Mah govt. announce 5k aid for sex workers; Organisations welcome move, ask for more inclusion

The Maharashtra Government, on Thursday, announced that registered sex workers in the state will be provided financial aid of Rs 5,000 per month during the pandemic.

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The Maharashtra Government, on Thursday, announced that registered sex workers in the state will be provided financial aid of Rs 5,000 per month during the pandemic. While the sex workers and their community based organisations (CBOs) have welcomed the aid, they have also expressed concern that the CBOs are not part of the committees constituted to implement the scheme.

“Those sex workers who have school-going children will be provided additional Rs 2,500. Nearly 31,000 beneficiaries have been identified,” tweeted State Minister for Housing Jitendra Awhad announcing the relief aid, which will be provided to the sex workers from October to December.

Maharashtra is the first state to announce such an arrangement under the Right to Livelihood, as per State Minister for Women and Child Development. A provision of Rs 51.18 crore has been made by the State Government for the same under the Chief Minister Relief Fund.

“The idea of implementing such a scheme is a result of the continuous fight for the rights of the sex workers by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Samiti, a Kolkata-based sex worker's collective and other CBOs working with sex workers. It is not an innovation by the State Government, but I must say that Maharashtra has been proactive in working towards the relief packages for sex workers,” says Tejaswee Sevekari of Saheli Sangh, an organisation that has been working towards the welfare of the sex workers in Budhwar Peth, Pune’s red-light area.



Highlighting the importance of inclusion of the CBOs in projects like these, Sevekari adds, “The responsibility of implementing this programme has been given to the State AIDS Control Societies under the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). The NGOs with Target Intervention Projects have been included in the district-wise committees constituted for implementation. They are responsible for identifying sex workers. However, all sex workers do not have bank accounts. So how are the NGOs going to reach all of them?”

The NGOs have lists of sex workers who are registered with the NACO. However, there are many sex workers who are not registered with any NGO or NACO. It’s the CBOs that reach out to them with the support and other welfare-related measures. Like Saheli Sangh in Pune, others such as Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP) in Sangli and Kolhapur, Swadhaar in Jalgaon, Mahila Jagruti Sevabhavi Sanstha in Parbhani are some of the CBOs working for the welfare of sex workers in the state. Except for VAMP, Sangli, the rest of the organisations are not a part of the committees constituted by the districts to implement the programme.

“In Parbhani itself, I would say that there are around 2,000 such sex workers who are not registered. The CBOs like ours reach out to them, and try to get them registered and included,” says Arti Zodpe, secretary of Mahila Jagruti Sevabhavi Sanstha, Parbhani and a coordinator in the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW). “There needs to be a coordination between the NACO’s list and the list with the CBOs. We met the District Collector here, and also provided them with a list of sex workers who are in our contact,” Zodpe said.

“And this is what they want. They want us to give them the lists, but we will not be involved in the implementation process. It will be left to the NGOs. We are going to extend all the support that we can, but at the same time, we also want the government to include us. We have been working with and for sex workers for a long time. The community must be part of the projects meant for its welfare, right?” Sevekari questions.