The twins have landed.
Another eight arrivals are expected by the year-end.
A central scheme that encourages Parsis to multiply has sired twins, in a double delight for the community whose numbers have been dwindling over the years.
A community veteran confirmed the new additions — a girl and a boy. “Last week, a Parsi woman from Mumbai gave birth to twins and the entire community is delighted. It is something incredible considering the fast-dwindling population,” Dadi E. Mistry, a member of the National Commission for Minorities, told The Telegraph.
So excited are Parsis that they are planning to celebrate the births on November 14 in Sanjan, a small town in Gujarat that borders Maharashtra, where members will congregate to mark what they describe as a “big step ahead”.
“Every newborn baby is a big step ahead as the community is staring at extinction. The news calls for a big celebration,” Mistry, who represents Parsis in the minority panel, said. Among Parsis, the death rate is three times the birth rate.
About the expected births, he said: “The community is waiting with bated breath.”
According to the 2001 census, India has around 60,000 Parsis. In Calcutta, their numbers have dwindled by more than half in three decades — from 1,600 in the 1980s to around 700 now.
The birth of the twins is the first directly linked to the government-sponsored Jiyo Parsi scheme the Congress-led UPA had cleared last year to boost the community’s numbers. Officials in the minority affairs ministry said this was the first such scheme in the world aimed at increasing the population of a community.
The UPA II government had also made budgetary allocations under the 12th Five Year Plan for the scheme, being implemented by the Parzor Foundation. “The government scheme has started bearing fruit,” said Shernaz Cama, the director of the Delhi-based NGO that works to preserve the Zoroastrian heritage of Parsis.
The woman, who had been expecting the twins, said it was a “dream come true” for her and her husband, who works in an MNC. “We had lost all hope but the babies have brought all the happiness in our lives,” she said over the phone. “We are thankful to the government.”
Under the scheme, which has been allotted Rs 10 crore for the next four years, Parsi couples can go for IVF treatment and other methods of artificial insemination. A minority ministry official said Parsis, “by nature conservative”, were initially reluctant to register with the scheme. “But we set up health camps and engaged community leaders to raise awareness programmes, which helped. At present, over 50 childless couples are undergoing IVF treatment.”
Parzor Foundation director Cama said the NGO has approached actors Boman Irani and Perizaad Zorabian to become brand ambassadors for the project. “The motive is to encourage community youths to marry at an earlier age as girls and boys in the community are more career oriented. By the time they reach 35-40, it becomes difficult to conceive,” Cama said.
According to a survey by the ministry, late marriages and the decision to stay single were the main reasons behind the fall in numbers. Some 30 per cent Parsis remain single.