Alappuzha: For the first time, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race Society (NTBRS) has decided to ensure the participation of transgender community in its annual gala. The 66th edition of the Nehru Trophy, scheduled for Saturday, will have the participation of 10 transgender citizens in its green tribunal team. The food counters, which are leased out to Kudumbasree, will be run by 'Sheros' Kudumbasree unit constituted by the trans-women of Alappuzha.
Arunima Unni, an Alappuzha native and the secretary of Alappuzha Sheros Kudumbasree unit, took the initiative to secure a space for the members from transgender community in the boat race. Thanks to revenue divisional officer V R Krishna Teja IAS, who is also the secretary of NTBRS, Arunima's suggestion to include transgenders in the event management and volunteering committees was accepted and made official.
The canteen will run at Alappuzha Gender Park, situated near iron bridge, Vandanam. Seventeen trans-women will manage the operations of the canteen. Commenting on the initiative, Alappuzha municipal corporation secretary Jahangir S told Onmanorama that the corporation and the NBTRS authorities have immense pride to open a new chapter in the history of Nehru Trophy by including transgender citizens in its organising team. The NBTRS has appointed over 100 green protocol volunteers for the event, including students and civilian groups.
The society has also issued jerseys for the volunteers coloured red, green, yellow, blue and black. Special ramp and seating arrangement for differently-abled audience, snacks and comfort-seating for senior citizens and more number of comfort stations as compared to last year are some other highlights of this edition of the boat race.
The Kerala Tourism postponed the boat race, which was scheduled to be held on August 11, due to the floods that ravaged the state. High water level in Punnamada Lake and torrential downpour forced the department to postpone the event. The unexpected rescheduling of the annual grand fair has compelled the NTBRS to cut down on some of the facilities.
Alappuzha municipal corporation authorities said that the plans for managing plastic waste and drinking water distribution have been revisited in view of cost reduction. The green protocol team had earlier decided to impose fees for carrying disposable plastic containers into the gallery. Reusable containers and bags were decided to be allowed based on a token amount, which would be refunded on exit. The NTBRS had also made arrangements to distribute drinking water to the audience in steel vials on demand. But according to the new arrangements, the society cut short its expense by canceling its free drinking water plan. Spectators would be allowed to carry drinking water into the gallery by paying a token amount, which will be reimbursed if they take their plastic container back with them. The gallery will have at least 100 waste-collection bins, placed in every 30 metres.
A gender-neutral event
“It has been a dream of mine to watch the Nehru Trophy and contribute to the fair as I can. Fear of harassment and misbehaviour from the crowd held me back from going to the gala event. This time, I made it a point to do all what I can to make my dream come true. I approached Kudumbasree unit president first, who directed me to Krishna Teja IAS. After a pleasant meeting with him, I met Alappuzha district collector S Suhas to put forward my suggestion. All of them welcomed my idea with great joy and respect,” Arunima told Onmanorama.
Commenting on the move, RDO Krishna Teja told the media that he was extremely happy to welcome transgenders to be a part of the regatta. “They asked me whether they could be a part of the crowd fearlessly. Why be onlookers? Come on and volunteer the festival, I told them,” he said.
A team of 10 transgenders will be employed to implement the green tribunal of the boat race, he announced.
Diya Sana, another transgender who was elated by the opportunity, said she was grateful for the welcome gesture the administrators extended to her community. “I'm hopeful about our society's evolution. Until a couple of years ago, transgenders couldn't have thought of being a part of a mainstream crowd without fear of harassment and humiliation. Now we are slowly becoming a part of the mainstream society, thanks to the government and local administrations,” she said.