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Even as marginalised communities bear the brunt of the Coronavirus lockdown, the Karnataka High Court yesterday directed the state to immediately dispose of applications made by transgender persons for grant of social security benefits under the Mythri Scheme.
The order was passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice BV Nagarathna.
The state informed the Court that 1,657 persons belonging to the transgender community are given monthly pension of Rs 600 under the Mythri Scheme. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, two months’ pension is being paid to them in advance. Considering this aspect, the order reads,
"If the transgenders who are covered by Mythri Scheme make an application for grant of the benefits under the Mythri Scheme, the State Government or the concerned Authorities will have to dispose of those applications immediately considering the prevailing situation and extend the benefits under the Mythri Scheme to all the eligible members of the transgender community."
Karnataka High Court
This apart, the Court further asked the state to respond to a plea seeking distribution of free rations to trans persons, devadasi women, and sex workers. The Court noted that there maybe a category of people deprived of their daily earnings such as beggars, transgenders and other marginalised communities. Such persons from marginalized categories may not be having the ration cards, the Court observed. In this regard, the Court held,
"Therefore, as directed under the order dated 30th March 2020, the State Government shall immediately take a decision on the question of providing the ration to this category of citizens on production of an authenticated proof of identity. While the State Government takes its decision, it will have to bear in mind that those who belong to the marginalized category may not be in a position to pay for the ration."
Counsel appearing for the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) also invited the attention of the Court to a Deccan Herald newspaper report of April 8, which recorded the plight of Devadasi women in a village near Koppal Town. The Court recorded that after the visit of the KSLSA Member Secretary, ration has been made available to the Devadasis and that a local Merchants’ Association even supplied utensils to them.
The above directions were passed in an Intervention Application (IA) seeking protection of transgender persons and other vulnerable communities during the 21-day Coronavirus Lockdown.
The IA has been filed by Centre for Law & Policy Research (CLPR) on behalf of Ondede and Centre for Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy, NLSIU (CSSEIP). The application was heard by the Karnataka High Court along with PILs regarding several issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petition was taken on record on April 3. In its reply, the state government said that it would provide social security pension to transgender persons. Further, the state replied that ration would be provided to vulnerable persons and migrant workers. On this point, the Court has asked if the provision would be made without ration cards, i.e., on the basis of any other ID.