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Relief for transgenders without ration cards: Madras HC takes up issue, seeks govt response

The petition averred that there are more than 50,000 transgender persons in the State, though the available government data shows only 11,449 transgender persons, of whom only 2,541 had been issued with ration cards.

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The Madras High Court has sought response from the Tamil Nadu government on considering persons who have applied to the transgender board to be entitled to receive the cash relief announced by the government, despite not having ration cards. The matter will now be taken up on June 18.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy noted, “The state should consider whether all applicants who have applied to the Transgender Board in the State by May 31 (and not beyond) may be considered as transgenders for the purpose of obtaining the benefit announced by the State and extended already to some of the recognised transgenders.”

The bench was assured by R. Shanmughasundaram, Advocate General for the state, that the matter will be considered.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Grace Banu, a transgender rights activist, highlighting the issue that transgenders not holding ration cards have not received the Covid-19 cash relief amount of Rs 4,000 announced to be extended to all rice ration card holders by the Government and thereby, prayed for a direction to the Government to pay cash relief to the transgenders in the State without insisting upon ration cards.

The petition averred that there are more than 50,000 transgender persons in the State, though the available government data shows only 11,449 transgender persons, of whom only 2,541 had been issued with ration cards. It is further averred that the restriction of the financial aid only to ration card holders would lead to exclusion of many transgender persons who do not possess ration cards due to varied reasons including a delay on the part of the Civil Supplies Department in issuing these cards.

The state government on a previous date of hearing had submitted that it will sympathetically consider the matter pertaining to transgenders and the fact that the eligible persons need to possess ration cards may not stand in the way of their receiving the relief since there are other forms of identity cards that indicate their orientation. In light of this submission, the state government vide notification of June 3, decided to distribute cash relief to the tune of Rs 2,000 per beneficiary to 8,493 people of the third gender who do not have ration cards but are registered with the Third Gender Welfare Board.

The petitioner informed the court that the said Board in the State has not been functioning for about a year. He submitted that not all transgenders have any form of identification or acknowledgment by any government organisation of their status. In this regard, he suggested the Court to consider the persons who have applied to the Transgender Board as eligible to receive the assistance.

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Last year, the Supreme Court, in Budhadev Karmaskar v. The State of West Bengal & Ors. had directed both the State and the Central government to provide relief, in the form of dry rations, monetary assistance as well as masks, soaps, and sanitizers without insisting on proof of identity, to the sex workers, who have been out of work since the pandemic broke out. Similarly, a division bench of the Patna High Court in the matter of Veera Yadav v. Chief Secy., Government of Bihar had directed the state government that all policies framed and instructions issued by Government shall be implemented in letter and spirit and no member of the transgender community be deprived of Ration only on account of such status or not possessing Ration Card.

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