The Parsi community in India is paying couples to have children, says a study by the National Commission for Minorities on Parsi birth rate. Census figures show their population declined by 40 per cent in the years between 1941 and 2001.
Mehli Colah, CEO of Bombay Parsi Panchayat, confirmed this to HT from Mumbai. “We have been paying Rs 1,000 per month for the third and subsequent children to Parsi/Irani Zoroastrians per month. The amount is given till the children reach the age of 18. At the moment we are paying 137 children disbursing Rs 16.44 lakh per annum.”
The DINK (Double Income No Kid) formula being followed by educated professional couples is a one of the reasons for decline. Besides nearly 30-40 per cent Parsi women entering inter-religious marriages is another factor.
As per the ‘Research Project Report on All India Birth Rate of Parsi-Zoroastrians from 2001 till August 15, 2007’ prepared by NCM member Mehroo D. Bengalee: “Twenty per cent of Parsis reach 50 without getting married and all this adds to one conclusion: Parsi fertility rates have fallen sharply.”
The community has never been larger than 1,15,000, the report said. The 2001 census put the total number of Parsis at just 69,601 — even less than one per cent of the Indian population — down from 1991 figure of 76,382.
“Today a debate is raging over the best way to preserve a group that survived domination by Muslims in Persia and migration to India,” says the report.
The major reasons identified for the decline in birth rates was late and non-marriages due to increasing urbanisation, education, westernisation and economic independence and emancipation of women. The number of Parsi women between 15 and 44 years who got married has been steadily falling. Between 1961-1999 it’s come down to 35 per cent. The same is true of Parsi men, the report adds.
“It was rightly pointed out by the editor of a Parsi magazine: ‘The Parsi decline is the price the community is paying for its women’s education,’” the report said.