The Parsis are a demographically declining community on the cusp of near extinction. This is what Keki Daruwalla, Sahitya Akademi award-winning poet and a member of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), wrote to the Planning Commission (PC).
Alarmed by the drastic fall in India’s Parsi population, Daruwalla, in his two-page letter to PC member Dr Syeda Hameed, has highlighted the census figures which show that the number of Parsis in 1941, which was 1,14,890, almost halved to 69,601 by 2001.
Daruwalla organised a meeting with PC members on April 12 to discuss the “demographic peril” his community is facing. He has sought Hameed’s help to get approval for several urgent measures recommended by the working committee of the Union ministry of minority affairs.
The committee has recommended that the central government should study the community’s problems and come out with schemes accordingly which will be funded completely by the Centre and it should specifically target the “married, childless couples” as well as the girl child within the community to arrest the decline in population.
Enlisting the help of two Parsi researchers from Harvard, Zubin Shroff and Dinyar Patel, Daruwala said this decline is because of sociological issues not biological.In his paper, Patel notes that the “dramatic fall in fertility rates” is “social and behavioural”. According to him, Parsis marrying late or not marrying at all are the main reasons for the fall in fertility rate.
“We can’t do much about the sociological factors, but we can help the infertile couples by introducing certain schemes,” Daruwalla said.
Citing the schemes undertaken by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) as examples, Daruwalla said the BPP has already started counselling infertile couples, and also set up clinics so that they can avail the required medical facilities. He has requested central funding for these schemes so that they can be implemented on a national scale. According to the committee report, funding infertility clinics will cost the Centre a modest Rs20 crore.
Daruwalla has requested the PC to accept the committee’s recommendations immediately and include them in the 12th plan, which started in April 2012. The report shows that the recommendations were earlier sent for inclusion in the 11th plan. However, the PC had “declined” in-principle approval then.