The Parsi community is all set to witness a change this October, as its members will exercise their franchise for the first time in 350 years since the Bombay Parsi Panchayat was established. From October 4 to 14, all Parsis over 18 years of age will vote for seven trustees of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP).
Earlier, the trustees were indirectly selected by a 3000- member group, called the Anjuman Committee, which was disbanded after the High Court judgment in May 2008. The BPP, which is the biggest private body in Mumbai, with over Rs. 40,000 crore holdings and 5000 tenements, has been recognised as a governing body and a number of Parsis maintain that there is lack of transparency in their dealings, which the upcoming election will help change.
“The BPP, in the last few decades, hasn’t lived upto its reputation, and has become commercialised,” said a member of the Adult Franchise for Progress (AFP), a non-profit group that has been instrumental in bringing about changes in the voting process. He added that the trustees would be elected for a period of seven-years and that the upcoming elections would make the youth more active in the political process. “Some more transparency and a greater sense of integrity are necessary and the monetary dealings and other such affairs should be done without a cloak and dagger approach,” said Firoza Punthakey Mistree, author of ‘A Zoroastrian Tapestry’.
“In 1908, under the election scheme, we could elect 50 candidates, who along with fifty donors, would in turn elect the trustees and their numbers steadily increased. But till now, we have not been able to vote directly,” said Jehangir Patel, editor, ‘Parsiana’. The elections will help involve more people and it remains to be seen how the nature of the campaign would change overtime, he added.
While members of the Parsi community unanimously agree that the elections will bring about significant changes but there are also apprehensions about the process and its outcome, since this is the first time. “The franchise was long overdue, and that should have been done long time back. However, the rules and by-laws haven’t been put together properly,” said Firoza Punthakey Mistree, adding that there is a need for a proper mechanism to prevent double voting. Environmentalist and member of the Association of Inter-Married Zoroastrians (AIMZ) Meher Rafaat says, “Most people are not aware of the areas where the BPP’s influence extends.” Patel, however feels that the threat of impersonation isn’t a big problem. “Every voter is registered, and to impersonate would be a criminal offence, ” he said.
Chairman of the BPP, Minoo Shroff said, “Every change creates problems, but it is time for us to move forward. If the nation has accepted democracy, then an enlightened community like the Parsis should do so as well,” he said.
Original article here.