Doongerwadi pallbearers threaten strike fearing non-payment of bonus

UPDATE: The article below appeared in the Mumbai Times on August 10. Further to that, as per an email communique, the issue has been resolved. BPP Chairman Dinshaw Mehta mentioned that two payments had been made. The financial condition of the BPP continues to be the same overall, due to the stay imposed by the Charity Commissioner of Mumbai and the various litigations, that the BPP has been involved in.

 

Apprehensive due to the financial crisis BPP is going through, the pallbearers demanded bonus 10 days earlier than usual; BPP says will pay early next week.

Article by Jyoti Shelar | Mumbai Mirror

05-01 The financial crisis of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet has led to panic within the community, as far as disposing of the dead is concerned. Fearing the crisis, the pallbearers, or khandhias of Doongerwadi, who carry the dead into the Tower of Silence, have threatened to strike if their Navroz bonus is not paid by next week.

The pallbearers play an important role in the community that disposes of its dead in the Tower of Silence, to be fed on by vultures until few years ago. With the birds now extinct in the city, solar panels have been installed to help in the decomposing and disintegration of corpses. As per the last rites, family members carry the corpse to Doongerwadi and perform rituals in prayer halls. Thereafter, pallbearers carry the corpse and place it inside the Tower of Silence.

However, the 18 pallbearers threatened to stop work and initially demanded bonus 10 days before Navroz, the Parsi New Year that falls on August 18. But talks are with the BPP, who said they will be paid next week.

BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta said, “Every year we pay bonus three days before Navroz. This year, due to the financial crisis, they are apprehensive and suddenly demanded bonus 10 days before New Year.”

Pallbearers get bonus of Rs 25,000, which is a month’s salary. If they stop work, the process of disposal of the dead will be hindered. “They very well know that the functioning of Doongerwadi depends on them. It’s a tactic to hold us to ransom. We will try to pay the bonus by Tuesday or Wednesday,” said Mehta.

The 350-year-old trust is going through a crisis due to a charity commissioner’s stay on its properties – a major source of income. The trust is also involved in disputes with the Wadia family, due to which funds worth over Rs 120 crore remain frozen.

Mumbai Mirror had reported (July 31) on how BPP put two of its foremost welfare schemes – Mobed Amelioration Scheme and Second Child Incentive Scheme – on hold since April due to the crisis. The body is also contemplating liquidating FDs to the tune of Rs 150 crore and increasing rents, parking and other charges in Parsi colonies.