The government’s plan to boost the dwindling population of Parsi community received a severe jolt with the Planning Commission rejecting a scheme proposed by the minority affairs ministry to improve the fertility rate and address health issues of the minority group.
The commission has objected to the scheme, telling the government it need not interfere in social issues. It also said making an intervention for Parsis could set a precedent for other social groups to make demands, sources said.
The blunt ‘no’ has scuppered attempts to address a key grievance of Parsis who are staring at extinction with an estimated population of 66,000. The Centre made budgetary announcement in 2010 for a scheme to tackle the falling population of religious minorities.
The rejection this month, the second and seen as final, has led to dejection in the ministry. Top sources said a fresh plea had still been made to the plan panel for review.
The arguments from the planning body, however, left the ministry puzzled. In the rejection, it rebuffed the principal argument behind the scheme — that fertility rate of Parsis is down. The plan panel wondered what was special about it as all religious groups faced it.
Sources said the panel was told that fertility rate of Parsis was alarmingly low and had fallen below ‘replacement level’ (below one). It said while the fertility rate of Hindus or Muslims may have fallen, it was still above ‘one’ and these communities would never face extinction. The argument seems to have been rebuffed again.
On the alarm of setting up a precedent for other social groups and thegovernment poking its nose in social issues, the ministry assured it was not the case.
The scheme was woven around addressing health issues of Parsi individuals in an attempt to boost their fertility rate. The Centre was to pick up the tab for it while selected individuals would be given the best treatment.
The ministry got a survey done on the community and its problems in Mumbai. While plan panel questioned limiting the study to the megapolis, the ministry said the choice of city was fine for a sample survey as 42,000 of the estimated 66,000 Parsis lived there.
A government initiative on Parsis can only be limited to addressing health issues even though there are other reasons for their falling numbers, like excommunication of a Parsi marrying a non-Parsi or the trend of late marriage.
Though some in the community have demanded that marriage outside be accepted, there are reservations from conservative Parsis and the government does not want to be seen as meddling in the sensitive issue.