More on Indian Minority

Photo Courtesy : Jiyo Parsi Scheme

´JiyoParsi´: Increasing the Baby Count »

The dwindling Parsi community in India is increasing its population under the auspices of Government of India’s ‘JiyoParsi’ scheme which supports infertility treatments for Parsi Zoroastrian couples. The scheme was cleared by the UPA-II government and a budgetary allocation of Rupees ten crore was made for the next four years under the 12th Five-Year Plan. In October, 2014, a Parsi woman in Mumbai gave birth to twins. Eight other babies are expected by the year end.

The Parsi population in India fell to 69001 in 2001 from 114,890 in 1941. According to Dadi E. Mistry, a member of the National Commission for Minorities, among Parsis the death rate is three times the birth rate. The number of babies born in a year within the community has never gone beyond 200 since 2001 when it touched 223. “Every new baby is a big step ahead as the community is staring at extinction. The news calls for a big celebration,” says Mistry.

There are two components to the ´JiyoParsi´ scheme – Advocacy and Medical component. Under the advocacy component Parsi families are counselled to encourage early marriages among the community´s youth, to get treatment for medical issues from puberty onwards, plan parenthood at the right time and opt for infertility treatment as soon as the problem is detected. The medical component involves treating fertility issues as soon as they are detected. Under this, financial assistance is provided for investigation and detection of infertility, financial assistance for counselling and fertility treatment for the couples detected with fertility issues and financial assistance for infertility treatment.

The ’JiyoParsi’ scheme is applicable only to married Parsi couples and fertility treatment would involve the use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), including any of the following procedures- Follicular monitoring intrauterine Insemination (IUI), In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). Financial assistance for treatment is provided on submission of original bills and includes costs of investigation, medicines, embryology, hospital stay and post-medical assistance. For couples with an annual income of Rs 10 lakh and below, 100% assistance is offered. For couples with an annual income between Rs 10-15 lakh it is 75% and for those with an annual income between Rs 15-20 lakh the assistance is of 50%.

About 30 Parsi couples are undergoing IVF under the scheme at present, according to officials in the Ministry for Minority Affairs. The Scheme is being implemented in partnership with the Parzor Foundation, an organization involved in the preservation and promotion of Parsi Zoroastrian Culture and Heritage. Parzor volunteers are counselling the conservative Parsis to go for infertility treatments in case they have fertility issues.

While making the population count, the Parsi community has another problem. Even though the baby born to a Parsi boy and a non-Parsi girl is accepted within the community, a baby born to a Parsi girl from a non-Parsi boy is not considered as a Parsi. In Delhi, things are changing and children from mixed marriages between Parsi girls and non-Parsi boys are now being included in the community count but in Mumbai, which has the largest Parsi population in the country, there is still resistance to the move.

On the downside, some of the advertisements released by the Government of India to promote the scheme has come in for criticism from the community as they take pot shots at late marriages among Parsis and single status of middle-aged Parsi men. The advertisements also exhort women to go for early marriage and pregnancy as the norm rather than a matter of choice.

Posted on November 14, 2014

--- The Indian Minority