For Parsi population, eight small beginnings: Jiyo Parsi

Less than a year after the government launched “Jiyo Parsi”, a scheme to check the alarming decline in the country’s Parsi population, the stork is set to visit eight couples from the community who are beneficiaries of the scheme.

By Parul Chandra | New Delhi

The scheme, a mix of community-driven advocacy and medical assistance in the form of funding for infertility treatment for Parsi couples, was launched in September, 2013. All eight couples underwent infertility treatment funded by the scheme.

“Jiyo Parsi” is being implemented by the Delhi-based Parzor Foundation, along with the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, community anjumans and panchayats. The government has set aside `10 crore for the scheme under the 12th Plan period.

The scheme was conceived after alarm bells began ringing over the fast-shrinking population of Parsis in India and amid fears that if nothing was done to reverse the demographic decline, the community could well be wiped out.

Parsis in India numbered 1,14,000 in the 1941 Census and, by the 2001 Census, their population had shrunk to 69,000. There was also a sharp decline in the total fertility ratio (TFR) among Parsis.

As per data, it was 0.8, which means that a Parsi woman during her child-bearing years has less than one child. Further, 31 per cent of Parsis are aged over 60 and more than 30 per cent have never married. Dwindling numbers have meant that there are now totally deserted Parsi villages in the south of Surat belt in Gujarat.

According to Dr Shernaz Cama of the Parzor Foundation, “Jiyo Parsi” has a multi-pronged advocacy programme wherein it is urging those of marriageable age to marry early, conceive early and seek medical intervention if required.

Among the reasons cited for the falling numbers are late marriages, infertility that may arise out of late marriages and an ageing Parsi population.

Dr Cama said that it was during field trips made between 2001 and 2003 that they came across Parsi villages like Suhali, Adajan, Bhata and Hajira in Gujarat that were totally deserted. Later, they got qualitative and quantitative proof that Parsis were a shrinking population based on the work done by the South Gujarat University and the Bombay Parsi Panchayat.

Prompted by these findings, the Bombay Parsi Panchayat launched a fertility project for Parsi couples in Mumbai. The scheme at the national level draws inspiration from this project and has evoked a positive response from the community.