UNDER THE RAINBOW | Baramulla’s transgender community lacks awareness about welfare schemes

Will conduct awareness programmes in coming days: Social Welfare Deptt
Representational Image
Representational ImageFlickr [Creative Commons]

Baramulla: Despite the launch of various welfare programmes by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to support the transgender community, the community members in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district are demonstrating a lack of response in enrolling for these vital schemes.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment introduced the Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise (SMILE) scheme, which encompasses the sub-scheme ‘Comprehensive Rehabilitation for the Welfare of Transgender Persons’.

The sub-scheme places significant emphasis on rehabilitation, provision of medical services and intervention, counselling, education, scholarships, skill development, and economic opportunities for transgender individuals.

To simplify access without the need for a physical interface, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has established the National Portal for Transgender Persons.

This portal enables transgender individuals across the country to apply for transgender certificates and identity cards through a seamless end-to-end mechanism.

These documents are nationally recognised and are mandatory for availing the benefits provided under the SMILE scheme.

Official data indicates that the total transgender population in Jammu and Kashmir is approximately 4000 with a significant portion residing in Kashmir.

While there has been no comprehensive study on the number of transgender community members in Baramulla district, estimates suggest there are around 100 individuals.

Surprisingly, only seven individuals from Baramulla district have registered on the national portal to access the benefits of the SMILE Scheme.

This raises concerns about the awareness and outreach within the transgender community.

Fayaz Ahmad (name changed) a transgender from Sopore in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district expressed ignorance about the welfare scheme initiated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Ahmad claimed to know over a dozen marginalised community members who were unaware of such a programme.

“We don’t have any idea about such welfare schemes,” Ahmad said. “Authorities should conduct workshops or awareness programmes so that community members benefit from these schemes.”

Transgender individuals in Kashmir, including Baramulla district, are often engaged as matchmakers and artists, performing at weddings.

While facing daily challenges, they largely depend on their families for survival.

In some cases, they do not have their own homes and must rent accommodations, putting a significant financial burden on them.

Welfare schemes like SMILE have the potential to bring substantial benefits to the transgender community.

However, concerted efforts are required to raise awareness and encourage community members to come forward and access these much-needed benefits.

This disparity in awareness and enrollment highlights the importance of targeted outreach and education to ensure that all members of the transgender community can have access to the support they need to thrive.

Social Welfare Officer Baramulla, Sajad Ahmad said that the department would conduct various outreach programmes in the coming days.

He said that the aim of such awareness programmes would be to ensure the participation of transgender community members.

“We are planning to organise several awareness programmes for the transgender community members so that they can avail the benefits under the welfare schemes designed for them,” he said.

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