Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 30. Parsis, facing demographic peril, have found a close friend in the Congress-led UPA Government which is keen on helping the community improve its overall fertility rates which have been plummeting.
Towards this end, the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the nodal ministry for listed minorities, has firmed up a plan which includes sharing the cost of infertility treatment of Parsi couples.
The community, which has shrunk in numbers from a decent 1.14 lakh in 1941 to 69,601 in 2001, has been urging the Centre for long to help married, childless couples with counselling and infertility treatment.
At their own level, the community has been trying to do whatever it can to arrest rapid decline in its numbers, with Census 2011 showing even further decline.
The community wants the Centre to help them with the existing schemes such as the ones being run by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), which counsels infertile Parsi couples and has medical facilities to help them access treatment. But the treatment cost is prohibitive in most cases and that’s where the Parsis want the government to help.
Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid yesterday said the ministry had approached the Planning Commission with a scheme to help Parsis out of this unprecedented population decline. “The scheme would be hopefully included in the 12th Plan,” he said.
Infertility among Parsi couples is the area the scheme will principally target. “Infertility is the biggest cause behind a dwindling population of the Parsis. And the good part is that the Parsis themselves admit this and are keen to seek treatment — something we don’t normally see. We are trying to produce medical and demographic evidence of the decline in the numbers of Parsis and are also exploring the possible engagements on the front of sharing the cost of infertility treatment with the community,” Minority Affairs sources said.
The community is being represented in this fight by noted Parsi poet Keki Daruwala, winner of the Sahitya Akademi award and a former member of the National Commission for Minorities. He recently wrote to Planning Commission member Syeda Hamid seeking help for the community to arrest its declining population.
The letter was accompanied by evidence from Parsi researchers who have identified infertility as a major problem.
The research by one Dinyar Patel, a Parsi, concludes that the population decline in the community is on account of sociological issues not biological. Patel says in the research that dramatic fall in fertility rates was one cause and it was “social and behavioural”.
Parsis marrying late or not marrying at all were fuelling infertility in the community.
It is here that Daruwala has sought the Planning Commission’s help to approve a scheme which would cost about Rs 20 crore to fund infertility treatment of Parsi couples at the existing clinics run by Parsis.