Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Surat Parsi Panchayat: We want our rights and security, not money

Central government might have approved first-of-its-kind scheme to help increase the diminishing number of Parsis in the country through a scientific and structured approach, but there is a lack of encouraging response from the community members i

n the diamond city.

By Melvyn Thomas | TNN

The Planning Commission had accorded an in-principle approval to the scheme to increase the diminishing numbers of Parsis in the country. According to the 2001 Census, the number of Parsis has declined from 1,14,000 in 1941 to 69,000 in the country.

The Planning Commission proposed to earmark a budgetary provision worth Rs 2 crore to address the issue of population decline among the Parsis through fertility treatments and awareness campaigns in the current fiscal.

Parsi leaders in the diamond city said the scheme has not fully caught the imagination of the community as the government has allocated a budgetary provision of Rs 2 crore only to address the issue of population decline among the Parsis in the country when Surat Parsi Panchayat (SPP) was spending Rs 4 crore per annum on various schemes. The SPP was allotting free-residential flats to married couples, arranging free medical treatment for the community, running orphanage for boys and girls and also old age homes, providing free food to over 250 poor Parsis in the city and rural areas and free education to Parsi children.

"Our community does not want any financial aid from the government, because the SPP is financially strong to take good care of its members. Our appeal to the state and central governments is that we should get our rights, security and protection in the society," said Darayas Master, president, SPP.

According to Master, in the last six years, the community here has added 200 more members, registering a substantial six per cent increase in population. This had made Surti Parsis the forerunners in the battle for survival with even the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) looking towards them for clues.

In its attempt to arrest the ever reducing numbers of the community, the SPP started a scheme to lure its young men and women into wedlock early and bear children even if they couldn’t afford a home of their own in 2005. Young Parsi couples were offered free two-room flats in the city at a throwaway monthly rent of Rs 200.

Since 2005, more than 36 Parsi couples have been beneficiaries of this free-flat scheme and the result is a new generation of 65 Parsi children.

In the past seven years, the SPP has constructed about seven low-rise buildings, concentrated in the Parsi-dominated Shahpore, which has about 102 flats. A new apartment is also coming up in the same locality where another 60 families would be accommodated by the end of 2012.

About the problems faced by the community, Master said that SPP has given away 4.27 lakh square yard of land for development of the city in all these years. Recently, Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has proposed a reservation on Dokhma land at Umarwada for construction of houses for the economically weaker section (EWS).

"Despite giving away our land for the city’s development, the community is yet to reap a single benefit from the government. Since we do not have a vote bank, there is nobody in the state or central government to listen to our problems," said Hoshang Vesuna, a private banker.