The Gauhati High Court, on Thursday, issued notice on a petition demanding inclusion of the transgender community as beneficiaries under Centre’s Ayushmaan Bharat Scheme.
The scheme allows families with maximum annual income of Rs. 5 lakh to avail health insurance of up to Rs. 2 lakh every year. It is also known as the Atal Amrit Abhiyan, named after the former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
A bench comprising Chief Justice AS Bopanna and Justice AK Goswami admitted the PIL, issuing notice to the Union Health Ministry and the Assam health department. Their replies have been sought within two months.
The petition, filed by transgender activist Swati Bidhan Baruah, asserts that nearly three years have lapsed since the decision in the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, wherein the Supreme Court had directed Centre and the State Governments to recognize transgenders as the third gender, and also to provide them with the benefits of socially and economically backward class.
It further draws the court’s attention to the “Expert Committee on Issues Relating to Transgenders”, as constituted by the Centre Government under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Among other things, the recommendations of this Expert Committee had highlighted the ongoing problems faced by the transgender community, in terms of access to healthcare.
Furthermore, the petition points out the steps taken by various States for upliftment of the transgender community since the Apex Court judgement was passed. For instance, it relies on the ‘State Policy for Transgender in Kerala – 2015”, as formulated by the State of Kerala. Kerala government has also set up a State Transgender Justice Board and District Transgender Justice Committee under the State Social Justice Department, it says.
The petition, however, contends that so far, nothing tangible has been done by the State of Assam for implementing the Supreme Court decision and the recommendations of the Expert Committee.
The petition then states that the Ayushmaan Bharat Scheme covers plastic and reconstructive surgery and submits, “the transgender community was very happy by this appreciable step by the government”.
However, several members of the community were disheartened on finding out that the scheme had not been extended to their community, it says.
The petition therefore prays for such inclusion, submitting, “…if the transgender will be brought under the ambit of “AYUSHMAN BHARAT”. Many transgender will be benefited by this scheme to have a proper and available medical facility, reducing them from the financial burden. And can leads an happy life with dignity, as per Article 21 of the Constitution. (sic)”
It also demands establishment of a separate transgender health and grievance cell with an expert in the field, to address the various health-related issues faced by members of the transgender community.