Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

BPP Trustee Elections: Anahita Desai

Candidate Profile

Anahita Desai

26731775_563093027362177_6978522946871225586_nThe past few weeks have witnessed a couple of Manifestos coming from candidates standing for BPP Trusteeship. These Manifestos clearly expose the candidates’ limited understanding of the BPP or how the BPP actually functions. When making promises and painting ideal scenarios, candidates fail to take into account the ground reality, the probability of a lack of support on the Board, the financial constraints of the institution, the calibre of support staff, the Class IV workers being unionized, and the time one can devote to the community.

All this ensures that most of the promises and grandiose ideas – such as ‘decentralizing the power of the Trustees, bringing about 100% transparency, providing jobs instead of doles to the financially disadvantaged’, etc – made at election time, remain mere words and unfulfilled election promises. Therefore, no big, grandiose promises from me. I will only promise that my every decision and action on the BPP Board, if elected, will always be, without fear or favour, in the larger interest of our community, and for the well-being of all community members, and in particular, the less fortunate members amongst us.

Fairness In Housing: Regarding Housing, I strongly believe that the BPP should do everything in its power, to take possession of flats kept locked and unused in various colonies. It’s unfair to keep a flat locked for years, depriving deserving applicants/families of a home.

Effective Follow Up & Implementation: I’ve realized that one of BPP’s weaknesses is the absence of proper follow up/implementation on decisions taken by the Board. Several good decisions and worthy projects have been approved/passed by the Board in the last few years, but the record of implementation of these decisions and projects is dismal. There is no tracker system in place to monitor the progress of a project or any task assigned to a particular department, and many good plans eventually slip off the attention radar. For example, 4 years ago, the Board decided to repair/change water meters in all colonies; but only 4 water meters have been changed to date! Another example is the decision to bring on record the properties/flats in cosmopolitan buildings which are donated to the BPP, which has not been followed up on, languishing for years at the Charity Commissioner’s Office. Many such examples require consistent and dogged follow-ups to ensure quick and proper implementation of the Board’s decisions – I can say with certainty that I have the will and the persistence to make a positive difference in this regard.

Setting Up An Efficient Communication System: In my opinion, the BPP lacks a good mechanism to disseminate information to the community. Misinformation and outright falsehoods are often spread by vested interests and when the BPP does not disseminate the correct information in time, the Institution gets maligned. One recent example is the monthly Rs. 200/- collections from colony residents for their wet garbage being collected by an agency. The BPP failed to communicate clearly with the community that the BMC had issued a final warning stating that from 1st April it would stop collecting wet garbage from colonies. Since the idea of the centralized garbage project at Ambavadi was scrapped due to pressure from orthodox community members, the BPP was left with no choice, but to outsource the collection of wet garbage to an agency, whose fees/charges had to be met. This was not conveyed to the community in time and the lack of communication led to a lot of misinformation and angst.

In this age of Social media, the BPP must put in place a system for conveying information to a large section of the community, quickly, and not just through a periodic bulletin in a newspaper. Also, beneficiaries complain that their letters and emails to the BPP are not replied to. This lack of a polite reply (and help where possible of course) causes ill will towards the BPP. I certainly like to change that.

Dynamic And Information Website: The BPP must have an informative website which is updated regularly and convey information about all its activities. For eg., not many in the community know that the BPP sells kustis and even wool for making kustis, prayer books in English and Gujarati, and that it has an Employment Bureau and a Matrimonial Bureau. Both the Matrimonial Bureau and the Employment Bureau need to be revamped and given a thrust. My experience in helping individual community members get gainful employment and my constant interaction with the youth of our colonies and baugs, will help in revamping and giving a thrust to both the above mentioned activities and bureaus.

A More Inclusive Policy: The BPP is often criticized that Colony Associations are not consulted on decisions which affect the residents. I would like to change that. Regular meetings with Colony Associations and Custodians would help iron out a lot of problems specifically faced by a particular Baug.

PR With Government/Agencies: The BPP deals with many Government Agencies for its properties, statutory compliances etc, but no effort is made to maintain good relations with the officers and staff of these Govt. Depts. and other institutions likes banks, etc, to ensure that work gets done without a hitch. The new Joint Deputy CEO Shehnaz Khambatta is starting this practice and I will be able to help her push it forward.

Settle Legal Cases: In my opinion, the BPP should be a benevolent landlord and try to settle more cases filed against occupants, unless there is blatant misuse of the premises or breach of the terms of occupancy. After all, the properties under the care of the BPP are “Of the Community, By the Community and For the Community”!

How Do You Know The True Worth Of A Candidate? Candidates need to portray their true selves and not put up a sham or façade, saying what they know the community would like to hear, even though it’s untrue. In the past, we’ve had candidates who proclaimed to be orthodox, declaring their love for our religion and traditions. In reality, they were anything but orthodox! Even now some candidates are promising to convert leave and licences to tenancy, if elected, knowing full well that there is no way they can do that! But saying so gets them votes, they say it nevertheless.

The community needs to see through the lies some candidates have put up. Look into their track record of community service, and you will then be able to distinguish the ‘talkers’ from the ‘doers’! If one is flaunting the fact about being an Ervad, find out if they have ever helped out at Agiaries or at Doongerwadi, especially since the community is experiencing an acute shortage of mobeds.

You need to question candidates on their absence during numerous burning issues – current and past – within our community, that need resolving. For eg., the Parsi Lying in Hospital issue; the issue of Rs. 20 lakhs unaccounted cash being found in the BPP; the cosmopolitan hospital coming up at the Parsi General Hospital complex; the issue of the prayer hall being built for those cremated; the cosmopolitan Dadgah in Pune; the Calcutta case where children of Parsi women married to Non-Parsis are demanding entry into the Agiary; the Metro 3 line passing under our Atash Behrams… Where were these candidates then???

Ask the candidates what they did at that time – did they take a public stand with regard to the issue? Did they write in the papers demanding answers? Did they visit the BPP to question the Trustees? Did they initiate a signature campaign? Did they file an RTI application in the relevant forums to seek answers, intervened in Court, or formed a volunteer group?

Or conveniently, did they just remain silent. Where were they, all this time? Silent and sleeping? If the candidates have remained silent and indifferent through these issues, can you trust these suddenly-community-spirited candidate, when they show concern for the community only during the elections?

One of the candidates is a Managing Partner of a Firm, which is the internal auditor for the BPP. Yet, when all the financial issues were being exposed in the Press, did he, make any recommendations /reports to the Trustees regarding the financial and administrative aspects of the Panchayat? Surely, he was in a position to do so? What does this indifference tell you about this candidate?