Mumbai: City’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) citizens will soon be able to drive private taxis in the city, in a sign of the increasing acceptance of the marginalised community in India’s commercial capital.
A project launched by Wings Travels and community organisation, Humsafar Trust, will train up to 300 members of the LGBT community to drive cabs in the city. The service, to be called Wings Rainbow, may then be expanded nationwide.
Wing Travels also operates a taxi service that employs retired army personnel and one with female drivers for women passengers.
The pilot programme will focus on training five members of the community in driving and soft skills and after its completion they will be given driver’s licence.
On Friday, Director of programs at Humsafar Trust in Mumbai, Pallav Patankar, said they would like to upscale the system by 300 LGBT drivers in a span of three years.
“It would be a livelihood opportunity for people who may not have had the opportunity earlier. These are marginalised sections of the society who may be educational dropouts; they probably might not have had the opportunities that any other Indian has. We would probably want them to get that opportunity out here,” said Patankar.
The Supreme Court recognised transgender as a legal third gender in April 2014 and, in a landmark judgment lauded by human rights groups, called on the government to ensure equal treatment to them.
Members of the LGBT community hailed to be chauffeur of the taxis in Mumbai.
A transgender Sarika said she was happy that their role as taxi drivers would bring in some change in the mindset of people.
“The society believes that eunuchs or people of LGBT community earn their livelihood by begging or are involved in sex work. If we take up this role then I believe that the mindset and view of our society will change,” she said.
The sexual minorities – especially transgender people who are more visible – have been driven to the fringes of society into begging and sex work, and face discrimination in jobs and basic services such as health and education.