India’s first LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders) operated radio taxi has been launched in Mumbai, which aims to provide employment to 15,000+ LGBT members in Mumbai.
This taxi service, which is called as ‘Wings Rainbow’, is an initiative by an NGO Humsafar Trust and Wings Travels, a mainstream radio taxi operator.
The two organisations have joined hands to give training to members of the community willing to take up driving as a profession and help them obtain a licence.
The taxis will be chauffeured by the LGBT community and will start functioning from 2017. Under this programme, five members (two transgender, three gay) will apply for the All India driver licernce and will also be given customer etiquette training.
Arun Kharat, founder-director of Wings Travels and Management (India), said
“We want them to be eventual entrepreneurs and own these vehicles. We want to ensure that the LGBT community in India enjoys the same rights and livelihood opportunities in India as their counterparts in the West.”
Sanjeevani from LGBT Community on driver’s seat during the launch
Pallav Patankar, programme director at Humsafar Trust, talked about the landmark National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgement in which Supreme Court declared transgender people as ‘third gender’ and affirmed constitutional rights to them.
“After the NALSA judgment, several business houses came forward to offer employment to the transgender and sexual minority community. In the current batch, we have two members of the hijra community, but we hope that more members of the hijra and transgender community will come forward.”
Due to lack of job opportunities, the community members, especially transgender, have to take up prostitution, begging, singing and dancing.
A 23-year-old, who is part of the programme, said:
“My family has doubts about my sexual orientation, but they do not know for sure. They know what work I do at Humsafar, but they are often ashamed of telling that to people. Through this programme, I am hoping that one day my family will proudly say that I work as a driver and earn well.”
Another transgender said that they want to show the society that we are capable of more than just sex work and begging.
Shilpa Sharma, Sanjeevani and Sharika during the launch
The taxi service will enable members to earn nearly Rs 15,000 per month. Also, those involved want more members to be part of the programme.
“We have openings for nearly 1,500 LGBT members in Mumbai under the programme. We are aiming to turn it a pan-India scheme,” said Arun Kharat.
Shilpa Sharma and Sanjeevani during the launch