Sunshine Stories of a Dwindling Parsi Population
The shrinking Parsi community in the country has finally got reasons to rejoice. To check the decline in population of this community and increase birth rates, the Union government had launched the ‘Jiyo Parsi’ initiative in 2013. After more than two years, the initiative is slowly showing success as 34 babies have been born in the country, and another 12 are expected this year.
Initially, the success rate was dominated by Mumbai, but Delhi-NCR—which is home to 700 Parsi families—is also showing interest. Only one couple in the capital had started the fertility treatment, but now they have shifted to Mumbai. Sources blame it on the age factor. While the fraternity still has a youth base in Mumbai, the number of elderly people is more in the capital.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs, which is piloting the programme, is considering it a big achievement as the deaths in the community are six times more than births. The Paris-Zoroastrian population had shrunk to about 69,000, according to the 2011 census. “We are optimistic about the outcome of the scheme and have information about 12 babies who are expected this year,” said a ministry official.
Alarmed over the decline in the population, the government had launched the ‘Jiyo Parsi’ scheme with a corpus of Rs 10 crore. It aimed at facilitating at least 200 births over a period of five years.
The scheme comprises both advocacy component as well as medical component—encouraging early marriage among the youths, to get treatment for medical issues, parenthood at the right time as well as financial assistance in case of detection of infertility. The scheme is applicable on married Parsi couples and 100 per cent medical assistance is provided to them if the annual family income is lesser than Rs 10 lakh.
“The community has been confronted with issues such as late marriage or unwillingness to get married at all. This compounded with migration to other countries and marrying outside the community has led to a sharp decline in the population,” said a ministry official. A study suggests that 30 per cent of the Parsi population has remained unmarried.
After the launch of the programme, 94 youths were counselled and given medical assistance. In a few cases, the medical bills were reimbursed to the couples even before the birth of the child.
Parenting workshops, creating a movement in the community to boost population growth and awareness about the decline in population are some of the other regular initiatives.
The cost of treatment for infertility is very high and many middle-class Parsis find it difficult to bear the expenses. In such situations, ‘Jiyo Parsi’ scheme has actually given a ray of hope to the community.
By Samiran Sarangi