Transgender staff of Kochi Metro struggle to keep life on track

Of 23 persons employed initially, only 6 working now | Low salary, high rent force exodus
Ragaranjini along with her  co-workers at KMRL in Kochi
Ragaranjini along with her co-workers at KMRL in Kochi

KOCHI: Ragaranjini and her group of friends were elated when they were offered jobs with Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) in 2017. Being from the transgender community and having to eke out a living on their own, this gesture by KMRL through the Kudumbashree Mission came as a blessing for almost all of them.

Three years down the line, most of the 23-member group have quit owing to various reasons, including lack of viable accommodation facilities in Kochi and low salary.KMRL has signed a three-year contract with Kudumbashree to ensure jobs for women and transgenders. The transgenders were appointed in several departments ranging from ticketing to housekeeping.

“KMRL employs over 700 women staff. Of the 23 transgender persons hired in the first phase, only six are working now,” said Ragaranjini.  A major factor working against the transgender employees was the costly accommodation in the city. Coupled with the hardly considerable hike in salary over the years, this factor took a toll on them.

“At present, we are getting `14,000 per month in hand. Of this, a major chunk is spent on, leaving us with barely enough. However, since our contract gets renewed this year, we are hopeful of getting better pay,” said Ragaranjini.  

Faisal C, aka Faisu, a former transgender employee of KMRL, said he has been able to earn more from working in UberEats. “Since we were hired on contract, the salary was less. Our salary was `13,000, which reduced to `9,000 after all the deductions, including Provident Fund. It is difficult to meet our monthly expenses with the amount. This was one of the reasons why most of us quit,” he said. 

KMRL says
“Kochi Metro has always welcomed transgenders and we always try to maintain a balance. There are 11 transgenders working with us now and a total of 650 women staff,” said a KMRL spokesperson.

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The New Indian Express