While the massive Covid-19 vaccination exercise in the country has run into some speed bumps with demand far outpacing delivery, the transgender community in Assam seems to have had more luck than many others. More than 40 members in Guwahati got inoculated on Friday at a special drive carried out by the state directorate of health services. Residents of Tritiya Nivas (shelter home for the third gender) queued up, adhering to the pandemic protocol, and waited their turn to get the shots.
“Most of our members work on the streets, begging. The probability of contracting the virus is maximum among the transgender populace. There are no segregated Covid centres and that is a huge concern. The only way out is to get vaccinated. I approached the directorate of health services and they were more than happy to help us. It was only on the 13th of May that we approached the directorate and today the vaccination drive took place,” says Swati Bidan Baruah, associate vice chairman of the Transgender Welfare Board of Assam.
The shelter home houses 125 transgender people, and 40 of them were vaccinated on the first day. Documents and identity proofs were an issue for many, which they said would be sorted out soon. The second drive will be carried out next week where the representation is expected to be much more. According to Census 2011, Assam has a transgender population of 11,374 and Guwahati alone has over 2,000 people from the community.
“Rome was not built in a day and I am confident that soon all our members will be vaccinated. I am happy that Assam has shown the way to the country when it comes to the vaccination of the transgender community, which society and at times the respective governments have neglected,” says Baruah.
The Transgender Welfare Board has initiated campaigns to ensure that members of the community are masked, wear gloves and adhere to Covid protocols while out on the streets. Till now, no transgender person has been reported Covid positive during the ongoing second wave of the pandemic in the country. One member tested positive last year in Bongaigaon, and later got cured and even donated plasma.
Assam was the first state in the country to add a ‘transgender’ option in the gender category in the civil services examination form. A total of 42 transgender people had applied then for the Combined Competitive (Preliminary) Examination (CCE), 2020, conducted by the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC).
The state high court in an order recently directed the Assam government to create a separate wing for transgender people at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). Swati Bidhan Baruah who had filed the PIL in this matter termed it a “landmark order” for the community.
Earlier a southern representative of the National Council for Transgender Persons, Gopi Shankar of Madurai, had written to the health secretaries of the states in south India and Union Territories, underscoring that the transgender community faced discrimination while seeking treatment for Covid-19. As of Friday morning, the had over 43,000 active cases
A legal battle for the community to earn themselves an exclusive segment in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is still on, said Baruah.