The dwindling population of Parsi community nationwide has long been a cause of concern and was the primary motivation for the Jiyo Parsi scheme.
Funded by the Ministry of Minority Affairs, and conceived and promoted by Parzor Foundation of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the federation of Zoroastrian Anjumans of India, its primary aim was to aid Parsi couples facing difficulties in conceiving with IVF treatment. After a sluggish start, it has finally gained ground in Gujarat, where as opposed to just one birth two years ago, the number has now risen to around 12.
Article by Tanushree Bhatia | DNA
In the past four years, a total of 168 babies across the country have been born under the Jiyo Parsi scheme, considered to be an achievement by the team working on this programme. Unfortunately, Ahmedabad has only had one baby till date. “Infertility is still a taboo in Ahmedabad. Also, most Parsis are quite well off to approach us seeking financial and medical help.”
“However, the response from Surat and Navsari has been quite good. We are also trying to reach out to gynaecologists across the state, requesting them to direct Parsi couples visiting them, to us so that we can help them,” says Pearl Mistry, counsellor, Jiyo Parsi in Gujarat.
At present, the Jiyo Parsi programme is in the second phase that aims at getting Parsi men and women to rapidly marry and procreate in significant numbers. Last week, a Parsi matrimony meet was held in Ahmedabad, in which nearly 90 Parsis participated.
Under the scheme, a couples opting for IVF get reimbursement of nearly 8 lakh, covering expenses till the child is born. However, the biggest challenge is to counsel the couple as distraught couple lose patience as IVF can take multiple cycles. “Even as we encourage couples to opt for a second baby, we offer them Rs 4,000 per month for it to help cover cost of crèche for the first eight years.”
“The scheme is aimed at increasing the shrinking population and does not see a good response as most Parsi couples do not aim to have children. It is important to overcome the mindset and make them see reason. Only then there will be a change and they will go for early marriage and early kids,” says Rashna Daruwalla, manager, admissions, Anant National University, adding, “For every 200 new born, there are 800 dead. These figures are equally responsible for the decline.”
12 Births And Counting
- In Gujarat, as opposed to one birth two years ago, it has now gone up to around 12
- Over the past 4 years, 168 babies born across the country under the scheme
- Couples opting for IVF get reimbursement of nearly 8 lakh per child till birth
DNA Editorial: Increasing Numbers – The success of Jiyo Parsi scheme offers hope
While India requires measures to contain its swelling population, the Parsis, a tiny, endangered minority needed some serious encouragement to save itself from extinction. Hence, the launch of the Jiyo Parsi scheme in 2013-14 to inspire Parsis to rapidly procreate.
Now in its second phase, Jiyo Parsi’s success can be gauged from the fact that in Gujarat, as opposed to one birth two years ago, the number has shot up to 12. This means that a community generally reluctant to have babies is expressing eagerness to swell its ranks.
Though the numbers are still much too small — in the last four years, 168 babies born across the country under the scheme and the incidence of death in an aging populace is much more than the number of newborns — there is hope.
The sops offered under the scheme — for IVF treatment, couples get reimbursed up to Rs 8 lakh per child till birth — have definitely helped. But the journey to becoming a vibrant, robust population is going to be long and arduous.
Interestingly, Parsis have more females compared to males in their community — about 1,050 females per 1,000 males, which is much higher than India’s average of 933 females, according to the 2001 Census. India still has the highest population of Parsis in the world and despite being numerically weak, the contributions of the Parsis in various fields, especially, in business and the armed forces, have been noteworthy.
The Parsis, apparently, have one of the lowest fertility rates in the world as well as the highest numbers of bachelors and spinsters. But, apart from accelerating birth rate, the community also needs crucial reforms that can clear the way for a departure from calcified norms and traditions.