Bengal's transgender fights odds, battle-ready for civil services exam

Kolkata, Jan 22:  Atri Kar's resolute voice betrays her frustration. On January 29, she will be the first transgender candidate from West Bengal to appear in a state civil services examination.

Fraught with legal hassles, the 27-year-old's uphill climb to write the exam has cost her a lot of prep time, which she fears might limit her chances to realise her dream of a career in the state civil service.

A battle-scarred Kar hopes the landmark Supreme Court judgement -- in which NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) was the petitioner -- is executed in letter and spirit because, she says, even nearly three years after the historic verdict, the ruling is largely restricted to introducing the 'other' category in voter cards.

The apex court had through the verdict recognised individual's right to determine and express one's gender and had granted a legal status to the ‘third gender'.

As an aspiring civil servant, Kar was shocked last year to find that the West Bengal Public Service Commission (WBPSC) hadn't notified the 'other' category in its application forms for the state civil services examination.

"After my requests to the WBPSC for including the 'other' category did not elicit any response, I decided to take legal recourse. Though I will finally be writing the exam in a week as a third gender candidate, it has been a long and arduous journey that has cost me a lot of time with regards to exam preparation," Kar told IANS.

"I filed a case against the commission in Calcutta High Court with the help of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN). Since the court said it should be filed at the State Administrative Tribunal, we did accordingly and the tribunal ordered the commission to let me appear in the exam as a third-gender candidate," a harried Kar explained.

She went to court again recently. Kar was the first third-gender candidate from the state to write the Railway Recruitment Board exam.

"I appeared as a third-gender candidate in the first stage of the examination with fee relaxation but when the results came out, to my disappointment, there was no reservation for people like me. I scored 56 per cent but that was deemed insufficient to sit in the next stage. Cut-offs for many other categories were much lower, whereas we had no reservation. So I filed another case with the help of HRLN," said Kar, who was finally allowed to write the next stage of the exam in early January.