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Vizag voters list has only 10% of transgenders

Although the transgender population is more than 1,500 in Visakhapatnam, a little over 10 per cent of the community finds its place in the voters' list.

Despite having voting right and a dedicated column as 'third gender' for their registration, not many transgenders are keen on enrolling themselves to exercise their franchise. While the recent count of the registered voters' list in the 'other' category shows 158, officials say that the figure may vary in the final list of the enrolled voters.

Transgenders in the city point out that only a fraction of them has been listed in the electoral rolls as many are yet to receive voter identity cards. "Unfortunately, most of us do not even have Aadhaar cards, leave alone voter ID cards. The time-consuming exercise of making repeated trips to the centres concerned and offices to get our identity cards is one of the main hurdles that dissuade us from utilising any benefit the government offers," reasons Prema, a transgender residing at Kancharapalem.

Echoing similar opinion, another transgender at NAD Junction, says that many in the community have given up hope to get their names entered in the voters' list. "When no political leader bothers to pay a visit to any of our neighbourhoods to hear our concerns, what difference does it make for us even if we cast our vote," she questions.

However, Karima Khan, a transgender residing at Pendurti, considers voting as an effective tool to bring in change. "Unless the marginalised communities like us utilise the option judiciously, change is seldom going to take place. There is a need to educate persons in our community to understand the importance of exercising their franchise, creating awareness on the subject," she opines.

However, officials confirm that there is no direction received so far on initiating awareness drive to encourage the transgenders for their complete participation in the ensuing polls. "The initiation of government schemes such as pension and housing among others is a step towards bringing the community to the mainstream. But not many are availing these benefits for reasons unknown.

Similarly, though there is a facility for transgenders to enroll themselves as the 'third gender' in the voters' list, many do not come forward to register," says P Venkateswara Rao, Assistant Director, Department for the Welfare of Differently-abled, Transgender and Senior Citizens.

Some of the transgenders residing in areas such as Dharmanagar and parts of Thatichetlapalem, Akkayyapalem and Kancharapalem say that they do not have address proof as the owners refuse to sign any agreement with them as tenants. With lack of any document in hand, they consider it a horrendous task to get themselves enrolled in the voters' list.

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