Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Poona Parsee panchayat allowing encroachments

Members of the Parsi community in the city are a worried lot. Many fear properties worth Rs 1,500 crore belonging to the community might be acquired by the government or taken over by land grabbers. Worse, there are those who say the charitable trust that controls these estates is trying to sell off prime properties to builders for peanuts.

By Salil Urunkar | Mid-Day

Pointing fingers at the Poona Parsee Panchayat (PPP), a charitable trust that manages community funds and looks after its plots and bungalows, some in the community say the trust is hand-in-glove with the builder lobby.

Defending itself, the PPP claims it is in fact doing its best to protect its vacant plots across the city against not only illegal encroachment but also acquisition by the government.

Of the 80,000 Zoroastrians in the world, about 10,000 live in the city. Many members of the community contribute to its welfare by donating lakhs of rupees. The PPP manages all these funds and also looks after prime plots and bungalows, including in Wanawadi, Lulla Nagar, Khadakwasla and Camp.

Conspiracy theory

In a case filed before the Joint Charity Commissioner of Pune this year, litigant Rustom Ginwalla, one of the beneficiaries of the Trust, alleged that the PPP was trying to dispose of the Trust property at Ghaswala Building in Wanawadi and properties at Khadakwasla and elsewhere.

Ginwalla also alleged that there was a "tacit understanding" between the PPP and the builder lobby and other authorities concerned. He said many of the Trust properties had deliberately or otherwise been allowed to be "encroached upon". The Trustees have allegedly not made any move to evict these encroachers.

"The PPP trust has got control over prime properties in Kondhwa, Wanawadi, Khadakwasla and Camp, and its market value is about Rs 1,500 crore," said Advocate Amitkumar Bhowmik, who is representing Ginwalla.

"Several properties meant for charitable purposes are being commercialised by the PPP. The trust has not even conducted an Annual General Meeting (AGM) since 2009 and accounts are not being allowed to be inspected."

Panchayat concern

The PPP in its AGM report of 2007 has voiced its concern about government authorities carrying out inspections including aerial surveys of vacant lands in and around the city for acquisition and reservation for public purposes. In the same report, the PPP has also mentioned the "inherent risk" of encroachment and trespass by unauthorised people.

Subsequent reports are not available and AGM have not been conducted since 2009.