Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for the demonetisation of ₹500 and ₹1000 banknotes rustled up some feathers throughout the nation. While Modi’s decision affected everyone, one community is among the worst-hit sects of the society due to demonetisation; the Hijra (transgender) community.
The demonetisation that was made effective on November 9, was an attempt to rid the country of corruption by abolishing black money. The new currency ₹500 and ₹2000 notes were introduced which can be exchanged for the old notes at a bank. Easy, right? Well, that is if you can manage to get past the queues. More so if you happen to be a transgender.
The social stigma surrounding Hijras in the nation is not unheard of. Not only do they have to live with unwanted stares and agonising discrimination but, they are also denied jobs and most don’t even get proper schooling which makes employment even harder.
Alas, these able-bodied transgenders are forced to beg for money which only worsens their state as society views them as outcasts. This forces some Hijras to resort to desperate measures like harassment and assault to extract money. Despite establishing themselves as a powerful network throughout the nation, the transgenders now face a new complication.
After demonetisation, as Modi and his Bhakts praised the step taken towards battling corruption, they forget that the world doesn’t run on a binary gender system. Even the queues lined up outside banks are two, one for males and the other for females. There’s no place for Hijras there just like there’s never been in any part of the nation.
The earnings of these transgenders, which they get from begging, is in cash which, they can’t turn into white money as most don’t have even bank accounts. Most of them are illiterate and have trouble grasping the formalities in a bank. They can’t even ask for anyone’s help as people run the other way when they chance upon a Hijra. The transgenders are now afraid for the survival of their community which they established after decades of resisting society’s norms which encourage discrimination against them.
Not only can they not exchange their money, people who would give them money now refuse to help out as they prefer hanging on to the cash they might soon run out of to avoid standing in long ATM queues.
Is our government, which has been in function for decades, so glitchy that it has continually neglected an entire division of Indians? Whom should they approach now? Modi didn’t even make one mention of the community in his statements and has deemed all earnings like theirs, black money.
The first step towards building a strong nation is to ensure that the foundation is strong. Modi should remove his blinkers and behold the reality that not all are being treated fairly in his tenure. Not just men and women but also, the Hijras. Now that they’re headed towards extinction, perhaps it’s finally time for us to help them.