Resignation of Four Trustees of the BPP

The Remedy Is Worse Than the Malady

By Noshir H. Dadrawala

Ever since news regarding 4 out the present 6 trustees of the BPP resigning leaked out, my phone has not stopped ringing. I have been inundated with calls from both friends and strangers wanting to know my views regarding the situation and the possible way forward.

I have always believed in calling a spade a spade and I am going to do just that.

In my view and, indeed, it is a position in law that a trustee of a public charity trust, including his/her immediate family, cannot and should not have any beneficial interest in the same trust. On that count, I can neither offer support nor sympathy to trustee Dinshaw Mehta.

However, at the same time, I am of the view that by sending their resignations to the Charity Commissioner, the four trustees, including the Chairman, may have permanently harmed the larger interest of the community by involving the state machinery. This is a situation which could have been easily avoided.

My question to these four worthies is who elected or appointed all of you as trustees – the community or the Charity Commissioner? If it is the former, are you not accountable first to the community? If things had come to such a head, was it not your duty to first take the electorate into confidence before taking such a drastic step and betraying their trust? All trustees talk glibly about transparency and accountability. Has any trustee demonstrated it, least of all in this case? Why did the trustees not call a Samast Anjuman Meeting and take a mandate from the electorate or, better still, the whole community before taking such a drastic step?

The four resigning trustees probably wanted to demonstrate to the community that they are men of “honour” and they wish to disassociate themselves with a certain individual or an issue. But, often, there are other and better ways of showing dissent and resolving issues than resigning. In the present case, which is unprecedented in the more than 350 years’ history of the BPP, the trustees have left the community’s funds and assets in a very vulnerable position.

There is so much sweat and money, not to forget the heartburn and blood, that is spilt at the time of every BPP election. And with one stroke of the pen, not just that coveted crown of thorns but even the sceptre of responsibility has so easily been thrown down the drain. We all know the values and systems under which the Charity Commissioner’s department functions. I shudder to think what would happen if an administrator is appointed by the Charity Commissioner to control the valuable funds, assets and properties of the BPP. And I have no hesitation in saying that if these four worthies considered one of their colleagues to be a ‘bad apple’, their short-sighted move may replace the ‘bad apple’ with an outright ‘rotten apple’.

This is an issue concerning the Parsi community and I do not see why an enlightened and progressive community cannot solve it amicably on its own and without outside interference.

The community should speak out with one voice and resolve this issue. Forget your petty squabbles and put aside your ego and stand up to safeguard what your ancestors have left for you in sacred trust. Do not live under the illusion that things will straighten out with outside state level interference. If anything, the situation will worsen. As the saying goes in Gujarati, in this cat-fight, it is the monkey who will gobble up the bread.

In my view, the whole Board needs to go and let the community elect a new Board. It is time for a new broom to clean the Augean stables at BPP.

  • Farrokh Mehta

    two comments on the BPP Trusteeships.
    1 It is anachronistic in this age that not all Parsis can vote to elect the Trustees. How selective can parsis get?!
    2 The average age of Trustees of BPP is over 60. If we are to retain a “contemporary” direction, we should have 2 seats reserved for those below 40, 2 seats for those between 41 and 50, 2 seats for those between 51 and 60 and the rest for those above 60.
    Time for some simple reforms?