December 08, 2018:
On Saturday, Gauhati High Court issued notices to Union Health Ministry & the Assam Govt. based on a PIL claiming the transgender community had been excluded from the central health scheme of Ayushman Bharat.
Swati Bidhan Baruah, a transgender activist, filed the PIL seeking the court’s directions, claiming the community had no access to the insurance benefits under the scheme.
A family having maximum annual income of ₹5 lakh is entitled to avail health insurance up to ₹ 2 lakh every year under the scheme.
Excerpt from PIL “The transgender community was very happy when we read that the scheme also covers plastic and reconstructive surgery. That came as a reprieve for the transgenders who want to go for sex reassignment surgery, but are unable to do so due to shortage of money. But when the scheme was launched in Assam in August, we were surprised to see that the transgenders have not been included in the scheme.”
The activist told DH that after her intervention, about 200 transgenders in Assam had been given Atal Amrit cards in August, once she approached health department officials.
She said,”We pointed to the court that as the scheme aims to cover 27 lakh families in Assam, based on 2011 Census. Why have they not included the 11,000 transgenders in the state?”
According to Baruah, there are over 20,000 transgenders at present in Assam.
An expert committee report has been cited in the PIL, which stated that several transgender persons were having to go in for risky sex reassignment surgeries performed by unqualified doctors due to the lack of free surgical facilities in public hospitals.
Exorbitant costs keep them away from availing services from private hospitals.
While Baruah personally appeared in the high court in favour of her PIL, the court sought replies from the Assam health department officials and Union health Ministry, within two months.
The problems of the Assamese trans community first came to light in 2012 when Baruah moved the Bombay high court after her sex reassignment surgery was opposed by her family.