488,000-odd transgender counted in the 2011 census.
Aggrieved by the ignorant policies of the Government in dealing with the pandemic, transgenders across India have approached the various High Courts who have provided them with the appropriate relief. Taking, for example, the Telangana High Court in a writ petition filed before it under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution ordered the State Government to ensure that the members of the transgender community have ready availability of food grains, consumable items, and medicines as per their needs and requirements. The court also directed that these commodities must be given free of cost and without insisting on the production of ration card or white card. Similarly, the Jharkhand High Court directed the state government to provide meals and other facilities to transgenders because of their helplessness due to the lockdown situation. The Karnataka High Court has also acted as the Sentinel of Qui vive for the rights of transgender people during the distressing times. On a petition filed before it by the Centre for Law and Policy Research, the court directed the state government to dispose of the application filed by the transgenders under the 'Mythri' scheme immediately considering the prevailing situation and extend the benefits to all eligible members of the transgender community
Thus it can be safely concluded that whereas the transgender community has again been discriminated by the Governments at the Centre and the State in the time of pandemic as well, the Hon'ble Courts in India have acted as a guardian of the fundamental rights of the transgender from time to time. Despite being a regular wage earner, the internalized 'transphobia' against transgenders has kept them outside the scope of the government’s welfare schemes.
National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) vs. Union of India., AIR 2014 SC 1863
Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli vs. The State of Telangana., WP(PIL) 74 of 2020
The court on its own motion vs. State of Jharkhand and Ors., W.P.(PIL) no. 1301 of 2020
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Manik Mahajan, 2nd Year & IV Semester LL.B from Department of Laws, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
Editor: Vijayalakshmi Raju
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