The Telegraph
Thursday , March 27 , 2014
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Other side of voters gear up

This Lok Sabha election is a gender bender of sorts. For the first time, the transgender community would exercise its right to franchise.

A visit to Khadakuan, an all-eunuch bylane at Gai Ghat in Patna City (near Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib), was an eye-opener of sorts on this new set of voters. Unlike most others, transgender voters do not support the conventional caste-based voting pattern. Neither do they see a “wave” for any particular prime ministerial candidate.

“We are not from any caste or religion. We would neither vote for the actor (Shatrughan Sinha, sitting BJP MP from Patna Sahib) nor for the doctor (JD-U candidate Dr Gopal Prasad Sinha). The actor never shows his face and the doctor charges such a heavy fee,” said Lalan Rajkumari Kinner, 45, accorded the title “Ilaka Ki Malkin (owner of the area)” at Khadakuan.

Lalan said there was greater emphasis on getting transgenders enrolled in the voter list in 2009-2010. For the past few months, Lalan claimed, hardly any government agency or official paid heed towards registering their names when the Election Commission was on a war footing to update electoral lists.

Lalan said: “Who would come to our dark allies? We are a neglected community. No one thinks about us except when there is an election. All big shot politicians, including Lalu Prasad, Rabri Devi and Sushil Kumar Modi, have come to our doorsteps in Patna City. But none has ever done any work for us.” Lalan even contested the civic polls in Patna in 2012 and 2007, losing both times.

Some 1,881 members of the transgender community — 0.003 per cent of total voters in the state — had enrolled for voting till January 1. There are 28,314 transgenders among voters across the country and 161 among 39,60,406 voters in Patna. The Election Commission began listing transgenders as “others”, under gender, after the 2009 general elections.

The transgenders have specific issues. “We are not given any security. We are not given BPL cards. There is no quota for us in educational institutions. We are also not given any subsidised medical facilities in government hospitals. We are considered beggars but now that the elections are coming, we want to ask political leaders if we are supposed to remain beggars,” said Gita, 40, another eunuch in Lalan’s group.

The eunuchs are upset because of the authorities’ neglect. “Our group, Hijra Samaj Sewa, opened a school at Gai Ghat around 10 years ago with the money we earned daily. Leaders like Rabri Devi, Ram Kripal Yadav and Shyam Rajak attended its inauguration. The school was for orphans and poor people. It was gutted in a fire around four years ago. We have since been running from pillar to post to get some support from the government or some political party to get the school running again, but in vain,” said Nagina, 45.