Friday, February 11, 2011
Transgenders first to be enrolled in UIDAI in Puducherry
So, it began with a message in the morning that said this had begun and I could get more details in case I was still interested in the transgender issue. I thought I must write this story and I did.
Sheethal, the first member of the transgender community to be enrolled in the UIDAI, was very helpful. She even gave me her orkut password so I could access her pictures. It was such an act of faith. I had only spoken to her on the phone. This is for her.
An edited version of the story appeared in The Indian Express on Feb. 11, 2011.
New Delhi, February 10, 2011
In the war of identities, Sheetal, a transgender based in Puducherry,
has secured her first victory.
The 33-year-old becomes the first transgender in India to be enrolled
in the Unique Identification Number (Aadhar) Project in Puducherry on
January 24 when the enrolment project was launched in the state.
For years, Sheetal, Sahodaran, a Chennai-based group that works for
the prevention of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals, fought for inclusion of
her own unique identity, a gender that couldn’t be squeezed into
“male” or “female” categories.
“Our identity is third gender. In Puducherry we have nothing. We need
voter identity cards and we need a place to stay. We can’t find rented
accommodation. With this, they can identity us and include us in
welfare schemes,” Sheetal said. “Now, they are looking at us.”
Puducherry, where the Planning Commission’s initiative to give every
Indian a unique set of numbers that would be their identity, 64
transgenders will be the first to be enrolled.
Officials said it was a conscious decision to include the socially
marginalised group in the union territory as poverty and deprivation
aren’t issues in Puducherry.
Ashok Dalwai, deputy director-general, UIDAI, said that one of the
basic objectives of the UIDAI project headed by Nandan Nilekani, is
to reach out to deprived.
“We are one of the first to recognize the third gender and it is
incidental that we started in Puducherry. We kept telling the
registrar we should try to capture the marginalised. Then they said
the marginalised in transgender. Since it is a small place, it may be
easy for us to identify the transgender here and their representative
has taken an initiative,” Dalwai told The Indian Express. “It is good
to see they are establishing their own identity. There is no shyness.
We saw the confidence and eagerness.”
Sheetal is one of the two members of the transgender community in the
state to be enrolled on the launch day. Now, Sheetal will act as an
introducer and help the government reach out to more members of the
Over the next 15 days, 64 members of the transgender will be enrolled
That would the first phase.
The UIDAI’s focus is on social inclusion and in most states and union
territories, the agency in collaboration with the government
departments that are the designated registrars for the project, is
working to get the marginalised sections enrolled first.
For instance, in the national capital, the homeless migrants living
under the flyovers and the night shelters became the first
beneficiaries. The decision was taken keeping in mind the
characteristic features of an urban centre where migration is a given.
A lot of welfare schemes announced by the government that were
previously out of bounds because of lack of valid identification can
now be accessed by the homeless and poor migrants.
Dalwai, an IAS officer, also said that the first section of the
society to be enrolled in the UIDAI project in Karnataka in Mysore
district would be the physically challenged and in Chhattisgarh, it
would be the naxals.
“In Karnataka, we would like to capture the physically disabled. They
also form part of the socially marginalised. It is just a pilot. There
are challenges in capturing the biometrics. In a way, it will serve as
a pilot,” he said. “Then we can escalate it elsewhere.”
The Government of Puducherry has set up a State UID Implementation
Committee under chief secretary to monitor UIDAI implementation and
the Planning and Research Department of has been identified as the
nodal department for coordinating the project on behalf of the union
The Director of Civil Supplies in Puducherry, Priya, said that she
identified the group on the basis on social exclusion.
“So far they have no identity so we thought of including them first,” she said.
For Sheetal, the identity that she has been accorded is akin to empowerment.
“I was fighting for ration card and everything. We never got our
rights. First time, we got the respect. It is very important. We don’t
want to be the woman. Our identity is the third gender. Since I was
working with the food and civil supplies department, I kept telling
them they should do something about our community and then Priya said
I should come forward for my community if it is okay. I needed
visibility and I didn’t mind being on the stage and urge others to
come forward,” Sheetal said.
After Chennai, Puducherry is yet another state that is now
implementing various schemes for the transgender community.
Ashok Row Kavi, who is at the forefront of the fight for the rights of
the LGBT community, said h was happy to see the government was finally
"At first, they had male female and eunuch in the electoral rolls and
the community objected. Even on passport forms, it was "m", "f", and
"e" and now it is "o" as we would want it to be. Now, all is good," he
From "E", "O" is a long way forward. And Sheetal is excited to be at
the front of the drive for her community members.