Living with Dignity: When Will All Indian States Have Garima Grahas for the Trans Community?

As per the National Portal for Transgender Persons' official website, there are 12 Garima Grah facilities established nationwide. Uttar Pradesh, the state with the maximum number of transgenders – 1.37 lakhs (2011 census) – does not have even a single Garima Grah.
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Representational imageMinistry of Social Justice and Empowerment

New Delhi- The Bharatiya Janata Party recently released its election manifesto. Upon thorough investigation to gauge what queer people can expect from it, we found only a few lines regarding the trans community, which states, “We will expand the network of Garima Grahas to cater to the needs of transgender individuals.”

Garima Greh aims to offer refuge to destitute and abandoned transgender individuals, providing them with essential amenities such as housing, meals, healthcare, and recreational opportunities.

In the first-ever study on transgender rights in India conducted in 2018, the National Human Rights Commission found that the rights of transgender individuals are significantly compromised. As per the 2011 census, the transgender population in India is around 4.88 lakh.

Most of the trans individuals face isolation within their homes, communities, and institutions due to widespread gender discrimination in society. Only 2% of transgender people live with their biological families, as they often experience a lack of acceptance from their closest relationships.

This rejection frequently forces them to leave their homes, often at a young age, and many end up moving to larger towns and cities without any concrete plans or support networks, which can be an overwhelming experience. This results in shelter homes such as Garima Greh becoming one of the only refuges for the community.

However, not every state has a shelter like Garima Greh. As per the National Portal for Transgender Persons' official website, there are 12 Garima Grah facilities established nationwide.

The first Garima Grah was established in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri A. Narayanaswamy, in a written reply to Lok Sabha in February 2023, disclosed that a total of 654 transgender persons have benefited from the Garima Grah project.

Notably, Uttar Pradesh, the state with the maximum number of transgenders – 1.37 lakhs (2011 census) – does not have even a single Garima Grah.

According to various media accounts, even many of the operational homes face challenges due to insufficient funds. The Mooknayak talked to trans individuals from two random states, one where a Garima Greh already exists and the other where there was a push to build one, in order to understand the issues faced by both and whether the government prioritizes the community.

Delhi Queer Pride Parade
Delhi Queer Pride ParadeCourtesy- NDTV

The Mooknayak spoke with Rudrani Chhetri, the Project Director of Mitr Trust Garima Greh in Delhi, regarding the challenges encountered in operating the shelter home, primarily stemming from insufficient funding.

“The thing about the transgender community is that we have felt disappointment even from our own blood,” Chhetri said with a trembling voice.

Discussing the mindset of individuals in homes for the marginalized, she said, “It takes courage to leave, and when you finally arrive at a shelter home, we have already lost a lot of faith. When the government behaves similarly, one might say, ‘Government to aisa karegi hi. Ghar waale bhi aisa karte the.’”

“It takes years to build trust but just a second to break it,” the social worker expressed.

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Garima Grah: No Shelter Home in Largest Transgender Population State

Chhetri mentioned that the Garima Greh in Delhi did not receive any funds for the last financial year, which ended in March of this year.

According to the guidelines set by Garima Greh, each shelter home should encompass approximately 3000 square feet. In any urban area, renting such a space would typically exceed 40,000 per month. This presents the initial challenge. Moreover, operating a shelter home is not a conventional program; expenses range from providing basic necessities like toothbrushes to covering substantial costs like rent.

TWEET Foundation, which looks after a shelter home for trans men in Maharashtra, revealed that in order to deal with budgetary constraints, they often turn towards the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) wing of companies.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) encompasses the efforts and initiatives undertaken by corporations to address various social causes, environmental concerns, disaster relief, and community development. In India, CSR became compulsory for companies through legislation enacted in 2013.

But according to Chhetri, CSRs are more focused on training and capacity-building initiatives within the community. “One thing which they do not realize is that in order for capacity building, you have to provide them with basic amenities as well.”

The essence of her statement can be illustrated with a straightforward analogy. While one can impart basic computer skills to anyone, without access to electricity, the learner won't be able to practice and develop those skills further, thereby missing out on opportunities for advancement.

“CSRs still would not help with the office running costs.”

When questioned about the sustainability of the shelter home, which has not yet received its allocated funds, the director disclosed that operations are ongoing thanks to the support of the community's empathy. She said, “We are a community-based organization. I myself am a trans person and our staff are too, so we know that even if money is not there, we have to keep the home running.”

“Every one of us has gone through a hard time, so we keep the work going through loans or pitching in from our own pockets. But it takes away a lot of our positive thinking.”

Even then, the project director appreciated the work that has been done by the government so far while believing more is to be done.

Jharkhand's Vulnerable: Without Shelter, Without Hope

According to the official website of the National Portal for Transgender Persons, there are a total of 12 Garima Greh facilities established across the country. Jharkhand is one of the states lacking refuge for the trans community.

The Mooknayak spoke with Amarjeet Singh, a trans person and social worker who had approached the Jamshedpur Municipal Corporation for a shelter house for the community.

The disappointment she endured while striving to establish a home is an entirely separate narrative.

“We were provided a house which was in shambles. Despite feeling disappointed, we built everything from the ground up and were about to open it, but the key was taken back by the corporation,” Singh stated.

“We were told that we would be getting the keys back, but that never happened.”

According to the social worker, a shelter home for the community was never made. All the neighboring states of Bihar and Chhattisgarh have shelter homes for the community, but not Jharkhand.

Discussing the fight, she expressed that giving letters to government bodies is the only possible way because without their help, a shelter home would not be possible.

Garima Grah Homes

The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment initiated 12 Garima Grah homes on a pilot basis in states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, and Odisha in 2021.

Any transgender person holding a Transgender certificate & ID card from the National Portal for Transgender persons can avail themselves of this scheme. The transgenders are trained at Garima Grah to equip them with the skills necessary to eke out a living. Nine transgender residents from Raipur in Chhattisgarh were selected for Chhattisgarh Police (Bastar Fighters) in 2022.

This scheme works as a component of SMILE (Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood & Enterprise) and provides shelter to transgender persons with basic amenities like food, medical care, and recreational facilities. The scheme states that the government will release the grants at a 40-40-20 ratio (40% at the initial stage, 40% after six months of operation, and 20% at the end of the financial year).

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