PIL over 'neglect of transgenders' in Ayushmaan Bharat

The PIL was filed by Swati Bidhan Baruah, a transgender activist here, who sought the court’s directive stating that non-inclusion of the transgender community has deprived them to avail the health insurance benefits offered under the much-hyped scheme.

The Gauhati High Court on Thursday issued notices to the Union Health Ministry and the Assam government while admitting a PIL that complained that the transgender community has not been included in the Centre’s Ayushmaan Bharat scheme.

The PIL was filed by Swati Bidhan Baruah, a transgender activist here, who sought the court’s directive stating that non-inclusion of the transgender community has deprived them to avail the health insurance benefits offered under the much-hyped scheme.

A family having maximum annual income of Rs 5 lakh is entitled to avail health insurance up to Rs 2 lakh every year under the scheme, also called Atal Amrit Abhiyan, named under former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“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,” said the PIL.

Baruah said about 200 transgenders were provided Atal Amrit cards after she took up the matter with Assam health department officials in August. “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?” she said, adding the state has over 20,000 transgenders at present.

The PIL cited an expert committee report that stated that many transgenders were going for sex surgeries by unqualified doctors due to lack of free sex reassignment surgery facility in public hospitals and high cost of surgery in private hospitals. This resulted in post-operation complications.

Baruah, also a lawyer, personally appeared in the high court in favour of her PIL. The court of Chief Justice A S Bopanna and Justice A K Goswami, after admitting the PIL issued notices to the Union Health Ministry and the Assam health department and sought replies within two months, she said. 

The problems confronting the transgender community in Assam came to light when Baruah moved the Bombay High Court in 2012 after her decision to undergo a sex reassignment surgery was opposed by her family. Baruah underwent the operation after it was cleared by the high court. "I spent Rs 5 lakh for the operation but most can't afford the same and suffer," Baruah said.

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PIL over 'neglect of transgenders' in Ayushmaan Bharat

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