A week ago, the Jiyo Parsi Scheme administered by PARZOR and set up by the Government of India launched an advertising campaign. The campaign and the advertisements went viral and have incited a variety of opinions. While most opinions have been extremely positive, there have been a very few voices that have used the campaign as a ways and means to address any and all problems that the community faces.
Below are two voices of reason that we would like to highlight. We leave it to our readers to make up their minds.
Jehangir Cama writes:
There has been criticism from some corners with regards to the fact that the Jiyo Parsi programme does not help cases in which a Parsi woman has married outside the community. This has been used as a basis with which to question the very concept of the Jiyo Parsi campaign and project.
I would like to point out that this is not a question that the Jiyo Parsi programme can address – a Government of India funded campaign is bound to follow the legal definition of a Parsi. Attacking the Jiyo Parsi campaign on this basis makes little sense. No one is invoking ‘racial purity’; the programme is simply following the Law.
In my personal opinion it is unfortunate that the only apparent legal definition of a Parsi in India is as a ‘Parsi Zoroastrian’. The two terms, Parsi and Zoroastrian, are not the same. Parsi refers to an ethnicity. So in the case of intermarriage, whether the father or mother is Parsi is irrelevant- the child is 50% Parsi by ethnicity. But anyone who has had a Navjote performed by an ordained priest is a Zoroastrian. To address the issue of the rights of intermarried Parsi women, one has to address this legal conundrum and attempt to change the definition. This is not within the purview of the Jiyo Parsi project. I would urge the people raising this issue to actually take some proactive steps to make this change a reality, rather than simply sit and criticise people who are trying to make a difference.
Coming back to the crux of the JP campaign- as was mentioned by one of the panellists in the NDTV broadcast, no one is being forced into anything; this is just an advertisement campaign, with suggestions being put forward. It is unfortunate that the only way to save the Parsi population is to increase the total fertility rate (see http://www.demographic-research.org/…/vol25/17/25-17.pdf). Accepting the children of intermarried female Parsis is not enough to stem the decline. Like it or not, Parsis need to have more children; the numbers are deeply disturbing. If this ad campaign has shocked the community into awareness, then it’s done its job. It might be hard hitting for some but it is absolutely necessary. And I am not prepared to admit defeat when it comes to a population revival- it just requires an increase in the fertility rate, which is achievable. Contrary to some I am actually keen on preventing the Parsis from going extinct, and we should be grateful that the Government has offered this help, rather than rejecting it on baseless grounds.
There are people for whom this programme has already fulfilled their dream of parenthood- there are medical infertility issues rampant in the community which was the reason the scheme was conceived of in the first place. Late marriage is a very common cause of infertility, so what is wrong with IVF and other medical help being offered to such people?
Another criticism of the advertisements has been that it pressurises women, and depicts them as baby-making machines. The advertisements simply state openly what many in the community, and indeed what many in the wider world accept. There is a need for every individual to figure out an appropriate work-life balance. This is just as true for men as for women. It is a biological fact that the older a woman is, the harder it is to have children. The advertisements are there to just remind an extremely workaholic, career-driven community of this fact. Again, no one is putting a gun to your head and saying have kids; the advertisements are just pointing out the reasons behind the decline in the Parsi population and suggesting ways that might correct this decline.
Finally, though a lot is being done at present to record the culture and traditions of the Parsis for posterity, surely the best way to save the culture is to prevent its practitioners from going extinct? This is the (admittedly ambitious) aim of the Jiyo Parsi programme. As mentioned earlier, increasing the TFR is the only way to prevent extinction, and if nothing is done then yes, the Parsis will become extinct. So if there is a chance to do something about this, what is wrong with trying it out?
Jehangir Cama is currently studying in the United Kingdom.
Dr Zinobia Madan writes
The merits of the JIyo Parsi Programme should not/can not be linked to this ad campaign. The Programme has been launched & funded by the Ministry of Minority Affairs with good will for our community & appreciating our communities’ contributions to our nation over the years. What is important now is to focus on this programme, conduct it with dignity, ethically, respect sensitivity of our community members, respect total confidentiality of the beneficiaries of this Scheme as we have agreed with the Ministry and enrol participants with Informed Consent, by which we ensure that only by their own willingness they have participated and not by any force or coercion. Infact. all these points have been laid down in our Proposal at submission to the Ministry and also at the launch programme during my presentation. As long as the science, ethics and necessity of precision record keeping of patients – all fundamental points with which the Programme was conceptualised are not jeopardised, there are at this stage no major causes of concern. At the same time, if some of our couples are deriving benefit from this Govt Scheme, its good for them to go ahead considering the costing of the IVF treatment.
Lets keep right now the unmarried Parsis for a separate well thought of, well planned Programme with an objective to increasing community size by increasing marraige rate, in which case this Programme would have some Parsi couples who would marry and probably even conceive at early age and would not even need to seek the Fertility route.
Also generalisations that all Parsi boys are mamma’s boys and all Parsi girls are snooty sound inappropriate when discussed widely in public forums and outside Parsi circles.In today’s times both Parsi boys and girls present themselves quite confident and independent, and I don’t see them depending on the advise of their parents for taking vital decisions while at the same time taking their own decisions without disrespecting them.
I think that since we have been the preferred / chosen community by the Govt of India to benefit from such a Scheme, for a change lets all say a big “yes, we will make it happen,” rather than being our usual selves, debating on whether it should happen or not, fault-finding and arguing the merits and demerits of this Programme even if it does or does not concern our family & involving so many unrelated issues of no consequences whatsoever.
We are an educated community, we know for ourselves what is best for us. Ad campaigns of this nature have an intent of creating awareness and the community is by and large quite aware of this Programme even before the campaign as the media had covered our Proceedings well enough on an all India basis.
Now is the time that the real enrolment of Parsi couples need to happen.Let us await to see the figures rising soon and the community celebrating many more births of beautiful, healthy and intelligent newborns.
All will agree on one point at least that our unique genes even though a bit eccentric, are not worth wasting.
Dr Zinobia Madan, PhD, MAMS, FIMSA, FICN, Founder & Managing Director, ClinOma Healthcare
Dr Zinobia Madan is a Healthcare Entrepreneur, Nutrition & Wellness Consultant, Clinical Researcher & Social Scientist. She is also Consultant – Phamaceuticals, Healthcare & Medico Marketing. She is Special Invitee on the Executive Committee of Indo – American Society. She has been earlier involved with JIYO PARSI from concept to launch.