This case is a real mystery. About nine months after India’s first transgender beauty pageant created ripples in the media, winner Bobbii Laishram claims that she is still awaiting her prize money of 10.5 lakh. Neither has the first runner-up Rani Botara, or the third runners-up, Arpan Banerjee and Ritu Bawgi, received their cash prizes of 8 lakh and 5 lakh respectively.
The Indian Super Queen pageant, held in Mumbai in February this year, was organised by Laxminarayan Tripathi, the founder member of the first hijra/Transgenders organisation in India and South East Asia. When contacted, Tripathi’s phone was constantly switched off.
“After the contest got over, we were told that we’d be given our money in six months. But we still haven’t received it,” says Laishram, adding that other than a video clip, she doesn’t have any proof on paper that she and her fellow contestants were actually promised the prize amounts. She claims the form they had to sign before entering the contest lies with the organisers: “All I know is that the sponsors have given 90 lakh to Laxmi Tripathi, and she has been avoiding me.”
On contacting the official sponsors, VCare’s managing director Sunil Saldanha says, “Laxminarayan Tripathi will be in a better position to comment on this issue. We’d given them a platform and they never gave us any credit in any of the interviews. So, from a business perspective, we’ve cancelled the other opportunities we had lined up for the contestants.” On being informed of Laishram’s allegation, he says that she has the right to fight. “We’ll prove who is right when the right time comes. There have to be signed documents before you enter any contest, why doesn’t she have them?” Saldanha argues. Laishram says that her fellow contestants won’t challenge Tripathi because they belong to the same community. She says she stands alone. “I have contacted activist Celina Jaitly and she has promised to meet me post November 15,” says Laishram. Till then the case remains unsolved.