Facing extinction, the Parsi population has something to cheer about. The Planning Commission has granted sanction to set up fertility clinics for the Parsis. The Minority Affairs Ministry will now organise camps for IVF treatment of the community to spiral up their dwindling numbers.
According to the 2001 census, there are around 60,000 Parsis living in India and their numbers have been declining over the years.
A survey conducted by the Minority Affairs Ministry revealed that late marriages, reducing fertility levels and migration were the major
reasons behind the decline in the Parsi population.
According to the survey, the average number of births per year in the Parsi community has never crossed 200 since 2001. About 30 per cent of the Parsi population remains single, while another 30 per cent is above 60. And to make matters worse, the death rate in the community is three times the birth rate.
“One of the major problems with the community is that if a Parsi girl weds outside the community, her child is not included in the fold. On the contrary if a Parsi boy weds a non-Parsi girl, their child is accepted as a Parsi,” an official said, elaborating the cultural reasons behind their dwindling numbers.
Granting approval to the proposal for setting up of the IVF clinics, the Plan panel has asked the Minority Affairs Ministry to submit a detailed roadmap for execution of the scheme.
A Minority Affairs Ministry official said the Ministry is now planning to conduct an awareness programme within the community to adopt IVF techniques for increasing fertility.
When contacted by The Pioneer, Minority Commission Chairman Wajahat Habibullah welcomed the move and said initiatives should be taken in right earnest by the Minority Affairs Ministry in conjunction with the Union Health Ministry to set up such camps.
This is the first time the Plan panel has cleared a scheme to sponsor fertility treatment for the Parsi community and has also made allocation for the 12 Five Year Plan.
Under the scheme, the Government will now bear the cost of fertility treatment for the Parsi community members concentrated mostly in Mumbai, Gujarat and Kolkata.
“The scheme was approved last week and the Planning Commission has made a budgetary provision of Rs 2 crore in the first year of the ongoing 12th Five Year Plan. The commission has given a go-ahead to arrest the dwindling numbers of Parsis after a long deliberation,” an official said.
Earlier this year, Minority Affairs Ministry had sent a proposal to the Plan panel seeking its approval to fund fertility treatment for the community members as part of the 12th Plan.
The panel’s 41-member steering committee on “Empowerment of Minorities” headed by Sayeeda Hameed comprising officials from Minority Affairs Ministry and experts from different fields, also submitted a report in May this year recommending allocation of funds for fertility treatment of the endangered community.
The Plan panel had rejected a similar proposal in 2010 saying it could set a precedent for other groups to make similar demands.
“The Parsis are serious about the problem and had sought IVF facilitation for improving fertility within the community. We will approach health ministry to seek their cooperation in implementing the scheme.” an official said adding, health camps will be set in Parsi concentration areas to identify the beneficiaries.