In 2017, 29-year-old Arundati set up a tailor shop in the Mandya city of Karnataka after receiving ₹20,000 as support that the Karnataka State Women Development Corporation (KSWDC) earmarked for transgenders.
However, he had to shut his business a year later, after incurring losses.
“Each machine cost at least ₹10,000 and we bought four of them. I was not even able to pay my colleagues cum employees as the earnings were less,” Arundati, now working as a cattle farmer in Chitradurga district, told South First.
“Another reason to close was the attitude of the locals, who did not like a transgender running a shop and used to stop customers from coming,” he added.
Arundati’s is not a solitary case. Many transgenders in Karnataka who start their ventures after seeking self-employment assistance from the KSWDC are not able to run them for long.
This comes a month after South First, speaking to the transgender community, found that only 2 percent can avail of the much-applauded “master package” under the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Scheme.
‘Increase the support money’
According to the transgender community, ₹30,000 is provided as a one-time honorarium sanctioned by the WDC.
“This is not enough to open and run even a small business like a dhaba or a beautician shop, let alone anything on a large scale,” Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum state coordinator Mallu Kumbar, a transgender herself, told South First.
Uma, a Human rights activist at Bengaluru-based civil society organisation Jeeva, added that the government should also create a technical and logistical support system, and even promote the work of the transgenders as “we are a marginalised community”.
She told South First: “At present, the WDC in collaborations with public-sector banks runs skill-based programmes, but they are not effectively implemented at the ground level.”
‘Immediately implement transgender policy’
According to Kumbar, the state-approved 2017 transgender policy, which aimed to provide a share of the state’s annual budget, has not been implemented at all.
“We will be able to conduct programmes and skill-based workshops, and also address other issues if we are given a separate budget,” Gadag-district-based NGO Srushti Sankhula’s founder Bhagat told South First.
The activist added that even public and private-sector banks at present also deny personal loans to transgenders.
“Even when my CIBIL score was good, both SBI and IDFC Bank rejected my application for a personal loan saying that there is no policy of loan in their banks for transgenders,” he alleged, adding that the implementation of the transgender policy would give them relief.
‘Can avail other schemes’
KSWDC Development Inspector Anusha Aravepalli said that the department used to give ₹50,000 — a loan of ₹25,000 and a subsidy of ₹25,000 — to transgenders, but it had to be shut down as the recovery statistics went down.
Adding that there was no plan to increase the honorarium to ₹30,000 as of now, she said, “If they want more support money, they can avail it through other schemes such as Udyogini (women’s entrepreneurship) and the Karnataka State Financial Corporation (KSFC) Scheme for transgenders. However, no one has availed the KSFC scheme till now as it requires bigger business planning.”
Asked about the discrimination that transgenders face while applying for personal loans from public and private sector banks, the official said: “Nobody will deny them if they go and try to avail [the loans].”
About the implementation of the 2017 transgender policy, she said, ” After the report of the baseline survey, which is expected to start sometime in December this year or January next year, the process of their socio-economic development will be started.”
She added that the baseline survey would start as a pilot study in te Mysuru and Vijayapura districts, and action would be taken for the transgenders’ economic empowerment after feedback from the government.