By Shahina KK
Kerala will soon have a taxi service run by transgenders. The launch of G-Taxi or Gender Taxi, set to go operational this March, was announced by the state's Social Welfare Minister MK Muneer as a part of the government's Transgender Policy, among the first of its kind in India. "We are planning to have the same successful business model as She-Taxi. The government will provide financial assistance to buy the vehicles. For She-Taxi, loans were arranged through Women's Development Corp. We have to explore similar means for this project," says PTM Sunish, CEO of The Gender Park, to which the initiative has been entrusted.
She-Taxi, launched in November 2013, is run exclusively by women for female passengers, and now over 100 drivers ply in three cities: Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. But G-Taxi may find it difficult to replicate the model. The government is yet to arrange loans for transgenders to buy taxis. Also, since these require collateral, it may pose a problem as well. Unlike women, transgenders often do not even have family support. A training programme for those picked will start next week and the first batch will roll out soon after.
"I am confident that this will be a successful venture. We already have 10 persons who are interested, and I'm sure that we will find more," says Navas, a transgender involved with the recruitment process. The community is optimistic. "Running a taxi is more than a means of living. It gives visibility to transgenders and access to mainstream society," says Sheethal Syam, a prominent LGBT activist.
Muneer believes that it is the responsibility of society to provide a conducive environment for the minority community so that they have well-fulfilled lives. "Earlier, transgenders in Kerala had no option but to migrate to other states. Their situation is changing now and we have to expedite this change," says the minister.
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