WHY I AM SEEKING RE-ELECTION
A Personal Statement from Dinshaw Mehta
I have completed seven years as a trustee and am seeking re-election for another term. I sincerely believe that I have done a satisfactory job. I also do honestly believe that I require another term to complete some of the projects and tasks that I have listed here.
Not only have I attended almost every meeting of the Board of Trustees but I have devoted five to six hours every single working day to the affairs of the Panchayat. I have regularly visited each and every Baug in Mumbai in addition to special visits for addressing specific problems. I have always responded whenever there has been a crisis or call for help.
During these seven years, I think I have been successful in effectively communicating with my fellow Zoroastrians. I can today, at the end of my first term, state with all the humility at my command that I have endeavoured to be a team player. Whatever I have achieved could not have been possible, but for the support and encouragement received by me from my six co-trustees, the executives and the staff of the BPP and the community at large.
I come from a family which has served the city of Mumbai and I am justifiably proud of my roots. My father was one of the longest serving corporators and won his last election with a record majority, when he was assassinated by vested interests whom he was opposing. My father lived for the poor, the wretched and the exploited. Every step of his was built upon self-sacrifice and he ultimately laid down his life for those very same underdogs of society whom he had sworn to protect from the powerful underworld. I have always been singularly proud of my late father, to perpetuate whose memory the residents of the locality prevailed upon the B M C to rename the chowk where he was assassinated as Rusi Mehta Chowk.
My brother Noshir is presently a Corporator for a third successive term and was Chairman of the BES&T Committee. I can say, with my head held high, that so far as our family is concerned, service and compassion are not mere words to be used in an election manifesto.
By qualification, I am an Engineer having graduated with the degree of B.Chem.Engg. from the prestigious Bombay University’s Department of Chemical Technology (UDCT). I am one of the few Parsi scholars to have obtained thereafter a Masters in Technology from the same institution. I could not go on to complete my doctorate because I had to accede to my father’s request to take over the family business of foundry, flour mills, property and
real estate, as he was entering politics. In the last few years, I have diversified successfully in the business of reclamation and paving contract for port development and contracting of infrastructure and recently completed a huge project for P&O Ports, Australia at JNPT, Nhava Sheva near Uran.
My more than 35 years experience in the field of construction and repairs of buildings in Mumbai has proved of immense help in addressing the maintenance, repairs and other housing problems of the BPP. I have continuously co-ordinated with municipal and other authorities in sorting out the problems faced by our colonies.
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
I have always been a firm believer that if our declining numbers are to be arrested it is imperative to prevent the exodus of our young boys and girls marrying outside our community. Every fifth marriage today is an inter-communal marriage. This reality poses a serious threat to our existence. To increase the Parsi population we have to endeavour that our Parsi youth marry among themselves and the best way to ensure this is to continue to expand the legacy of Parsi baugs and colonies left behind by our ancestors.
Those Parsi families living in far places like Vasai, Nallasopara and Virar also need to be brought into the baug environment. The advent of the government’s policy of redevelopment and reconstruction of old buildings in Mumbai has opened up vistas for increasing the housing stock, hitherto unavailable to the cash-starved BPP.
Under the present policy of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), it is possible to redevelop our older colonies by utilizing FSI almost to the extent of 3.00 (which is more than double the present constructed area). This can translate into new buildings of all types suitable for all strata of our community. In a small way, we have already made a beginning in this direction by commencing the redevelopment of plot no 782/785, Dadar Parsi colony which will ultimately result in an additional built up area of 1,43,000 sq.ft. and 240 new flats. Whilst the existing 61 occupants using 57,000 sq.ft. will be rehoused in the same new buildings.
I have identified the following opportunities:
Redevelopment of Navroze Baug at Lalbaug which at present houses 358 families using a built up area of 3,13,822 sq.ft. would generate additional FSI of 3,87,742 sq. ft. which would translate to about 650 flats in addition to re-housing the existing 358 families in new buildings.
Redevelopment of Contractor Baug, Mahim which at present houses 230 occupants with an area of 1,24,346 sq. ft. would generate an additional FSI of 2,35,458 sq. ft. which would translate to about 390 flats in addition to re-housing the existing 230 occupants in new construction.
Redevelopment of Khareghat Colony at Hughes Road which at present houses 307 families using a built up area of 4,78,152 sq.ft. There would be an additional FSI of 6,13,280 sq. ft. which would translate to about 1000 flats in addition to re-housing the existing 307 families in new structures.
The above redevelopment would need to be done for all strata of our society with greater emphasis on rental housing for the poor and middle class. Enough corpus would need to be generated to subsidise the rents as well as to maintain the buildings. Further we need to have more homes for the aged like the Parekh Dharmshala. I promise to commence all these projects in right earnest immediately upon my election.
One of the major causes of the economic decline of the community is the noticeable absence of the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst the community’s
youth. To fuel this spirit, we have instituted a venture capital fund and invited businessmen, financial and legal experts to serve on it. The BPP has made an initial contribution of Rs. 30 lacs with a commitment to contribute Rs. 3 crores and proposals have already been received.With a view to offer academic opportunities to Parsi youth we have recently appointed as expert consultants a husband and wife team of experienced academicians Mr. Khushroo J Guzder and Mrs. Meher Guzder to help us in setting up a Management Institution for Parsis. This is proposed to be set up ultimately at Bharucha Baug utilizing the balance FSI. However, for starters it is being introduced initially in our J J College of Commerce building at Fort, Mumbai.
Amongst other BPP projects, successfully completed or under progress during my term were the purchase of a plot for Rs. 3 crores at Andheri for new housing, 100 readymade flats being bought from Nirlon at Jogeshwari, construction of two sky scrapers at Panthaky Baug (112 flats), 50 flats at Dhunbai Wadi as well as over 100 flats at Navsari, 100 flats on slum encumbered plots on the opposite side of Panthaky Baug and 14 flats for transit accommodation at Dadar Parsi Colony.
Any trustee who does not easily bend to show favour but adopts a bold, aggressive and practical approach has always met with the fiercest of criticism from persons who are affected by progress as well as from the disgruntled and dissatisfied. I have been instrumental in formulating a scheme of donors’ right for flat nominees which has resulted in the corpus of the BPP increasing during my term from about Rs. 16 crores to over Rs. 50 crores. This has been criticised as “commercialization of charity.”
Actually, it has furthered the true interests of charity. Every donation received has gone to the coffers of the BPP and I can declare in the name of Ahura Mazda and before the Holiest of our Fires that not a single trustee has benefitted, directly or indirectly, from any such donation or allotment of flat.
Aside from increasing the corpus of BPP to over Rs. 50 crores, even the corpus of Wadia Baug Estate, on which I serve as a managing committee member has increased from around Rs. 2 crores to almost Rs. 10 crores. This has been set aside at present for redevelopment and reconstruction of the 100 year old Navroze Baug as well as new construction of a proposed Neville Baug.
I have always stressed that next to housing, the greatest need of the community is education, specifically providing opportunities and funding the needy amongst us with a thirst for bettering themselves through education.
In the last seven years, I have been serving on both the education and higher education committees of the BPP. Our allocation towards educational efforts has been increased four-fold. Apart from providing tuition fees and subsidising medical and engineering education, we have increased grants and loan components for higher education from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 80,000. This has been possible due to the increase in corpus of the BPP.
My colleagues and I have set up a Polyclinic at Gamadia Colony with 16 cubicles to be given at subsidized rentals for aspiring young Parsi doctors. We have also set up a smooth machinery for continuous maintenance and repairs to trust properties. Our Godavra Agiary has only recently been fully repaired and spruced up. We have introduced computerization in Management activities of the BPP thus systemizing and professionalising management to make it more accountable. We have succeeded in evicting three Kharwas from Doongerwadi lands who had been there since decades.
The shifting of the holy fire from Navsari to Bombay and the consecration of the Jokhi Agiary is a feather in the cap of all the Trustees of the BPP. I had personally, along with a fervent band of volunteers, escorted the holy fire and oversaw the shifting of Padshah Saheb from Navsari to Jokhi Agiary. I have done my best to reduce the rateable value of various Panchayat properties thereby saving lakhs of rupees in property tax benefitting both the residents and the Trust. We have strengthened the culture of interaction between the Trustees and the representatives of Associations of every baug of the BPP.
THE DOKHMENASHINI ISSUE
I feel passionately for the Zoroastrian faith. Even at the risk of being dubbed orthodox, I have a great devotion for our religion, its traditions, rituals and our customs. Since the last two years I am endeavouring my best, along with my co-trustees to solve the serious problems at Doongerwadi. I visited London, at my own cost, to study the feasibility of building a vulture aviary. Despite my irrevocable personal commitment to Dokhmenashini, as a trustee, I have tried to reconcile conflicting views and to ensure that there is no schism or split in the community. I firmly believe that at this sensitive juncture we ought not to air our differences in public, so that our vulnerability is not exploited and we are not subject to ridicule. The good news for the community is that our experiment with solar panels is succeeding and this hopefully should serve to defuse the crisis.
Thus, my fellow Parsis, I seek re-election not for fame or personal glory, not to settle personal scores or appease my ego, not to perpetuate my forefathers but only to SERVE ALL, PROTECT CHARITY AT ANY COST AND WIPE OUT TEARS FROM EVERY SAD EYE AND BRING A SMILE OF JOY TO EVERY PARSI FACE. WILL YOU HELP ME TO COMPLETE THESE TASKS?
It is my earnest appeal that if you believe, in light of my past record of service and my vision for our future, that I am a deserving choice then I would urge you to support me in my endeavours through your vote.
DINSHAW RUSI MEHTA