By H P Ranina
A new chapter has opened in the 300-year-old history of the Bombay Parsi Panchayet (BPP) with the first round of elections having started last Saturday.
After years of apathy, the Parsi electorate has been enthused and fired by a burning desire to make their voice heard, and be counted, on issues which are crying to be redressed. The main grievance of the poor, needy and deserving is that they have not been treated by the powers-that-be with dignity and respect; adequate time has not been spared by all the trustees to consider the appeals for help, as a result of their pre-occupation with their own personal or professional commitments; and promises given are not fulfilled. Fortunately, this is about to change.
Debate and discussion in the community have now generated a keen interest among the youth. In a recent meeting attended by over 200 young voters, the focus was on creating ways to save the ancient Zoroastrian faith and uphold the traditions and practices of the community. They all wanted to find life-partners from within the community and felt that there was a need to ecologically strengthen the Towers of Silence system.
All the 32 candidates who have entered the fray have a constructive and positive approach towards community affairs. There are 21 independent candidates and the remaining 11 belong to two groups. The seven members of one group have publicly assured the electorate that they will spare three to four hours a week for BPP work, and meeting community members. Four members of the other group have pledged that they will set aside four hours every day and be accessible to both voters and non-voters. They have already announced a 24×7 telephone help line for the old and infirm, and a grievance cell.
To take care of allegations of corruption, these four candidates have voluntarily agreed to disclose their personal assets as soon as they are elected as trustees. As a measure of accountability, the BPP accounts will be made public and annual get-togethers with voters will be organised. Information will be readily provided within a stipulated time-frame as under the RTI Act.
Thus, a sense of commitment, dedication and devotion to serve the community has gripped the candidates who aspire to become trustees. This augurs well for a people who have been neglected by an institution which was set up by men of vision who adapted themselves to the changing socio-economic needs, while preserving and protecting their religious tenets, customs and traditions.
Often, upholding of traditions has been derided. However, for a tiny community such as that of the Parsis, there is a case to be made for supporting its practices and of encouraging the young to marry within the faith. Smallness in size casts a greater responsibility on the individual to preserve his heritage. To protect and perpetuate the legacy that the present generation of Parsis has inherited is a promise given by several candidates.
This first election campaign has been generally conducted with dignity and decorum. Once the dust of the campaign settles, the successful candidates must rise to the challenges before them and heal the wounds of division. An electorate must ensure that the new trustees are held accountable for the promises. It is expected that the Parsis will make their elected representatives remain true to their promises. Any lapse on the part of the trustees will be exposed because the community has now awakened to a new era of social activism.
A person elected as a trustee will be tested by the community at large. His every move will be watched and assessed. Besides showing a high degree of competence in dealing with the critical issues affecting the community, he will be required to show the traits of courtesy and compassion while dealing with the underprivileged and the economically deprived.
It must never be forgotten that the BPP is not just another charitable trust. It is the foremost public institution of the Parsi community.
The writer is a lawyer.
Original article here