KMRL spokesperson told TNM that they had managed to arrange rooms and transport for 12 transgender employees in need.

Facing heat for poor living conditions of its transgender employees Kochi Metro promises actionCourtesy Kochi Metro Rail/Facebook
news Kochi metro Sunday, June 25, 2017 - 17:18

On Friday, Nidheesh MK reported for Livemint a story which shook many who were lauding the Kochi Metro’s initiative to employ 23 transgender persons as their ground staff. Their ‘unsaid story’, Livemint pointed out, was not very different from the narratives of struggle and discrimination that have come to be associated with transgender lives.

Nidheesh’s story highlighted how the assured income from working at the metro was a relief, it wasn’t really enough for transgender employees.

One of the transgender persons quoted said that she continues to live in a ‘home’ which was no more than makeshift tin-roofed accommodation atop a lodge, for which she paid about Rs 600 per day. And to make this rent, she had to continue relying on sex work despite being employed at Kochi metro. Neena, another trans woman said that she begged after working at the metro, in order to afford her daily housing rent of Rs 400. 

The story was picked up by other media publications thereafter, prompting the Kochi Metro Railway Ltd (KMRL) and Kerala Social Welfare Department to take action and secure lodging and transport for their transgender employees.

“We have arranged for rooms in a hostel in Kakkanad, about 10 kilometres away from the metro station they work at. 12 of them, who need accommodation, have agreed to move into these rooms by July 1. KMRL will also be providing them with a transport facility so that they can report to work easily,” KMRL spokesperson Reshmi told TNM. She added that they would have to pay a nominal rent of about Rs 700 per month.

Reshmi also reveals that they knew about the poor living conditions of the transgender persons a little over two weeks ago when they began the training. 

"They did complain to us about it and we have been looking for accommodation for them. We can't provide it, but we can only facilitate it. We spoke to some private players also like those who had flats of rent. But there were problems like the distance being too far from the metro station and such. Now we have finally been able to arrange rooms for 12 of them in the hostel," she said.

Incidentally, Ramesh Babu's report in Hindustan Times revealed on Sunday that eight out of the 23 transgender persons hired by Kochi Metro have already quit, after they were unable to get good accommodation in the city. 

For Nidheesh, the reporter who broke the story, what he found has come as a reality check for him. Speaking to TNM, he said, “We were happy when this picture of transgender lives being turned around for the better was painted, but finding out these things turned out to be a dose of reality for me.”

Nidheesh also talks about the fact that they all have hopes and dreams of their own – some of them want to be models, activists, artists – but they haven’t been able to do so because of the discrimination they face in these fields. “They aren’t able to make ends meet. So it’s not as if they don’t want to work at KMRL. They have roles like ticketing and housekeeping there – it doesn’t give them a space to do more with their skills,” he says.