By Rathin Das | Surat
At a time when most countries are engaged in controlling the population explosion, the miniscule Parsi community here is busy taking steps to increase its fast-dwindling numbers.
The Parsis in Surat, estimated to be only around 3,500, now have reasons to celebrate as 19 babies have been added to the community over the last three years as a result of their incentives to increase the population.
These 19 babies, and some more to be born in the next few months, are the direct result of an effort by the Surat Parsi Panchayat to encourage its youngsters to get married early and within the community so that a demographic equilibrium can be achieved among the Parsis, whose global population has reduced to just about 1 lakh now.
Late marriages till they have a home of their own and not finding the right match within the miniscule community were the main reasons for the Parsi youngsters to stay single for too long, Surat Parsi Panchayat president Darayas Master told The Pioneer.
This trend adversely affected the demographic pattern as the dwindling Parsi population is already skewed towards the geriatric category, which too is diminishing fast but not getting adequately replaced by a new generation, explained Darayas Master.
In its attempt to arrest the ever-reducing numbers of the community, the Surat Parsi Panchayat in 2003 started a scheme to lure its young men and women into wedlock early and bear children even before they could afford to have a home of their own. The Surat Parsi Panchayat offered free two-room flats in the city to its young couples. Since 2003, more than 30 Parsi couples have been beneficiaries of this free-flat scheme and the result is a new generation of babies.
“They just have to show us the marriage invite and the proof of booking the reception hall. We hand over the flat to them seven days before the wedding date so that the couple can get it furnished the way they like,” said Surat Parsi Panchayat trustee Yezdi Karanjia.
The land in Shahpur area of the city belonged to the trust for long and the construction cost per flat of 560 sq ft each came to Rs 3-4 lakh, informed another member of the Surat Parsi Panchayat. The market price of such flats in Surat would be around Rs 9 lakh.
“I was engaged, but could not get married for want of my own accommodation,” said Firoz Singpurwala, 24, who lapped up the opportunity offered by the Surat Parsi Panchayat to tie the knot with Amy last year. As an insurance surveyor, Firoz earns Rs 7000 a month, an amount with which he cannot afford a decent flat in the city.
Nariosang Billimoria, 31, too was happy to tie the knot with Benaifer after he came to know of the free-flat offer. Now, Nariosang and Benaifer are the proud parents of a 10-month-old.
The idea to enhance the population through such incentives came from the Bombay Parsi Panchayat’s move to provide financial help to couples opting for a third child, revealed trustee Yezdi Karanjia. All the funds came from within the community, including Rs 55 lakh by way of donations from wealthy Parsis, he added.