Samantha gets up at around 6 am each morning, goes to a nearby well to draw water, feeds her cow, finishes her other agricultural work and cooks for her single mother. By 8 am, she gets ready for a journey of about 50 to 60 km to Hyderabad.
Since the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 began in Telangana, Samanatha and a group of individuals have been working hard to ensure that transgender persons, who are hard-hit during the crisis, get essentials delivered to their homes.
"There are many of us who can't step out of their homes due to the lockdown. They are generally afraid of authorities already because they are branded as a 'nuisance' and there is stigma attached. In such times, since no one can step out, we told them to stay indoors and said that we will help them," she tells TNM.
"They earn maybe a few hundred rupees every day and manage with that. Since I have a vehicle, I volunteered to supply the rations. With the help of donations, we have been supplying rice, dal, salt, turmeric and other such things that will be enough for people for a week," she adds.
Samantha stays at the border of the districts of Ranga Reddy and Nalgonda and drives over 100 km in her auto daily. As soon as the lockdown began, she obtained a pass from the state government that allows her to travel around the city.
"By 10 am I reach Hyderabad. The police are doing their duties well and stop and check the vehicle at each checkpost. Once I reach the city, I pick up the supplies and then begin my distribution work. I finish by around 5 pm, so that I can return home before the curfew sets in at 7 pm," she says.
The Women and Transgender Organisations Joint Action Committee, which is coordinating the efforts, has identified around 200 transgender women who are especially vulnerable. with limited access to government welfare schemes and a lack of support systems, and is making sure that they can survive the lockdown.
"Many of us depend on seeking alms and that option is no longer possible during the lockdown. Since we home-deliver groceries, they feel happy and there is a sense of solidarity because they know that their community is looking out for them," Samantha adds.
Rachana Mudraboyina from the Women and Transgender Organisations Joint Action Committee tells TNM that several organisations have come forward to help with the resources.
The group is also now looking to provide vulnerable transgender persons who have been identified, with a monthly basic income of Rs 5,000 for the next two months for April and May. A fundraiser has also been started on Ketto with the aim of fundraising Rs 20 lakh for the purpose, of which around Rs 4 lakh has been collected at the time of writing.
"The beneficiaries have been prioritised to help those who are most at risk for COVID-19 (elderly or with existing health conditions), those who are HIV positive and those with dependents. The money will be transferred directly to their bank accounts," the fundraiser states.
A link to the fundraiser can be found here.