Ramya Kannan

CHENNAI: Transgenders in Tamil Nadu have never had it so good.

The latest in a series of government orders favouring their rights has given them specific concessions in bidding for an extensive ELCOT project.

When ELCOT invited tenders for the online family card administration project, it put in a clause in the tender call: “None of the qualifications criteria will be applicable if Aravani self-help groups members, either as a group or members , submit applications for carrying out a data entry contract. Priority will be given to Aravani self-help groups.”

It even went on to say that in such a case, other tenders will not even be opened.

Enthused to bid

Members of the transgender-based trust TAI Vizhudugal have been enthused to bid for the tenders in Chennai, Coimbatore, Salem and Madurai districts.

“It is wonderful that the transgenders have bid for the tenders. We have already trained them, but even if there are members who do not match our requirements, we will train them at our own cost and employ them. It is a great way to wean them off the sex trade,” said C. Umashanker, Mananging Director, ELCOT. Since the work is being done at the taluk level, they do not have to travel out of town to be employed.

R. Lakshmibai, project director, Tamil Nadu AIDS Initiative, said: “Clearly it is a great effort to provide special advantage to the marginalised community.”

Mainstreaming begins

By minimising their sexual encounters, their vulnerability is reduced, and the process of mainstreaming has begun. Tracing the beginning of the current development, she said it started at a meeting organised on the occasion of Transgenders Day here, in which Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board chairman Salma promised that the Board would sponsor training for the community.

The Board organised the training programme in collaboration with the ELCOT, and 20 members of the transgender community participated, Salma said.

It was after this that they sought to benefit monetarily from their newly-acquired skills and were advised by the ELCOT to participate in the bidding process.

D. Viji, president, TAI Vizhuthugal, says: “It is a big step for us. We are proud that such importance is accorded to the community. We are grateful to all those who facilitated this – the Social Welfare Board, TAI and ELCOT.”

The community is excited about the sustained interest the government has been showing in their welfare. They were given ration cards and a transgender welfare board was formed.

Unique moment

“It is ironic,” says Sangeetha of Coimbatore, “that we ourselves were given ration cards a few weeks ago, and now we can work on providing family cards for all. It is, indeed, a unique moment, more than just employment. It seems an act of service and justice combined.”