Transgenders in Mumbai being trained to drive radio cabs

‘Employ and empower transgenders’ becomes more than a feel-good phrase, with the launch of radio cab service putting trans drivers behind the wheel

Mumbai’s commuterscape opened its doors to The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community. Wings Travels Management Ltd, along with Humsafar Trust a non-profit that works for LGBT issues has started a pan-India programme, beginning with Mumbai where transgender persons are being trained to drive radio cabs.

The LGBT community drivers silhouetted against the cab window at the Press Club yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The LGBT community drivers silhouetted against the cab window at the Press Club yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

This, is to provide an employment opportunity to the marginalized and discriminated against section. Currently, there are five members of the community undergoing training to drive radio cabs, Wings and Humsafar stated at a press conference at Press Club, near Azad Maidan yesterday. The pilot programme empowers these five a learners licence and finally getting a certified All Driver’s Licence. Arun Kharat, founder & director Wings stated, “It will be at least a year till the driver’s license is given but the training has started and in the end, it is all about first training them as drivers and finally enabling them to become small entrepreneurs by owning their cabs.” Pallav Patankar of Humsafar Trust stated, that, “transgenders are often told to go and do some work but opportunities are few and far between. Inclusiveness and changing mindsets remain mere intellectualizations, if we do not change the situation on the ground.”

As the transgenders posed for pictures, the brightness of the camera flashes, rivalled the light of hope in their eyes. They spoke about how the radio cab opportunity may give them a new lease of life. Some of them, had been employed earlier, but did face harassment in the guise of veiled comments and barbs at the workplace. Sanjeevani S, a transgender who worked in an imports-exports firm spoke about how male co-workers would throw a flying kiss at her, across the room in the workplace or leer at her. Yet, she said spiritedly “today, I see women driving rickshaws, cabs and even bus conductors. I think one day I will not just drive a cab, but a train,” drawing applause. Suraj Thakur and Ankit Trivedi of the community claimed that at an earlier workplace, they felt the sting of comments. “During lunch at the workplace, colleagues would casually comment, today the food has a lot of ‘gud’ (a derogatory term for a homosexual man) or that it is very ‘meetha’ (sweet).” The room was filled with a second of poignant silence as one could feel the whiplash those words must have carried.

Yet, one could sense a new dawn, if one could call it that, as the community posed with a radio cab in the precincts of the Press Club for a mandatory photo op. The app will have a rainbow button for those who want this service. There may be problems and road bumps, this is after all a path breaking initiative, but one could not help cheering at a brave attempt, which has just got rolling.

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