Members of the transgender community in Rajasthan say that they have been left out in the Covid 19 vaccination drive in the state.
On May 23, 2021, the social justice and empowerment department had written a letter to all district collectors to make arrangements for vaccination of the community members and even start mobile vans for their vaccination drive. The letter written by O P Bunkar, director and joint secretary of the department reads, "Mobile booths should be used to vaccinate the transgender community as done in other states. Also, after they reach the vaccination booths, it must be assured that there is smooth facilitation for their vaccination".
However despite the clear instructions by the social justice and empowerment department, the vaccination drive is yet to begin in the state, says Pushpa Mai, head of Nai Bhor, an organisation working for the rights and rehabilitation of transgender in Rajasthan. "It's been almost two months since the clear directives from the social justice department have come. But the health department is yet to kick off the vaccination drive for the transgender community, the most vulnerable which needs extra attention", Pushpa shares.
The NGO Nai Bhor working for the rights of the transgender community, claims that the community is facing stress in absence of vaccination. "Every time we speak to the health officers, they assure us that the vaccination will begin in few days. But it hasn't. The community has already lost its livelihood and now has become more vulnerable without any vaccination", Pushpa told Outlook.
According to the NGO, there are around 1 lakh transgenders living in Rajasthan. In 2020 around 600 transgender members received one-time compensation of Rs 1500 from the National Institute of Social Defense, New Delhi, and Rs 3500 (2500 + 1000) by Jaipur Municipal Corporation from the social justice department and labour & employment department, Govt of Rajasthan. In 2021, Rs 1500 from NISD and Rs 1000 through Jaipur Municipal Corporation from the social justice department and labour & employment department was given to around 600 beneficiaries.
According to the project director of immunisation, Rajasthan Raghuraj Singh, the drive will begin as soon as the vaccines arrive in Rajasthan. "From last two weeks, there has been a dearth of vaccination doses in the state. Today we have received around 8 lakh vaccine doses out of which 7.5 lakh will be distributed in Jaipur and around 50 thousand will be used in Udaipur. The vaccination of transgender community is on our priority".
Reproductive and Child Health Officer Dr Pushpa Choudhry, in charge of the vaccination drive in south Jaipur, told Outlook, "So far, we have not vaccinated the transgender community in Jaipur but it's on our priority. We will facilitate smooth drive for them and even use mobile vans for smooth access".
Earlier in April 2021, a shelter home 'Garima Grah', for 25 members of the transgender community, was started in Jaipur. It’s an initiative of the central government aiming to rehabilitate and teach skills to the community. "This was a much-needed initiative by the state and central government. The community members need a shelter house to lead a dignified life. However, at present our important demand remains vaccination," said Pushpa Mai.
"No one should be left out in the vaccination process. Everyone has a right to live with dignity. We shall start the process as soon as we receive the new stock", Rajasthan health minister Raghu Sharma told Outlook.