Indian Govt Budgets for Dwindling Parsi Population.

Not much is known about what can be done to check the dwindling number of Parsis. There has been much concern, even heartburn, but solutions have proved elusive. But the Centre has decided to step in and address the issue agitating the small, but talented community by announcing a scheme dedicated to their welfare.

This time around, the Union budget has actually made a modest allocation of Rs 1 crore for “containing population decline of small minority communities”. Even though there is no clarity on just how the government is going to go about discharging its onerous task, its intent seems strong.

Minority affairs minister Salman Khursheed will soon meet Parsi representatives to seek definite suggestions on to help conserve the community. Khursheed told TOI, “There is no plan yet. I really cannot say how can we help. It is something the community has to do itself but we can help preserve heritage and culture which helps ease pressure on members.”

If the tricky question defies readymade answers, the government feels it has socio-cultural sensitivities which cannot be ignored. Hence the scheme.

Parsis are one of the five nationally notified minorities. Their number is estimated around 70,000, a threatening drift towards extinction. Besides being one element of India’s diversity, the Parsi faith has immense heritage value. Zoroastrianism goes back 2,500 years with roots in Persia. The followers are said to have set foot in Gujarat in the 10th century with most now settled in Mumbai where they have played a key role in science, society, business, art and culture. The community took up the English game called cricket which has since metamorphosed into a `religion’ in India.

Over time, the existential issue has turned out to be a riddle without easy solutions. The issues related to dwindling population are as ticklish like exclusion from community of a Parsi girl marrying a non-Parsi, high divorce rates and a growing geriatric population. A Parsi group met Khursheed sometime back to brainstorm but, as the minister says, “they have not suggested anything on checking population decline”.

They, however, spoke about faith-related issues — last rites, availability of priests — which are discouraging followers. While the falling vulture flock makes `towers of silence’ an impractical idea, the option of burial is made difficult by absence of graveyards. The community built the best of educational institutions but is ironically facing difficulties in admissions.

The ministry, however, is preparing a plan to rescue dying languages, for which a scheme has been announced in the budget. Khursheed said his ministry plans to encourage work in these rare languages by giving scholars a priority in fellowships.

The linguistic minorities involve languages spoken largely in the hills and in the north-east among small groups or pockets of a district. “Research fellowships for vulnerable languages is a good idea,” he said.

  • keki unwalla

    really? Rs 1 crore for “containing population decline of small minority communities”. a sick joke. 1 crore for five nationally notified minorities. maybe the govt. wants community members to die laughing.

  • Dr. Cyrus B. Toorkey

    The Parsis need to have one single standard whereby a child is accepted into the religion. They should either decide that for a child to be initiated into the religion BOTH parents must be Parsis or they need to decide that even if one parent is a Parsi then the child can be initiated into the religion.
    The current practice of allowing a child of a Parsi father but not of a Parsi mother into the religion is outdated, biologically unsubstantiated and basically insulting to the ladies in the community.
    If the orthodox Parsis do not with the children of Parsi mothers but non-Parsi fathers to be allowed into their firetemples then the orthodox Parsi should be able to maintain that right.
    The more liberal Parsis should build new fire-temples which would allow children of Parsi mothers in mixed marriages into the fire-temples.
    Once they get past this religious sticking point the Parsis will be able to flourish as they are industrious, upstanding, individuals that have tremendous potential for good and that potential needs to be unleased again!

  • Jasmine

    Khursheed u seem to be doing avery good work.

  • Siloo Kapadia

    As for the “dwindling” factor. This is voluntary. Yes, voluntary. We need to do the following:
    1. Stop encouraging all our youth to immigrate to Western countries as if this is a cure-for-all. Western countries were good to go to years back, but economic problems, tough immigration, etc. make this option not very viable in this day and age. Asia, in particular India, has a lot to offer our youth. We should not be ready to abandon this continent so quckly. Both my husband and I are planning to return in the very neat future.
    2. Allow the children of all mixed marriages into the religion.
    Why not? I agree on this point with Dr. Toorkey. We claim to be “progressive” but are we really when we favor one sex over the other in religious matters.
    3. Allow those that are really interested in the religion to allow to convert. Again, why not? That is how most Parsis/Zoroastrians became so in the first place.
    4. Encourage Parsi couples to have children, and even then, at least two children. Too many Parsis are all too interested in their careers and money than in anything else. I have noticed this especially with Parsi women. It is money and careers and naterial goods and nothing else. The younger Parsi men are interested in hanging out and getting easy jobs. Nothing else. Shame.

    As you can see, these are things that the community can do. We do not need government intervention. Yes, providing financial assistance will help greatly, but it is not the solution. The solution is a change of mind set. Then again, we are dealing with many in the community that have the mindset of dinosaurs, so I seriously doubt any of these suggestions will ever come into play in India. Toba! Toba!

  • A R

    I am not sure what the source of this article is as the allocation for containing population decline is not mentioned in the FM’s speech but I would like to point out that a much larger sum is allocated to the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Quoting directly from the 2011 Budget Speech:

    “99. I also propose to raise the plan allocation for the Ministry of Minority Affairs from Rs.1,740 crore to Rs.2,600 crore for the year 2010-11. This marks an increase of nearly 50 per cent. I am happy to inform the Honourable Members that we are close to achieving the target of 15 per cent priority sector lending to minorities in the current year. This will be maintained for the next three years.”

  • N.T.Fekamfek

    Delayed Marriages cause problems in conceiving children. Though BPP is reported to be running a Fertility clinic, it would be useful if a Sperm Bank is commenced in which young Parsi boys are allowed to deposit/donate. Even suitable compensation can be considered on lines of other Sperm Banks.
    Such a facility would be a boon where the male partner is employed abroad/out of station.

  • JEROU

    Has’nt our Vakshuran Vakshur Asho Zarathosht Saheb invoked His Followers to spread the Mazdeyashni Deen in all four directions? Were His Holy WORDS not good enough to be spread Universe wise? The Zoroastrian Community is supposed to be the MOST generous Community in the World…Does this not apply to the tenets as well? Why are we so closed minded and petty? Why should there not be a beautiful Universal &Spiritual way of life, without any bias that can be taught the World over without any walls/discriminations being pt up? Our tenets are no different from that of any other Religion. Undoubtedly the Rites(tarikats) are different in each religion.One can always follow the rites & rituals of choice. If we look at this unselfishly,without any haughtiness,and with an open mind I am certain that it can contribute to ONE PEACEFULWORLD.

  • Rohinton

    Jerou,

    Beautiful sentiments – if a bit over-simplified and totally unrealistic!

    Your message would target a larger audience if you were to take it to religious groups that have a following in the millions !!

    Most Zoroastrians/Parsis respect ALL other religions and have always been known to be peace loving.

  • Farzana

    ‘the Union budget has actually made a modest allocation of Rs 1 crore for “containing population decline of small minority communities”.’

    It says ‘communities’, therefore Parsi community is just one of the communities subscribe to the allocation of one crore.

    Again, how is money going to save the dwindling numbers?

  • ANTI – Dhongidox.

    These days, I find exra ordinary interest in the affairs of our Community in TOI and Mumbai Mirror with many articles authored by N Bharucha. Those passionate Parsees who complained earlier against discussion of our communal issues in secular press are surreptiotiosly silent on this exra coverage of affairs of our community in the secular press.

  • Ronnie Patel

    I am really suprised by this Announcement, i feel that the Parsees do not deserved to be given any thing.
    The Parsee Panchayat is said to be the Richest Body in India.
    If the same is given to the other comunity than at least it would be utilised in a far more proper way.
    Why should the Lazy Parsees be given all the Facilities?
    The Parsees only know how to create enimity in others family.
    It is only because of the Cheap Housing & all other Facilities that they have become Lazy & that is the main reason that the boys of the same comunity do not want to study & work hard, the only jobs that present parsees do is how to add fire & how to break other Families & Grab the other people properties.
    The Jealous Parsees do not deserved to be shown any mercy.
    Even the Muslims are far far better than my own comunity people, at least they do not stab anyone in the back & neither they break the Families of others nor do they try to grab others flats & money nor do they create any enimity between brothers & sisters.
    That’s the main reason why the parsees do not deserve any help from the Government.
    Jai Hind.

  • piloo

    Whatever appears herebelow is a cut paste job.

    ” Parsis Iranis Zarathushtis ALL Under One Roof.

    Zoroastrian Community of Russia
    13 February, 2010 — yazdi
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    Registered in St. Petersburg since April 7, 1994.
    These pages will give you an idea about how the community emerged and developed , its life and activities
    Here we would like to present at fullest possible length :
    • the history of Zoroastrian religion, the most ancient monotheistic religion of the world
    • the teaching of Good and Light, teaching of Mazdayasna, Worshiping Wisdom
    • information on ancient and present Zoroastrian communities and groups
    • answers to your questions about Zoroastrians
    On our community.
    The Zoroastrian Community of St. Petersburg is an officially registered local religious organization aimed at research and advancement of the world religion of Zoroastrianism in accordance with international religious and juridicial regulations. The community was founded in 1994, its official status being in compliance with the law on religious associations.”
    As such, while Parseeism may be on the decline due to demographic factors, there is definite increase in the followers of Zoroastrianism.
    As for those who praised the vandalism at Sanjan there is just but one suggestion. Please sponsor a trip of the so called stalwarts to St. Petersburg to carry out similar action of dismantling the infrastructure set up there. That will be the TEST to show their concern,sincerity and devotion to their beliefs.

  • Piloo,
    Similar to what you have mentioned about St. Petersburg has happened in other countries where people have been inducted into Zoroastrian faith with Sudreh Poshi ceremony.Nothing new in your post. But I agree with your last para. One claiming to be a representative of Orthodoxy claimed that photographs of what happened in Sanjan did not indicate any vandalism but when he/she was asked to produce such photographs (by other boarders on this blog) this ‘bold’ person has done a vanishing trick from this blog.May be he will ‘reincarnate’ himself with another assumed name.