Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

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.”