In a questionable move, the Karnataka govt has announced that they will form ‘vigilance squads’ to arrest transgender women who beg on the streets of Bengaluru. The move, they claim, is for ‘rehabilitation’ of trans women, but what this rehabilitation entails, nobody knows.
Speaking in the state Assembly on Monday, Minister for Social Welfare H Anjaneya said that the Karnataka government is planning to enlist the help of people to alert the Central Relief Committee (CRC) helpline (10581), if they come across any transgender person begging at any traffic signal in the city.
He said that CRC vigilance squads would rush to the spot as soon as an alert is sent and arrest and ‘rehabilitate’ them.
“Begging is prohibited under the Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act 1975. However, the state government cannot initiate action against Mangalamukhis as they do not come under the purview of this law,” Anjaneya said while responding to MLCs R Dharmasena and KC Kondaiah in the Vidhana Parishad.
Mangalamukhis are trans women in Karnataka who follow a set of traditions.
The Minister said that due to numerous complaints received by motorists about Mangalamukhis who beg on the roads, the CRC vigilance squads have already arrested 132 rans women last year.
“As Mangalamukhis and children do not come under the purview of the anti-begging law in Karnataka, the arrested persons were warned to not fall back into begging after a probe was conducted. This is being done as a part of ‘Operation Muskan’ to stop children, women and Mangalamukhis from begging,” Anjaneya said.
The government has directed Hoysalas and Cheetah patrolling units to monitor the busy junctions and roads to keep track of such instances.
“We have appealed to the citizens to report such instances. All they have to do is call 10581, which is the CRC helpline and report it. The vigilance squad will arrest and rehabilitate them,” he added.
The Minister, however, did not mention what exactly ‘rehabilitation’ entails. Although there is no concrete rehabilitation plan, currently, those spotted on roads are being arrested and warned off by the vigilance squads.
Trans rights activists in fact have questioned the use of the term.
"Right now, the government has no plan to rehabilitate trans women. They haven’t set up any rehabilitation centres. Without any measures in place, arresting someone, threatening them and letting them go sounds like harassment,” said Trans Rights Activist Gee Imaan Semmalar.
“Unless they come up with a concrete plan and discuss with the community as to what they want to do, this will not work. Conducting a 10-day workshop and handing out tailoring machines is not rehabilitation," he said.