The dwindling number of priests within the Parsi community has set the alarm bells ringing as the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), the community’s apex body, has introduced a first-of-its-kind financial welfare scheme to attract more members to take up the profession.
Under the ‘Mobed Amelioration Scheme’, which was launched this month, the BPP aims to provide full-time priests across the country financial support and preferential allotment in housing.
“The number of priests in the community is declining, with almost 50 priests passing away every year, and only eight or ten new priests joining fire temples annually,” said Dinshaw Mehta, president, BPP.
“They [priests] don’t earn a high wage, and their children are opting for other professions. This scheme will help give them financial support and encourage them to consider this profession for their kids.”
The scheme, however, is applicable only to full-time priests, who are attached to a particular agiary (fire temple), and full-time priests who have retired. It also looks to reach out to students in community madressas.
The scheme has received a mixed response from priests. “We have been receiving promises over the last 50 years, and none of it has materialised,” said Ervad Marzban Hathiram, head priest of a Jogeshwari agiary.
Ramiyar Karanjia, principal of the Dadar Athornon Madressa, said: “While many parents in the priest community are hesitant to send their children to a madressa, this scheme may encourage at least 40% of them to change their minds.”