Bombay Parsi Punchayet Faces Backlash As 'Jiyo Parsi' Beneficiaries Await Overdue Payments

Bombay Parsi Punchayet Faces Backlash As 'Jiyo Parsi' Beneficiaries Await Overdue Payments

The trust owes more than Rs5 crore to around 300 families, according to one estimate.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Friday, March 08, 2024, 10:38 PM IST
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Even as the Centre has announced enhanced child benefits and fertility assistance under the 'Jiyo Parsi' scheme for Parsi-Zoroastrians to combat their declining population, the apex community trust, the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) has not been paying the beneficiaries since 2019. The trust owes more than Rs5 crore to around 300 families, according to one estimate. The BPP chairman told the FPJ that they are in the process of clearing the arrears.

BPP's financial assistance

The BPP offers financial assistance to families to have a second or third child. In July 1993, it had drawn up a child support scheme of Rs1,000 per month for a second and third child born after April 1993. In April 2010, the aid was increased to Rs3,000 per month for a second child and Rs5,000 per month for a third child. 

The payments continued till June 2019 when the assistance was stopped. The BPP – one of the biggest property owners in the city,  with thousands of houses leased out or rented out to community members – apparently became cash-strapped. According to the community newspaper ‘Parsi Junction’, the backlog has risen to Rs4.35 crore payable to more than 270 families till September 2023.

"Will be clearing another year’s backlog shortly"

Citing cash constraints, BPP chairman Viraf Mehta said, “Just a few weeks ago we cleared one full year’s backlog and will be clearing another year’s backlog shortly.” Apologising for the inconvenience to beneficiaries, he sought cooperation owing to their financial situation.

The community, however, is sceptical about the promises made. Jehangir Patel, the editor of the community magazine Parsiana, said that the BPP has to pay arrears of salaries and subsidies for priests, apart from the dues to couples. “Plus money is owed to tenants and licensees who have paid the BPP’s share in addition to their own for building repairs. The proceeds from the proposed sale of the Bai Mahal building (a trust-owned building in Tardeo that is planned to be sold amidst allegations that the sale price is low) will barely cover the dues, assuming the proposal goes through.” He said the BPP made a loss of almost Rs5 crore for 2022-23 and Rs7 crore the previous financial year.

Jiyo Parsi scheme

The Jiyo Parsi scheme, which is around a decade old, has been recently revamped to allow beneficiaries direct access to financial assistance for fertility treatments, instead of having to go through a private agency. The scheme is credited for an extra 400 births in the dwindling community, estimated to be less than 60,000 in the 2011 census. 

The Jiyo Parsi scheme, which is around a decade old, has been recently revamped to allow beneficiaries direct access to financial assistance for fertility treatments, instead of having to go through a private agency. The scheme is credited for an extra 400 births in the dwindling community, estimated to be less than 60,000 in the 2011 census. Ava Khuller, president of the Delhi Parsi Anjuman and the president of PARZOR (Parsi-Zoroastrian) Foundation, a UNESCO-sponsored group to document and promote the community's culture, said that the Jiyo Parsi scheme was not just aimed at increasing the birth rate.

"The scheme also has incentives to help families care for elders. Because of the large number of unmarried people and longevity in the community, most young people have uncles and aunts who need to be cared for. This responsibility often leads to young people choosing not to have children of their own," said Khuller. 

Meanwhile, there is also a demand for an increase in doles to Rs10,000 and Rs20,000 per month for a second and third child born after January 1, 2024.

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