PAN equipped Transgenders next need to be made employable

PAN equipped Transgenders next need to be made employable

Tejinder Singh Bedi

The union government deserves applaud for having recently amended the Income Tax rules that now allow transgenders to be recognized as an independent category of applicants for obtaining a Permanent Account Number (PAN) for their tax-related transactions. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which frames the policy for the department, has issued a notification for updated PAN application forms that incorporate a new tick box option for the transgenders to apply for the PAN.

The notification, issued under sections 139A and 295 of the Income Tax Act, specifies the new application process for obtaining a PAN number by an individual. So far only male and female gender categories were available to be chosen on the PAN application form. Aadhaar had already introduced this option for Transgenders in its application forms and the latest upgrade in the PAN application form will make it compatible with Aadhaar database for easier linkage of the two IDs.

The amendment will be reflected in Form 49A (PAN application form for Indian citizens) and 49AA (PAN application form for individuals not a citizen of India). PAN, as we are aware, is a 10-digit unique alphanumeric number allotted by the I-T department to individuals and entities. The government had also made quoting of Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns (ITRs) as well as for obtaining a new PAN.

Section 139 AA (2) of the Income Tax Act says that every person having PAN as on July 1, 2017, and eligible to obtain Aadhaar, must intimate his Aadhaar number to the tax authorities. As per updated data till March 5, over 16.65 crore PANs, out of the total about 33 crores, have been linked with Aadhaar. The deadline to link these two had last been extended till June 30 this year by the CBDT.

An official count of the third gender population of the country had recently placed the figure at 4.9 lakh. While transgender activists estimate this number to be anywhere between 30 to 35 lakhs, they are still excited that a sizable section of their fraternity has finally shed inhibitions and come forward to get identified as belonging to the third gender. And this despite the fact that the census counting had happened well before the Supreme Court order gave legal recognition to the third gender in April last year.

Over 66% of this population identified as the third gender lived in rural areas. The census data also revealed the low literacy level in the community, just 46%, compared to 74% literacy in the general population. The obvious reason for this disparity is their children dropping out of schools for the harassment and discrimination they have to live through for the isolation of their parents and the fraternity from the mainstream society.

Of the total number of transgenders identified by the census, almost 55,000 were bracketed in the 0–6 population. This too had come as a big surprise to the community as not only they even our better aware and educated fraternity did not expect so many parents to identify their children as belonging to the third gender.What is discouraging still is the fact that until the last registration process for voter registration, just about 28000 to 29000 people had registered themselves for voter ID cards.

Recent decisions of the Supreme Court of India, the UIDAI and now CBTD for the inclusion of this segment are a significant change in some sections of society to encourage inclusivity of the transgender population with the mainstream.Besides ensuring their education up to 10th Standard at least as per provisions of the RTE Act 2009 amended in 2011, Skilling them for gainful vocations under the Skill India initiatives launched in 2014 and considering compulsory reservation of unskilled, semi skilled and skilled jobs commensurate with their basic educational and vocational qualifications and in direct proportion to their population for them are the next steps to be converted into a working reality with a definite time plan.

The Indian Railways has recently come out with over a lakh vacancies. The railways can identify many avenues to absorb such persons along with others in its basic supporting jobs to begin with. Similar supporting jobs can also be reserved for them in the hospitality sector in areas like material handling and movement in the manufacturing sector.The profit-making corporate houses qualifying for CSR should be included for ensuring training, educating and skilling such members of our society. Leading Automotive companies like the Maruti Suzuki India India Ltd, Hyundai Motor India ltd., Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, Hero & Honda Motors and other smaller players can train large numbers of transgenders as competent drivers in their respective regions and make them employable as Drivers for the public transport corporations, Ola, Uber or even as independent taxi operators.Transgender taxi drivers will also definitely reduce the incidence of large numbers of rapes of unsuspecting women of the country in private taxis and cabs owned and run by some errant drivers.

Civil society and a large number of NGOs have already been doing a lot of work to improve the standard of lives, education of this category of the population but with increasing thrust coming from recent governments and legal bodies the process can be hastened up for much better results. Both Cinema and the Television too have the immense power of change and even one good movie highlighting the lives of these people in a year can make it a huge contribution. Not to forget, the currently ongoing TV serial named Shakti — Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki, on color TV produced by Rashmi Sharma Telefilms Ltd is already doing a wonderful job in this direction. Such continuous sensitization of the society, the officialdom in the government besides the political parties is necessary. One hopes society as a whole will soon start looking at transgenders as any other human being; one like them and small reminders like these will trigger big changes ahead.

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Tejinder Singh Bedi

(*Author Tejinder Singh Bedi is a former technocrat, a people management, CSR Adviser, free-lance writer and a passionate singer)