Govt budgets for dwindling Parsis

This time around, the Union budget has actually made a modest allocation of Rs 1 crore for “containing population decline of small minority communities”. Even though there is no clarity on just how the government is going to go about discharging its onerous task, its intent seems strong.

Minority affairs minister Salman Khursheed will soon meet Parsi representatives to seek definite suggestions on to help conserve the community. Khursheed told TOI, “There is no plan yet. I really cannot say how can we help. It is something the community has to do itself but we can help preserve heritage and culture which helps ease pressure on members.”

Click Here for the full story in The Times of India

7 comments

  • Dear Sir,

    I feel our representative should place all our problems faced by us to our Government and watch what action its being taken specifically our Tower of Silence which is situated near Kemps Corner as our government has given permission to build skyscrapers all around with the result we are not getting vultures and half eaten bodies are just lying around as stated by many our own caste people. Regards Cyrus K Irani

  • As eminent members of the WZCC please take this matter up on a war footing with the Government (I.e. Ministry of Minority Affairs), as many deserving, meritorious Parsi students who have even obtained high marks at the 12th standard level have been denied seats in Colleges of their choice, due to backward class reservations. Atleast 10% of seats should be reserved for Zoroastrians in all educational institutions, if these are not taken, then they can be given to other deserving students on merit basis.

    2) Ministry of Home Affairs / External Affairs: Zoroastrians applying for PIO cards or OCI cards should be given them on a priority basis, as this will help Zoroastrians go back to their roots in India, as many have settled abroad after their further education, as they are denied opportunities in their own country.

    3) Accommodation problems can be solved by having Parsi / Zoroastrian working girls hostels in major cities where jobs are easily available.

    4) 5% reservation can be made for Zoroastrians in Public Enterprises such as banks, railways, police, hospitals, and other Government run organisations.

    No community has done so much for India as the Parsis. They gave and gave. Now it’s time we got something back.

    • Dear Feroza, Hi mam. U r absolutely rite and yes our Govt should take up issues on war-footing. U have covered all except one point which is relating to our Tower of Silence near Kemps Corner where u hardly find any vultures now due to govt.giving permission to build skyscrapers without consulting our Trustees whether it will hinder us. Regards Cyrus

      • The areas surrounding the Towers of Silence and facing them, such as Hughes Road, were predominately Parsi occupied areas with beautiful Bungalows / Homes / Buildings with Gardens. Now with builders pressing to grab every available inch of space to make “Towers” , residents of all communities will be able to look into the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence. Since there are no vultures, I suggest that part of these lands be converted to burial grounds as is done all over India where no Towers of Silence exist. These are beautifully maintained “Aram garhs”.

  • Zoroastrians believe in quality i.e. ‘ Buniyaad Pasbani ‘ i.e. preservation of seeds which is the foremost foundation of the seven Pillars in Zoroastrian religion. This first foundation Pillar, was reflected in our fore fathers’ deeds, by becoming founders in every walk of life i. e. in science & commerce, co-education, ship builders, nuclear physics which culminated in to BARC, aviation builder, etc. They had sacrificed their wealth fully, for nation building in general and community welfare and development in particular. And first to take path to liberate this country from British Raj. Our fore fathers had built the beautiful colonies keeping in mind that Zoroastrians population would increase, they had built Dokhmas, Fire temples according to the tenets of Zoroatrianism and strong belief in ‘Dharma’ used to prevail at that time.
    At present, we have got enough wealth but no unity, no will to act in positive direction, no leadership to show the right direction because ‘manashni’ is vanished from our selves with the result no good deeds can be implemented for the betterment of the community. This is the present pathetic condition of our communty. God helps to thoes, who help themselves.

    Cyrus S. Saiwalla

  • Responding to the Government’s One Crore Offer

    Recently, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced that one crore
    in the Union Budget would be allocated to address the problem of
    dwindling populations in minority communities such as the Parsis.
    Mukherjee’s announcement was greeted with some criticism from Parsis:
    how can one crore (roughly US$220,000), a paltry sum for such a rich
    community, solve anything? What use is a blank check with no
    discretion over how the money is to be used?

    Critics, I believe, entirely miss the point. For quite some time now,
    people outside of the community have expressed their concern about our
    dwindling numbers in India. Manmohan Singh has indicated his sense of
    worry. In 2005, he told Gen. Adi Sethna of the National Committee of
    Minorities about “how concerned the country is about this miniscule
    population” (Indian Express, 4 April 2005). Even Narendra Modi,
    hardly a friend of minorities, is sad to see numbers in the community
    ebb so low. Now, the Government has sent an official signal that it,
    too, is greatly alarmed by our demographic crisis and wants to see
    some action taken. This is the true significance of the one crore
    allocation.

    But what is to be done? Debates over demographics and the population
    decline is hardly a new phenomenon. It has been going on for decades.
    As early as 1948, Sapur Faredun Desai pointed out sharply declining
    fertility rates in his book A Community at the Cross-Road. Desai and
    his colleagues predicted that the Parsi population in India would
    stabilize at 120,000 “unless special measures are taken in time to
    check the tendency.” In the sheer absence of any special measures,
    the Parsi population has not stabilized but rather halved.

    Outmarriage—and the continuance of a rather uneven-handed policy of
    excluding children with non-Parsi fathers (the standard has its roots
    in the Parsi Punchayet and Rangoon cases from the early 20th century,
    cases which opened up as many questions about Parsi identity as they
    provided)—undoubtedly has contributed to our population decline. But
    two other factors are equally—if not more so—responsible and receive
    hardly the attention they deserve: the sheer number of Parsis who do
    not have children or do not marry at all.

    Late marriage and non-marriage are absolutely absurd in a country
    teeming with young people; within an Indian cultural context that
    celebrates family. It is equally absurd from the standpoint of the
    Zoroastrian religion: our religious texts place great emphasis on
    marriage and having offspring. In Zoroastrianism, humans are agents
    of good—thus, there is a philosophic and religious incentive to
    enlarge the tribe that professes Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good
    Deeds. Non-marriage and having few offspring is an unhealthy
    phenomenon in any community; it has imposed an especially heavy fine
    in a community of our miniscule size.

    Which brings us back to the question of what is to be done. I agree
    with Shernaz Cama of the PARZOR Foundation that Parsis need make a
    significant attitudinal change: we need to restore the traditional
    Parsi and Zoroastrian sense of importance given to family.
    Thirty-five and forty are not ideal ages for marriage. Full-stop.
    Millions of Indians and people in the West pursue their professional
    lives without having to sacrifice married life and raising children.
    Why should we be any different? Fertility programs and second and
    third child incentives, currently offered by the Bombay Parsi
    Punchayet, have a role to play. But more can be done.

    To start, the BPP can coordinate a unified, community-wide marriage
    portal on the Internet. Currently, there are dozens of scattered
    Parsi matrimonial websites—many with seriously outdated
    technology—along with a number of professional matchmakers. BPP
    chairwoman Arnavaz Mistry has already started a marriage bureau.
    Perhaps her commendable work can be complemented by such a matrimonial
    webiste connected to zyng.org, the new BPP-sponsored website for Parsi
    youth. Again, this website should cater to the entire community,
    including the diaspora (and, I would hope, welcome our Iranian
    Zarathushti brethren). A common complaint voiced amongst Parsi youth
    is their inability to find a suitable partner. We can tackle this
    problem by providing a single site with the largest membership
    possible.

    Secondly, the BPP should consider how its greatest asset—community
    housing—can be best utilized. Absolute priority should be given to
    couples with families or couples who state a clear intent to start a
    family. Community housing is not a right; it is a resource which is
    to be used for the greater good of the community. The BPP should do
    its best to insure that those with the clearest need for accommodation
    are given precedence.

    Lastly, a little bit of reflection is needed on what it means to be
    Parsi and Zoroastrian. Youth and adults are equally guilty of
    ignorance of our history, culture, and religion. Those who are
    ignorant tend to drift away from the community. Rather than condemn
    or mourn this ignorance, we can work toward promoting better religious
    and cultural education and awareness. This need not be a dry-as-dust
    classroom exercise. As someone who has studied Parsi history and
    Zoroastrianism for several years in academia, I can attest to the fact
    that we have a truly fascinating cultural heritage that is worth
    celebrating. Our story is not limited to the Parsi giants of industry
    and politics or the glories of ancient Iran—we have unique
    celebrations, customs, ceremonies, and cuisine that should fill us
    with pride rather than spawn apathy. Take a moment to research the
    significance of certain religious rituals or investigate your family
    history. Celebrating the uniqueness of Parsi culture will, hopefully,
    strengthen the glue that binds us—especially the youth—to the
    community. Promoting interest and community involvement is,
    ultimately, the most important investment that we can make in our
    future.

    Being a small community has some advantages. All of us—through our
    actions and deeds—have a tremendous influence on the direction our
    community takes. All of us have a huge stake of responsibility in the
    community’s collective welfare. If we individually resolve to take
    steps to insure that our community thrives and expands in the future,
    we have little to fear about a demographic disaster. Perhaps, then,
    the Government’s allocation of one crore will not have been made in
    vain.

    Dinyar Patel
    Ph.D. Candidate, Modern South Asia
    Department of History
    Harvard University
    +1 (650) 796-2486

    • We must lay stress on the core issues of our religion that unite us and all mankind rather than harp on the importance of superficial ones that divide us. The greatest dictum of Zarathushtra was “Each man think for himself, and only then believe.”

      If we seriously sit down and think, we have today abandoned our core values which have got replaced with greed and selfishness.

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