Parsis push on with sops to boost birth rate

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.

  • Wow,
    hats off to the surat panchayat….who have actual
    proof of results. This shows
    that there definitely are a
    younger generation who keep
    putting off their nuptial
    plans for want of funds. I wish
    our community really looks into this aspect for future generations. Our kids come from a proud race that rarely asks for a handout…but it behoves those in power to make sure that they research into the numbers who actually need this help and do what they can speedily to set things right….but without making it a public scene. Otherwise youngsters will simply not come forward.

  • rustom jamasji

    Hopefully the beneficaries will contribute to Zoroastrianism by studying and practising the faith thus passing it on to the next generation instead of arbitaraly demanding change, following the local ‘baba’, or practises contra to zoroastrianism such as idol worship after taking refuge from such . There are plenty within who would like to fuse geh with namaaz and the yasnas with the yagnas and then thwart the process of putting a stop to demographical changes.There are also plenty who seek shelter in the likes of the ‘Gatha alone cult’ nullifying the avesta, pahalvi, pazend and other texts to suit their personal tastes (classic example the anti dokhmenishini group), ….only to claim to be a zoroastrian when it comes to taking!

    I think a counselling session should be first put in place that helps in establishing the beneficiary couple with their roots, history and faith.

  • Mehernaaz Sam Wadia

    The BPP should take a leaf out of the pages of the SPP’s success story. Instead, all we have is interminable waits, red tape, corruption, favouritism and callousness. The only babies being created in Mumbai are disgust, frustration and dissent. And these dont have to wait 9 months either to be born.

  • Dara P Wadia

    Very happy to know the good work done by the S P P.
    I wish the B P P does the same in a similar manner with a small contrubation from this young generation.

  • Delnavaz

    good initiative. Hope this encourages early marriages within our community. However, care should be taken that only financially needy people who do intend to settle down benefit from such schemes. young people who can afford their own accomodation, should refrain from taking advantage of this scheme.

  • Arzan R.

    Not sure how much can be read into 19 babies being born in the last 3 years. Is there any data on how many were born in the 3 years prior to that? What if that was a higher number? Or what if it was say 16? Would you still call the program successful? Also, what is the ratio of birth to deaths? All in a all, a good idea with good intentions, but based on the data in the article, its tough to say if its truly working or not.

  • shehzad irani

    Really appreciate what Rustam Jamasji says – it would turn meaningless – if like our mumbai baugs – which started out with all the best intentions and have been continually reaping rich dividends in these aspects – but if you really question if that has resulted in more generous parsis who want to give it back to the community i doubt it – we have slowly become a community of aapo-ji than laevo-ji

  • Siloo Kapadia

    Race, race, race. As if any of us is really pure-blooded. What a lot of nonsense! Want more chidren? Easy! Just offer free condoms to all Parsi men and cut the tips off of them before you dispense them. Guaranteed, we will have more children!

    Sound crazy? So does this whole “we are pure-blooded Persians who just happen to be living in India, who just happen to not want to speak Hindi, who just happen to be psuedo-British” nonsense! With great thinking such as this, no wonder the community is dying out.

    As for our community, why not accept those children from intermarriages who truly want to enter? Allow people who take mandatory religious instruction, entrance into the religion. These latter are the real ways to get a greater and more religious population. Those that convert in will have a deeper respect for the religion. You know, instead of must money, money, money all the time like I see now in the community.

  • phiroz

    I believe the article in question relates to Surat Parsee Punchayet’s scheme of alloting houses to promote population growth. Then how come one blogger who is ever so eager to read his own name is allowed to to post his solo views on Parsee purity. Is it not diverting from the main issue and therefore irrelevant to the article under reference.My humble suggestion to you Sir, to allow posting of views only relevant to the main topic.
    By the way, those who believe in Gathas only are not lesser Zoroastrians as one perpetually omnipresent blogger insinuates.As for S Irani’s views about Parsee Baugs, he should also read about encroachments on Parsee properties and realize that the way Parsee population is declining, after Six decades or so, all Baugs will be encorached or occupied by non Parsees only since there will be hardly any Parsees left in India.Then why complain about present Parsee generation occupying flats in such Baugs that too after paying the owners a fat Pugree?

  • arza

    Wtf… this is the height of desperation!! Couples get paid to mate!!

    Free housing, free education, free hospitalization, free rations… easy jobs in Parsi firms…Phew !!!where is all these taking us!!!
    Grooming the community in these kind of protective incubators is harming it rather in helping its cause…
    Parsis as a community has lost its edge… We have become a community of ‘Mike-anglaas’… Wake up!!…

    Those bawa bums who dont even have in them to start a family on his own ability, are lost cases… encouraging them to reproduce more of their kind is detrimental for the community… Imagine the family culture these kids will inherit…

    I dont understand …what are we suppose to celebrate?? the birth of 19 more ‘Mike -anglaas’in the dying community???!!!

  • Shehzad Irani is absolutely right.As they say, example is better then precept. So all Trustees should display their conscious and surrender their tenancies (without taking ‘paghdi’ so that common bawas can learn a lesson to imbibe. Ironically, even some BPP Trustees are occupying BPP subsidised flats and claim protection under Rent Act even though they can afford ownership flats. Concept of “Levojee” should commence from Trustees themselves regardless of the Trust, be it BPP or some other Charity Trust
    BTW, in this case SPP is alloting flats to those who can not afford to purchase houses due to limited means, so question of their giving or becoming ‘generous’ at this stage is premature.
    Secondly, some time back, I had a talk with an outgoing tenant of a building owned by a Trust which has this building on an Agiary owned Trust land and I was told that the concerned Trustees wanted a all cash deal. Some integrity this.Trustees become “Aapojee”???

  • rustom jamasji

    @Piloo, on ure coment that the flats are given to financially weak people and thus cannot give back…giving back does not always depend on monetory benefits.If such was the case with what money did our ancestors arrive in India? Monetory donations act like a catalyst.Our ancestors and those not succumbing to the quajar, safavid etc or even Ahmedijan’s rules contribute towards zoroastrianism by keeping it alive.

    Same way when the Jews were settled in in their and after WW2, they went empty handed, yet today judaism not only survives, it has built itself back due to adversities.(Remember the plaestinains were armed by the brits and as Jewish boats landed in Palestine, the jews were fired upon–not a single country wanted them, and they were they didnt have the money to rekindle judaism)

    All such beneficiary schemes have a core objectve in mind, making it easy for a zoroastrian to follow zoroastrianism, study it etc..If every such zoroastrian studies about zoroastrianism and our history, it will help in a great way to pass on the principles of our faith to their enxt generation.Though demographic change pressures were present during our ancestos time too, it didnt affect us so badly as today as they knew what they were following. Whilst today a void with regards to our history, zoroastrian principles, mythology is filled up by the various larger shown by their own various faiths on t.v and personal mingling n thus we have zoroastrians neglecting the avesta yet having time for a darshan or on the likes of such.

    @shahzad, thank you for your kind words with respect to my noting that the proof of the pudding would submit itself if the beneficiaries adhere to the core of such initiatives, i.e..contributing back by studying our history, faith and roots achieveing a community feeling and thus contributing back.

    Sadly the point has to be corrupted and contradicted by a few who cannot and will not see the bigger picture, and would cut the nose to spite the face…just to suit their agenda and I can humbly submit that if you do side with my points, your own points shall be put down by such.

    Yes if the Late Mrs Wadia who was one of the biggest donors saw that houses distributed for zoroastrians so that zoroastrianism would be followed and protected, has now practises banal and contra to zoroastrianism and houses people thatw ant to change zoroastrianism ,it would feel that the eforts for the same have achieved negative results.