Kochi Metro's sad track record of keeping promise of dignity to transpersons

As Kochi Metro marks five years, transgender employees have many stories to tell — of discrimination, low salary and inaccessible toilets
Faisal C and Raga Ranjini
Faisal C and Raga Ranjini

KOCHI: In 2017, the Kochi Metro was all over the news for its much-celebrated inclusive programme, jobs for transgender people. The programme started with 26 transpersons joining the Kochi Metro workforce. However, it didn’t take too long for the community’s elation to end. “We realised, it was just a promotion gimmick. We were not going to receive even basic human dignity,” says a transgender person, who has now resigned from her position with Kochi Metro.

“We were informed in the beginning that it was a central government job. We at least thought the job would be under Kochi Metro. However, after joining, we realised it was a contract between Kudumbashree and Kochi Metro,” says Faisal C.

Currently, only nine trans people work with the Kochi Metro.

Low salary
According to Faisal, most of the transgender workforce have left their jobs with Kochi Metro. For, their salaries ranged from Rs 7,500 to Rs 13,000.“We were finding it difficult to even pay rent with the salary. Mostly, people are hesitant to provide houses or flats to transgender people. Those who received rooms were asked to pay double the amount,” Faisal says.

Many who left are forced to go back as sex workers, while some have become makeup artists, he says.
“On top of the rent, we have additional expenses. Like anyone, we need money for food. And then comes expenses for treatments,” says Faisal.

Also, there was no increment in salary, points out a former Kochi Metro employee.“As we were not appointed by Kochi Metro, the salary was lower than regular employees. When we spoke to the former managing director, Elias George, he said we will be given the same dignity as women, not more. That means women were also treated as less important! We lost hope. If the government wanted to help us, they should have analysed the needs of the community and made schemes accordingly,” the former employee says. Raga Ranjini, currently working at the Kaloor station, says she gets a salary of Rs 15,000, after five years with the Metro. “I am still struggling to pay the rent and other expenses. We work under immense pressure, both mental and physical.”

Neena Unni
Neena Unni

Neena Unni, another former employee with Kochi Metro, says: “I used to do various work, including begging, before joining the Kochi Metro. My salary was only Rs 7,500. Who can survive in Kochi with that amount? Now I’m working as a makeup artist.”

Sandya Milind worked with the Metro for just two days.“I left the job mainly due to the long travel required daily. I was given accommodation at the Jyothish Bhavan in Kakkanad. My duty time started at 6am, with no bus at that time of the day. I had to hire an Uber cab for Rs 400 daily and the salary was only Rs 8,500. Also, the co-workers used to stare as if I was an alien,” she says.

Lack of toilets
Former and current trans employees of Kochi Metro say there is discrimination even while using the toilet facility. “Every time, we have to approach the main office for the key to the loo. We were not allowed to use the women’s toilet,” says another transperson, who didn’t want to be named.

Official response
Kochi Metro authorities clarified that transgender employees are under Kudumbashree. “Of the 26 transgender persons, only nine are still working with Kochi Metro,” Kudumbashree District Mission Coordinator Preethi M B. “They tell me that they left work due to low salary. We came up with many initiatives, but nothing helped much. Also, some people avoided them at stations. The main problem is lack of acceptance by society.”

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