‘Jiyo Parsi scheme helps in halting population decline'

The population of the community -- one of India’s six notified minority communities -- plunged from 1.14 lakh in 1941 to 57,264 in 2011, prompting the Centre to launch the scheme in September 2013 to arrest the dwindling numbers.

The central government and the Parzor Foundation, a community organisation, adopted a multi-pronged approach of advocacy (counselling), medical and financial assistance to couples seeking help under the scheme, Parzor Foundation director Dr Shernaz Cama told PTI.

Of the 261 children, 197 were born in Mumbai -- which has the largest concentration of Parsis in the country -- according to foundation, which has been implementing the initiative of the Union Minority Affairs Ministry.

"So far, 261 children have been born as part of the Jiyo Parsi (live Parsi) ever since its launch, adding to the community’s population, Cama said.

In Pune district of Maharashtra, 11 children were born under the scheme, while in Gujarats Surat, Navsari and Valsad 13, nine and four kids, respectively, were born, 'Jiyo Parsi' programme counsellor Pearl Mistry said.

Besides, six children were born at Bengaluru in Karnataka, she informed.

States like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have reported birth of one or two children each over the period.

Fourteen children were born under the scheme in 2014, while during 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, the community saw 38, 28, 58, 38 and 58 children, respectively, added to its strength.

This year, 25 babies have entered the world so far, Mistry said.

The drop in the birth rate in the community, whose members are located chiefly in the capital of Maharashtra and parts of Gujarat, is ascribed to socio-psychological reasons, Cama said.

These include factors like Parsis having late marriages or not marrying, members marrying people outside the community and also many couples not willing to have children.

Demographically, 31% of the Parsis are aged above 60 years and around 30% are unmarried.

The total fertility rate of the community women is 0.8. That means, a Parsi woman in her child bearing age has less than one child on an average, Cama said.

Under the scheme, a Parsi family having an annual income of Rs 15 lakh or below gets 100% financial assistance, those having yearly income between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 25 lakh get 75% assistance and the ones earning Rs 25 lakh or more are entitled for 50% help, she said.

The assistance is given for consultation, diagnostics, fertility treatment, cost of medicines, hospitalisation, pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery expenses to ensure proper health and survival of the mother and child.

The scheme also provides monetary assistance of Rs 4,000 per head to support the elderly (aged above 60) and children (for creche support up to the age of 8) to lessen the financial strain on Parsi couples -- in a way helping them to think of having kids, Cama said.

"We have a whole generation of single children (couples having only one child)...a boy when he grows up and gets married, he is responsible for his parents and the girl, when she becomes wife, is responsible for her parents, the official said.

"So, there is a strain (on a couple) of looking after four elderly people...it is not easy to manage...it becomes emotionally and economically draining. So, we are now helping the elderly and children to reduce the stress on the couple, she said.

"It has made a difference in the approach to having a second child, she added.

Cama said till now, 140 elderly members have been supported (through couples) under the scheme, while the number of children who benefited thus is 167.

In addition to this, the foundation has carried out 381 advocacy events across the country, Mistry said.

Meanwhile, the Jiyo Parsi team has also started telephonic counselling through experts to assist people of all communities who are facing anxiety/psychological issues due to the COVID-19 crisis, she added.

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