Pune Parsee panchayat in Rent War

Tenants of a Lullanagar society are accusing the Poona Parsee Panchayat of charging rent exceeding original terms. PPP refutes charges saying they charge according to the income of the tenant and that it is affordable

By Anurag Bende / Pune  Mirror

An otherwise peaceful community seems to have landed itself into a controversy of sorts. Fifty seven members of the Parsee community, residing in the Bai Maneckbai P B Jeejeebhoy building in Lullanagar, have given an application to the Charity Commissioner against the trustees of the Poona Parsee Panchayat.

Their accusation is that the trustees are allegedly collecting excessive rent from the tenants. The Bai Maneckbai P B Jeejeebhoy building is located near the Kendriya Vidyalaya in Lullanagar. It consists of 232 flats and was built with funds donated by the Bai Maneckbai P B Jeejeebhoy trust in 1998.

The complainants, in their application, have mentioned, “The donor entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Poona Parsee Panchayat on March 5, 1998 pertaining to the construction, operation of bank accounts, etc.”

Amit Bhowmik, the lawyer representing these 57 Parsee members said, “In the application, we have mentioned that according to the MoU, the Poona Parsee Panchayat is entitled to collecting fees from the tenants, between the range of Rs 300 to Rs 500 a month, with a proportionate increase every few years.

However, the trustees have decided to charge the rent on the basis of the income of the tenants. Naturally those who have a higher income are ending up paying more rent. Some of these tenants have to pay a rent of Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 — which earlier, was around Rs 750.”

Bhowmik further said, “The basic concept behind the construction of this building was to provide shelter to the needy and deserving middle class. The Poona Parsee Panchayat and the other Parsees in the city receive a lot of support from several donors, a blessing for the community. Yet, the trustees are charging these tenants higher rents now.”

He added, “The Poona Parsee Panchayat is a charitable trust and receives tax benefits from the municipal corporation for doing charity work like providing accommodation to the needy Parsee people. However, instead of charity, they are charging higher rents from the tenants.”

Rustom Ginwalla (69), one of the complainants, said, “I am suffering from cancer and have undergone three surgeries. I thought I would stay with members of my community and live out the rest of my life peacefully.

Since the building is maintained by trustees of the Poona Parsee Panchayat, I assumed it is a charitable institute and that we will be paying affordable rent. Now, I have to shell out a total amount of Rs 2,060, which includes the rent, maintenance amount, PMC taxes and vehicle parking charges.

At this age, I am forced to fight for justice. I feel disappointed and dejected.”When Farokh Irani, chairman of the Poona Parsee Panchayat was contacted, he said, “Ours is a charitable trust and the basic concept behind this residential building was to provide shelter to the poor and needy.

To categorise tenants as ‘poor’, we made categories on the basis of their income, so that those who earn the least would have to pay the least rent. As for those who are earning more, we are not telling them to vacate their flats, but will be taking higher rent from them — which will ultimately go to charity.

We will not be using this amount anywhere else but to help the the poorer sections of our community.”

  • R.Kayani.

    This Robin Hood practice runs contrary to provisions of Maharashtra Rent Act 1999 and if the Trustees of P.P.P. are ignorant of the provisions of the act then they should be taught the same by first filing suits for Standards Rent and thereafter seek the removal of such ignorant Trustees for compelling the Trust to face avoidable litigation.

  • Nina Daroga

    Type your comment here…
    The actions of the current unelected Pune Parsi Panchayat Trustees does not depict the rich, honest Zorastrian culture. The honesty and loyalty of Zorastrian community is unchallenged and such corrupt actions from the Trustees is not acceptable. Why should one tag the tenants as ‘rich,poor and needy’. All the humans on this earth be it the Poonawallas, the Wadias, the Tatas, the Pudumjees, the Agas, the Ambanis are all poor as we are all at the mercy of Nature – who one addresses as God Almighty, Ram, Allah, Zarathusthra, Jesus Christ, Gautam Buddha, etc. Wake up is the call of the hour and shed your egos and discuss amicably in closed doors instead of knocking on the Court Rooms for justice.

  • Farokh Shroff

    Type your comment here…Read Mr. Nanavati’s comments posted on 5th Feb’11 at 5.56 pm wherein he states he is a staunch Zorastrian. A staunch Zorastrian is one who does charity – he executes it in a proper spirit as there is a saying “things which are real are given and received in silence”. The Trust Property of Pune Parsi Panchayat – 69 acres lying idle and being used as public urinals and public garbagge. This is the respect and honour one pays to those souls who have toiled, accumulated bit by bit and entrusted this property in good faith to the Pune Trustees. Charity once done is forgotten and is done with good will.

    To be very blunt-the current Trustee, Mr. Rumi Mehta who was brought up on charity given from the Trust. Has ever till today any Trustees who have helped him, his brother and his family questioned and asked him to repay the Trust with interest since he has flourished heights? So, Charity is done with good wishes and good will and Mr. Rumi Mehta has no right or anybody else to label anybody poor and needy or rich.

    Flats were allotted 10 years back and each case was very thoroughly scrutinised – if people have flourished with the blessings of Mother Earth & the Lord above is it their fault? Tenants are willing to pay the increased rent – but it should be proportionate and not exorbitant . The Trustees are so loyal that they have lined up builders to sell off the 69 acres of land. Why can’t they develop the land by building old home for the aged and weak. Trustees please divert your resources towards doing good things in an honest manner – that is a true Zorastrian. Charity once done is never questioned and told to return or vacate

  • Hoshner Dumasia

    The flats made in lulla nagar were meant to be for the “NEEDY” & “LOW INCOME” group. However I was astonished when I visited the building that most of them have a 4 wheeler. So where is the “NEEDY” bit gone?

    I am completely in agreement with what the PPP is doing and charging rent as per the income. Definitely people with higher income should try and move out as they can afford to buy a place for themselves. Thus vacating place for the NEEDY. Of course if they still would like to stay on then pay the “higher rent”.

    In this day and age what is Rs.2000-3000 as rent…gosh it’s like staying for free!!!

    As for the PPP, they have a set standard selection process in place before handing over the apartment to someone and this process should be made available to all.

    Well and if we doubt the intentions of the money being utilized by committee of the PPP then please call for a fair election & have an external company audit the accounts.

    Iam sure this issue can be sorted amicably if sane headed people sit across the table and discuss it.

  • Jehangir

    Type your comment here…
    Just a correction in Mr. H.Dumasia’s mail. Parsi community all over the globe is less than 80,000/-. 69 acres lying vacant and undeveloped. To buy a 4 wheeler is easier than buying an ownership flat of Rs 30-35 lakhs. It is easy to comment for those who have not experienced the struggle of survival. Rent can be increased.What the present unelected batch of Trustees are doing is they are charging the rent which is even more than ownership outgoings monthly – so is it fair and just? My learned fellows even a dog can live with money and riches but to live a life against all odds without a jingle in your pocket and fighting each moment and achieving success in the hard way is not the priviledge of the many. Request each Punite Zorastrian community to come forward and settle this issue in closed doors before it becomes uncontrollable – think the goodness of all first.

  • Anahita

    With respect to Mr. Mabrin Noshir Nanavatti’s post, it is not surprising to see the defensive response of the PPP immediate past chairman’s son.

    The fact of the matter remains that many tentants who are residing in the colony, fear victimization and hence have not come forward to voice their concerns about the recent unreasonable and illegal demands made by the PPP. It is a normal tendency to avoid getting oneself into controversies till the time one is not directly affected by any injustice. The question here is not that of the rent paid outside in the area or comparison of the ‘poor and needy’ on a generic basis. We are talking specifically about the Parsi community in Pune, which is less than 10,000.

    15 flats among 232 flats in the colony are vacant, then why is there such a hue and cry about providing the facility to other ‘poor and needy’. There isn’t a queue of waiting individuals for the same, then why are the tenants being harrassed? out of 200 families (approx. 400 people as it is claimed) that 57 families have signed up this petition (approx. 30%) is just the beginning of a revolt against the dictatorial rule of the PPP.

    Firstly, as per the MOU signed between PPP and the donor Mrs. Scylla Vatcha, the hike in rent is illegal and the PPP being a charitable trust cannot charge such exhorbitant rent, since the PPP reaps the benefits of being a Charitable Trust which is a non-profit making organization. As per the MOU, the license fees are to be utilized for the maintenance of the building and if there is a surplus, for the other objects of the trust. We do not know where these funds are being utilized over the years.

    The security deposit of we license holders has amounted to over Rs. 27 Lakhs. Out of this, a meagre sum of about Rs. 1 Lakh is lying in savings bank account. The balance Rs. 26 Lakhs have been invested in fixed deposits. These are our monies and hence the interest on this Rs. 26 Lakhs of FD would amount to over Rs. 2 Lakhs per annum and should be used for the benfit of the residents. We do not know whether this is the case or this income is being siphoned off somewhere else over the years.

    The PPP claims that this facility is for ‘poor and needy’ however as per the objects of the constitution, these flats are for the ‘needy and deserving middle class Zoroastrians – Parsis and Iranis. This factor has not been appreciated, rather it has been suppressed by the trustees (past and present).

    There are various baugs in Bombay which till date comprise of economically stable, well-to-do Parsi’s mostly in the higher strata of the society (who also by the way own cars – possibly more than one) yet they pay a nominal rent to the BPP. Why aren’t there standard norms for all in such a small community?? When we have abundant ancestral land available and donations coming from various generous sources why are a few handful people who are struggling to live a decent life being compelled to bite the dust outside the community?? Do the PPP trustees want those who are burning the mid-night oil and slogging hard to get out with a begging bowl to prove they are needy?

    It is not a secret, that the cost of living in this age is extremely high, property prices are soaring high, home loan interest rates have no guarantee of being stable in future, not to mention one end’s up repaying for the rest of their lives especially when job security is a major concern today. In addition to day-to-day survival expenses children’s education, responsibility of the dependant elderly/ siblings, medical emergencies, and saving for a secure old-age/ unseen situation is the need of the hour. It is easy for those who do not have to worry about having a job tomorrow, to comment on how easy it is to live with such a salary. The challenge is when one needs to fend for their family against all these odds, this amount can seem meagre…

    Mr. Dumasia – Having a 2-wheeler or a car today in this age is a necessity – in a city like Pune where the public transport system is not as strong as Bombay, traveling by rik’s would mean one is richer than those who own a car since money spent on them is far more than maintenance of a car and fuel.
    For eg. if one member of a family spends approx. Rs. 2000/- on a car per month for traveling daily to their workplace the same journey would cost them not less than Rs. 3000- Rs. 5000/- by rik (considering they would spend min. Rs. 60 – 100/- one way i.e. Rs. 120 – 200/- daily for min. of 25 days a month) if they have to travel by a rik. Most of the times traveling by bus is not a viable option due to various reasons known to Puneites who have stayed here long enough to know the shortcomings of the public transport system.

    I feel, the PPP trustees should’ve first built trust by resolving the current issues of the residents viz: security (considering there have been a series of robberies in the colony which till date remain unresolved), cleanliness/ proper garbage disposal and maintenance of the building rather than immediately looking at hiking the rent as they came into power. I personally have suggested that we as a community can contribute towards the environment by looking at proper garbage disposal, water conservation thru rain-water harvesting, installing solar panels so that consumption of power is reduced. A more appropriate approach would’ve been to first have shown some results and benefit to the colony and then I’m sure even if there was reason to increase the rent to achieve such higher aims as a peace-loving community, most of the applicants would’ve been more than happy to comply.

    I fully agree with Mr. Dumasia that there should be fair elections and audit of the accounts, which we had requested but the same had been denied to us for the best known reason to them.

    As much as we would like to settle the matter amicably within closed doors, we have been pushed to seek justice thru lawful means because of our unheard pleas to the PPP. Contrary to what others think, we are extremely grateful for having a roof on our head and still hope that these issues are resolved internally without making them ego-battles…..

  • katie

    Shocking! Parsi’s are universally admired for their charity and kindness and it is distressing to read about the greed and callousness in our tiny community, right on our doorstep! Does it have to take someone from another community and with a large
    heart to take up cudgels on behalf of our own people? Let’s mobilize
    and do something about it…..

  • Nina Daroga

    Dear Pune Zorastrians,

    This is to appeal to all the members of the Zorastrian community to please come and attend the Annual General Meeting of the Pune Parsi Panchayat scheduled for 31st March’11 at 3.00 pm.

    Pune Parsi Panchayat office bearers feel that the case dismissed by the Charity Commissioner is a victory for them – but they are sailing in shallow waters as there is a saying – “one has to know the doors of failure first to achieve success”. It is indeed sad that the office bearers are not utilising the PPP office in the correct spirit and direction.

  • Nina

    Appeal to the Pune Parsi Business Community,

    This is an appeal request to the Poonawallas, Pudumjees, Agas, Pallonji Mistry, Wadia,etc to please attend the AGM of the Pune Parsi Panchayat which is scheduled for 31st March, 2011 at 3.30 pm at Combra Agiary Pudumjee Hall and to question the PPP’s modus operandi.

    It is very unfortunate and unfair that you are entrusting your funds in the wrong hands.

    It is the call of rising against wrong doings and opposing the wrong so that it does not spread like wild fire.

    The community and it’s honesty is at stake and so is the image of Pune Parsi Panchayat Charitable Trust.

  • Shahbehram Irani

    Type your comment here..Thank you very much for finally conducting the 52nd AGM of the PPP on 31st March at 3.30 p.m., which finally got started at 4 p.m. and ended by 5 p.m!

    I wish to state, that the said AGM was conducted in a most undignified and unprofessional manner. The meeting was totally pre-planned and rigged. Well, you will definitely not like what I put on paper, but this is a fact.

    It was observed that two tenants, Mr. Percy Sarkari and Mr. Ginwalla, were targeted on a personal level. This kind of behaviour does not befit a Chairman. Before pointing fingers at others, realise there are 3 fingers pointing towards you. Mr. Ginwalla, who is old and terminally ill should have been handled in a more humane manner. Humanity, I guess is a word, which does not seem to appear in your dictionary.

    Even the Ex-Trustee, Mr. Dara Irani, was not allowed to complete and express his views. If only the cameras were rolling, it would have been easier to prove my point. What really hurt us is that only a few selected people were allowed to voice their opinions, showering praises and flattery. May I ask why weren’t the others allowed to voice their views? Is it because you only wanted to hear the praises and the melodius voices of a select few? This will definitely not take you places. If you want to hear praises, you should also be open to criticism, and listen to the voice of the people, in the right spirit.

    What really upset so many of us was, the Chairman going back on his very words, “You will be given a chance to speak later”. Giving due respect to the Chair, we waited, but the wait never saw the light of the day. Well truth is bitter.

    Now to cut matters short, here are a volley of questions, which I would appreciate if you could reply.

    What is the vision of the PPP as a team? What does PPP mean to you?
    What have you achieved so far?
    Do you plan to develop community lands, which have been lying barren for years? How soon do you plan to do it?
    Will it be developed only for the poor or will it be for the middle class families as well?
    If the lands are not being developed, why should the middle class tenants, who have slowly and gradually come up the ladder, through hard work, be asked to pay exorbitant rents, or else vacate? (Here too, you go back on your words. Mr. Rumi Mehta, you had specifically asked me to vacate by 30th June, 2010. Now, don’t tell me you haven’t said this.)
    Is there a law in the Indian Constitution which states, that if you have reached a certain level of income, you cannot occupy the trust property and the rent will be calculated on the highest income earned by a family member? As far as I am aware, I don’t think it exists. If it did, then why is Mr. Shapurji Pallonji, the 5th richest Indian in the Forbes List, still occupying a trust property in Mumbai. This is the same place, from where he first started his business at Littlewood Pallonji & Company at Cama House, Fort Bombay, which is a trust bldg. For your information, till date, a lamp is lit daily in the room. Now, you will be pleased to know that about 10 years ago, he completely took over the bldg. He flourished because of the land.

    Sir all that I wish to convey is that, Rome was not built in a day. A child also takes 9 months to come out from its mother’s womb.

    When we were allotted the flats, our salaries were not much. We have slowly and steadily with fair practice, toil and hard work come up the ladder. Instead of being happy and seeing the community prosper, you want us to be in debt. I would like to enlighten you about a verse from the Bible which talks about ‘Abundance’.

    “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38).

    God is a god of abundance! He wants to pour out His abundance on you until you are so full that you are running over with His abundance! But, notice how the verse starts. It says, “Give and it will be given to you.” That’s because your giving sets the blessing of God into motion in your life. When you give, you plant a seed. If you were to plant an apple seed, you wouldn’t just grow one single fruit. No, that one seed grows into a tree that produces an abundance of apples! That’s what happens when you obey God in your giving. You get an abundant harvest in return. You reap so much that you have to give it away and the cycle just keeps repeating itself!

    Is there something the Lord is telling you to give today? What do you have in your hand that you can bless someone else with? It can be financial or material, but take a step of faith today and open the door to His abundance in every area of your life!

    The Lord has given you an opportunity to serve the people, in his name, so do it well or not at all. This is all we ask. For heaven’s sake, when you give, please do not belittle the person who receives it and do not degrade the word CHARITY.

    Thanking you and pray that some sense prevails.