Feud with the Wadias begins to pinch – Parsi Punchayet runs out of funds, stops two grants
With the Wadias unhappy over the administration of Parsi colonies freezing Rs 120 crore in banks, the Punchayet does not even have money to give priests their monthly perks
Article by Jyoti.Shelar Times of India
The Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), one of the city’s richest trusts, is facing a severe financial crunch, the likes of which it has never seen. Two of the community’s foremost welfare schemes have taken a direct hit. The trust is now mulling a last resort liquidating fixed deposits to the tune of Rs 150 crore.
The BPP, a 350-year-old apex body for the 45,000-strong Parsi Irani Zoroastrian community in the city, is also contemplating urgent measures, like increasing the rents, parking charges and services charges in Parsi colonies.
The BPP has blamed the prominent Wadia family for the financial crisis, as its access to Rs 120 crore, which lies with the Wadia Committee of Management, has been blocked due to an ongoing tussle over five Parsi baugs.
The Wadia Committee of Management, helmed by Nusli Wadia and his son Ness Wadia, looks after the daily upkeep of the five Parsi colonies -Nowroz Baug in Lalbaug, Rustom Baug in Byculla, Cusrow Baug in Colaba, Jer Baug in Byculla, and Ness Baug in Nana Chowk.
The BPP and the Wadias have been at loggerheads after the latter demanded control over the five colonies. Sources said the Wadias were upset after the BPP allegedly withdrew Rs 2 crore from a corpus created for the five buildings’ maintenance to pay priests’ salaries.
The Wadias wanted a return to the arrangement existing till the early 1950s when the colonies were administered by the RN and NN Wadia Trust. The Wadias also wanted to use the funds exclusively for the housing of poor Parsis and no other activities.
When contacted, a spokesperson for the Wadia group refused to comment.
Another reason cited for the punchayet’s crisis is the ongoing litigation against `renegade’ priests, due to which the BPP has spent more than Rs 3 crore.
The crisis has led to the BPP stopping two of its more popular schemes, the Mobed Amelioration Scheme, which aims to help priests, and the Second Child Incentive Scheme. BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta confirmed that not a single paisa has been paid to any Parsi under the two community schemes since April.
“We have absolutely no funds to keep these schemes running,“ said Mehta. “The situation is so bad that we will have to liquidate our fixed deposits, which earn us up to 10.5 per cent interest. We are also considering increasing the rent, services charges and parking charges in our colonies to earn more money.“
He added, “Worse is that we cannot touch the Rs 120 crore stuck with the Wadia Committee of Management, even though it’s our money.“
The Mobed Amelioration Scheme is a welfare scheme for Parsis who become full-time priests. Rs 10,000 is paid to these priests every month. The Second Child Incentive Scheme is aimed at tackling the issue of dwindling population in the community. It involves giving Rs 3,000 per month to couples who have a second child till she turns 18 years old.
Mehta said the priests’ scheme had a quarterly expenditure of over Rs 80 lakh, with over 250 full-time priests benefiting from it. The second child scheme had a quarterly expenditure of over Rs 30 lakh.
While four BPP trustees have no objection to restoring the Parsi colonies to the Wadias, the other three, including Mehta, are against any such move.
Jenangir Patel, editor of community magazine Parsiana, said the BPP’s main source of income -flat transfers -has dried up since last year due to a stay on the properties by the charity commissioner. “Besides staff salaries, upkeep of Doongerwadi and ongoing litigations, the BPP also has many old age homes and institutions to look after. In a scenario like this, the BPP is definitely going through financial turmoil,“ said Patel.