West Bengal is all set to lose the opportunity to become the second Indian state after Tamil Nadu to introduce sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in leading state- run hospitals in the state.
According to sources from the state’s Transgender Development Board, under the state social welfare department, acute fund crunch has forced the state government to shelve the plan for the time being.
“Till the time the announcement was made in July 2015, there has not been any progress in initiating the process of setting up facilities in the state- run hospitals in West Bengal. On inquiry, we came to know that the project is on hold for the time being because of acute fund crunch,” said an associate of the board.
Repeated attempts by HT to contact the state social welfare minister, Dr Sashi Panja failed as she refused to take calls. Even an SMS message to her mobile enquiring about the development failed to evoke any response.
This means, said the associate of the board, individuals in the state willing to go for SRS, be it male to female or female to male, will continue to have to either depend on high cost- bearing private institutes or on the mercy of the Tamil Nadu government, which is expected to give preference to their own people.
In fact, in July 2015, while making the announcement, Panja clearly said that the initiative of the state government is prompted by the two factors, the first being that SRS involves a lot of cost if done in private and the second being that the surgery might lead to massive health hazards if not done with adequate precaution.
“So we have decided to introduce the facility in government hospitals, where individuals willing to go for SRS can great proper guidance and clinical assistance, by a panel of expert doctors that are associated with government hospitals and also the board,” said Panja during the announcement.
She also said initially the facility will be available in all the medical colleges & hospitals in the state and subsequently extended to other state run hospitals.
The transgender activists in the state are, however, is not quite surprised over the development. “Lots of promises are often made about the development of the community but in reality very few fructify. So there is nothing to get surprised on this issue,” said Calcutta High Court criminal lawyer and LGBT rights activist, Kaushik Gupta.