Other States

Transgender persons’ attempt to break new ground in Odisha

From undertaking hour-long running to practising yoga and from brushing up general knowledge and English language skills to meditating, the aspirants are occupied through the day at Sundarpada locality of Bhubaneswar.   | Photo Credit: BISWARANJAN ROUT

Not so long ago, Pratima Behera, 22-year transgender, faced abuses umpteen times and scurried for cover as baton-wielding police personnel chased her away at a railway station in Jamshedpur where she begged for survival.

Kalpana Patra (name changed), who used to be a trans-sex worker, experienced harassment and violence, often at the hands of police.

Both Pratima and Kalpana are set to turn their life around and forget the ignominy they had undergone. They have filled out the applications to become police officers.

From undertaking hour-long running to practising yoga and from brushing up general knowledge and English language skills to meditating, these two transgender aspirants and their likes are fully occupied all through the day at Sundarpada locality of Bhubaneswar. They seem to be on a mission to prove themselves.

When Odisha government came up with an advertisement last month to appoint transgender persons as sub-inspector of police, the community considered it an occasion to change societal perception about them, rather than treating it just an opportunity of grabbing a job.

For a total of 477 SI posts, 1,32,496 candidates have applied. Of them 97,506 are male and 34,964 are female while 26 belong to transgender community.

“Not many in our community can plan their future on basis of their educational degrees. Our life is not simple and straight. There are very few employers for us in the job market,” Kalpana said adding that she felt like having a cursed life.

Pratima narrated the prospect of joining the police force was a lifetime opportunity for her especially after she was forced to flee home and beg for survival just to evade mocking eyes of her own family members.

“This is a rare occasion when so many transgender candidates have applied for any government job. This is the first permanent dignified job formally offered to transgender,” said Meera Parida, a transgender activist who heads NGO called Sakhaa that works on mainstreaming the transgender community. She now mentors transgender candidates for cracking the police job.

Recently, 40 candidates from the community have been absorbed in Urban Livelihood Mission through an outsourcing company. They are engaged as supporting assistants and have proved to be very effective in clearing backlogs.

K. Soumya Rao, 22, who was brought up in a slum here with her parents doing odd jobs to run a family, has represented India as a child rights activist in Belgium. Soumya is working hard on her physical stamina as well as studies to crack the examination which is scheduled to start from August 6.

“We are often judged by bangles, bindis (colour dot worn on forehead) and bicchiyas (toe-rings) whereas the job of police is identified with ‘Singham’ (macho-man) image. The cultural divide is massive. We have to overcome the mental blocks,” says Soumya.

There has not been proper enumeration of transgender population in the State. Due to social stigma and taboo, many transgender are not able to express them publicly.

“As per our estimation, Odisha has 20,000 to 25,000 transgender population. While proper employment eludes transgender, self-help groups comprising transgenders are taking up government assignments such as collection of holding and parking tax, sewage management and digging up ponds,” says Ms. Parida.

A few transgender candidates have managed to find corporate jobs. However, there was no formal opening in job market for them.

While many are overjoyed about taking a shot at police job, there are others who are little worried. Srimantini (name changed) has been a brilliant student. She has scored above 85% throughout her career.

“In college I found gradual changes in my behaviour. My family members and relatives know me as a male. I have applied for the job as transgender. My sister will get married shortly. If my family members get to know about development when my certificates and Aadhaar card reaches my address, it will lead to crisis,” said Srimantini.

Transgender candidates seek to be given more than equal opportunity, given the disadvantaged position from which they are attempting to break new ground.

According to candidates, it was not easy for them to achieve educational milestones for a host of reasons such as lack of proper washroom, belittlement by classmates and violence at hand others outside campus.

However, common understanding about transgender persons is gradually changing for the better. Some retired and serving police officers have come forward to help a transgender candidate to build physical stamina at Barbil in Keonjhar district. Some corporate houses have even pitched in providing study materials to applicants.

Ms. Parida avers transgender persons will make good police offices as they have seen dark sides from very close quarters and they do not have much family burdens.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 5:31:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/transgender-persons-attempt-to-break-new-ground-in-odisha/article35390729.ece

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