Not since Independence has the Indian Railways been hailed as an agent of social change. But it is quietly working on a reform to mainstream transgenders who have come out of the closet in droves and applied for railway exams.

“For the Level 1 exam (the erstwhile group D exam) — which is being conducted to induct trackmen and helpers in electrical and mechanical divisions and hospitals run by railways — some 367 transgenders have applied. The highest number of applicants were from Uttar Pradesh,” Angraj Mohan, Executive Director-Staff, Railway Board, told BusinessLine .

This development could not have come at a better time as only recently the Supreme Court legalised homosexuality by “decriminalising” Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a major peeve of the LGBTQ community.

In fact, even before the apex court ruling came in, the Railways had – in a progressive gesture – designed its application form in tune with the times by having three boxes for gender: male, female and transgender. It did not stop with that. To encourage transgenders, it had also decided to return the fees paid by them, once the exams were over.

The Indian Railways may not be the first railway organisation to mainstream transgenders, but it surely is the largest. Kochi Metro Rail Corporation has already appointed several transgenders.

A reformative approach

The reformative move on the gender front is not the only thing that has kept the Railways in the news. On the issue of Aadhaar card too the national transporter was in the thick of things: weeks before the Supreme Court asked private entities not to insist on the Aadhaar card as an identification proof, over 1.5 crore applicants for Railway jobs voluntarily submitted the Aadhaar card as their proof of identity

This is despite the Railways giving the candidates a choice of proofs such as voter ID cards and education certificates. “As many as 1.76 crore candidates out of almost 1.9 crore applicants who are vying for a job in Railways shared their Aadhaar details as an identity proof,” Mohan said.

The exam concluded on Monday, with over one crore people appearing for it.