Bengal records a rise in ‘others’ category voters

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Kolkata, March 26 (IANS) Of the 6.97 crore registered voters in West Bengal, the number of transgender voters enrolled in the ‘others’ category of the electoral list has risen by 927 since the 2014 general elections.

This year’s final draft of the electoral roll puts the figure of ‘others’ category voters at 1,426, while 499 people had declared themselves transgenders in the 2014 general elections.

The poll panel since 2012 had allowed registration of transgenders as ‘others’ in the electoral rolls.

During the Assembly elections in 2016, there were 757 individuals registered in the ‘others’ category, indicating a steady rise in the figure.

Said Ranjita Sinha, a transgender and a State Transgender Development Board member, the rise is insignificant. It doesn’t indicate change as the number of transgenders, mentioned by the Census, is faulty, Sinha added.

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According to the 2011 Census data, the transgender population in the state is 30,349. As per Sinha’s community-based organisation, Association of Transgender/Hijra, the number is between 1.5 lakh and 2 lakh.

“We have approached the Election Commission requesting it to conduct workshops for the census people and us (activists) as they need to understand that transgender is an umbrella term (including trans-women, trans-men, hijras or eunuchs). If there is sensitisation, only then will the transgender people be able to declare themselves in the ‘others’ category,” Sinha told IANS.

Pointing to the general neglect and gender-politics, Sinha said: “Film personalities become candidates in our state, but is there any transgender representative? Even across the country, there is hardly any representation”.

“We have ensured inclusion of all left out voters, like transgender, sex workers, migrants, senior citizens of old age homes and persons with disabilities. Meetings have been conducted with the District Electoral Officers”, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Amitjyoti Bhattacharya said.

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The figure was low as many transgenders identify themselves as male/female and had their registration done accordingly, he added.

Sinha said it’s difficult for the neglected and marginalised people to spend money on getting an affidavit and registering afresh. “I have registered myself in the third category and people are willing to come out. But changing one’s name is difficult,” said Jiya Das, a technician in operation theatre.

Sinha said when there can be reservation for women in elections, why not for the transgender community and pointed to the general neglect towards the community.

“Stakeholders in every state — candidates, parties and even the Election Commission — are ignoring the NALSA verdict, the Supreme Court’s order on welfare for our community and so on,” Sinha said.

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–IANS

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