NCM’s pill for falling Parsi numbers: no family planning
Posted online: Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 0034 hrs
New Delhi, June 13: Concerned about the dwindling population of the Parsi community in the country, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has come up with a religious concoction containing a heavy dose of morality to reverse the trend: timely marriages, joint family life and a big no to family planning.
What has made the NCM sit up and take note is its recent survey which has found that the average number of births per year in the Parsi community has never crossed 200 since 2001. If it was 223 in 2001, it came down to 174 in 2006, said the survey, putting the Parsi population at a mere 60,000.
Those under 14 in the community are only 12% while those above 60 are 30%. “The survey results do not augur well for the Parsi community. Their dwindling numbers are a cause for concern, and the NCM is ready to do everything possible to reverse this trend,” NCM chairperson Mohammad Shafi Qureshi told The Indian Express.
According to the survey, late or no marriages, falling fertility, increasing divorces and migration are the major reasons behind the decline in the Parsi population. The NCM has sent survey copies to community leaders, appealing them to coordinate with the commission in reversing the trend.
“We have asked the community leaders to convince their people, especially the youth, that the community is on the verge of extinction and that the trend has to be reversed at any cost,” said Dr Mehroo D Bengalee, a Parsi member in the NCM.
“If the trend goes on like this, we are finished as a community.”
The root cause of this fall in birth rate, according to Bengalee, is “late and no marriages”. The increasing incidence of separation and divorces is also a reason behind the fall in fertility rate in the Parsi community.”Increasing urbanisation, westernisation, economic independence and emancipation of women are the reasons for this phenomenon,” she said. “Also responsible is the fact that more and more Parsi women are marrying outside the community.”
The commission is planning to organise awareness programmes to make the community members realise the threat they are facing, Said Bengalee, former vice-chancellor of Bombay University: “We are planning to approach community panchayats to convince the people about the immediate need to opt for a different approach towards life.”
The NCM also plans to organise pre- and post-marital counselling. “We’ll inculcate the Parsi spirit of having a happy family, preferably a joint one, in the youth. We’ll tell them to give top priority to family life if the Parsi community is to survive,” added Bengalee.
The Parsi community, one of the five notified minority communities, is mainly concentrated in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
While the 2001 Census put the number of Parsis at a mere 69,601, other minority groups were placed comfortably: Christians 24 million, Sikhs 19 million, Buddhists 7.9 million and Jains 4.2 million. Muslims are the largest minority as they account for 13.8 per cent of the total population.