Kochi: When 23 trangender persons bagged employment with the Kochi Metro Rail Limited, the move was seen as a game changer. They were placed in different departments including housekeeping, crowd management, ticketing and customer relations. The aim was to offer a dignified livelihood and bring them into the mainstream.
They were excited and hoped that their new identities would help change people's perception and the way they are treated. However, their happiness was short-lived.
Nine out of 23 transgender persons quit their jobs within days of Kochi Metro's high-octane inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month. Reason: It was difficult to find an accommodation amid prejudice and make ends meet in the few thousands that they were offered.
Twenty seven-year-old Sweety was placed in the housekeeping department of the Kochi Metro. She had found a decent place to stay but she was humiliated and asked to vacate her rented apartment when her identity was revealed. With nowhere to go and not enough money to afford a hotel, she had to quit her job.
"It is almost impossible for us to find a place to stay. I was offered Rs 8,000 as salary which isn't enough for a decent living. Wherever we went to find an accommodation, we were told to get out," said Sweety.
She was recently hired by a local news channel for a weekend news reading slot. She has also managed to find a one-room accommodation in Kerala's business capital, but she has withheld her identity from the owner of the house who lives abroad.
Some others suggested that they weren't happy with the nature of jobs assigned to them.
However, for many like Sulfi Meharasan, their new jobs turned out to be a blessing. When the Congregation of Mother of Carmel opened the doors of Jyotish Bhawan, which is a hostel, exclusively to the transgender employees of Kochi Metro Rail Limited for a nominal rate of Rs 500 for a month, she knew she had half won the battle.
As soon as Sulfi enters her new home, she changes from a pair of jeans into a kurta and feels comfortable. "I have been ridiculed and told no rooms were available at hotels, lodges etc. When I demanded to see the registers and I was chucked out," she said and added that her job means a lot to her and she is ready to face any challenge to continue.
Kattu, another transgender Metro employee and who stays at Jyotish Bhawan, said, "Sisters here care for us. They ask about us. They often share their food with us. What more can we ask for? I am really touched and happy here."
Despite the resignations, the Kochi Metro Rail Limited says they will continue to hire transgender persons. "It will be great if the government can come forward to provide free-of-cost or at least affordable accommodation to them. But on our part, we will employ more transgender persons and attempt to include them in the mainstream society," said Reshmi CR, Corporate Communications Head for Kochi Metro Rail Limited.