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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

After 214 births, government to boost ‘Jiyo Parsi’ scheme

The Centre announced the Jiyo Parsi Scheme in September 2013 to check the declining Parsi population. According to the Union minority affairs ministry, the population declined from about 114,000 in 1941 to 57,264 in 2011.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2019 05:53 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Buoyed by the results, the government is considering allocating more funds for the scheme for the next financial year, they added.
Buoyed by the results, the government is considering allocating more funds for the scheme for the next financial year, they added.(HT file photo)
         

A government scheme that offers cash assistance to encourage Parsi couples to have children has resulted in 214 births over the last five years through assisted reproductive techniques (ART), according to officials aware of the development.

Buoyed by the results, the government is considering allocating more funds for the scheme for the next financial year, they added.

The Centre announced the Jiyo Parsi Scheme in September 2013 to check the declining Parsi population. According to the Union minority affairs ministry, the population declined from about 114,000 in 1941 to 57,264 in 2011.

There is no clarity on the fertility rate in the community, but ministry officials estimate it is under one per woman.

The officials said that after money for the scheme was allocated, the first birth through ART or medical procedures to address infertility, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), was registered in 2014.

Infertility and late marriages are among the main reasons for the rapid decline in the Parsi population, according to Parzor Foundation, which works for the promotion and preservation of Zoroastrian (Parsi) culture and implements the scheme with the help of organisations like the Bombay Parsi Panchayat. According to the foundation, 30% of the Parsi population has never married.

The tiniest of India’s religious minorities, the earliest Parsis came to the subcontinent more than 1,000 years ago from Persia. Over the centuries, they maintained their distinct customs but integrated themselves into Indian society. Maharashtra has the highest Parsi population in the country, followed by Gujarat.

The scheme comprises the advocacy as well as medical components. Under the advocacy programme, workshops are held to create awareness about the dwindling numbers in the community. For fertility issues, financial assistance is provided for detection and treatment.

Under the scheme, there is an overall ceiling of ₹8 lakh for ART, including surrogacy per couple, per child born. The scheme is applicable to all couples, irrespective of their financial status.

The Centre-sponsored scheme has a ₹12 crore budgetary allocation for the financial year 2019-2020. Based on the review of the scheme, the government will consider if there is a need to increase the amount, said a person familiar with the developments.

Shernaz Cama, a member of Parzor Foundation’s executive council, said that there have been 214 births through ART since 2014. “We get a lot of messages from people who meet through our matrimonial and advocacy programmes and announce the birth of their babies, but do not keep track of such births,’’ Cama said. She added that they are now waiting for the fresh census data in 2021 to see what has been the real impact of the scheme as well as the advocacy programmes that they run.

Cama said that several interventions apart from increasing the funds for the scheme were required to prevent the population from dipping further, adding that norms designed to encourage only two kids should not be enforced in case of the Parsi community. “In one case where a couple decided to have a third child, they faced great difficulty in getting the child admitted to school since there was a rule that barred the third child from the same family from being admitted,’’ said Cama. Parzor Foundation runs an advocacy programme to encourage Parsis to marry early and to have more than one child. It will now hold bimonthly workshops to address the concerns of people from the community.

Cama said that since the community also has a high dependency ratio (the number of dependents per working person, which is higher among Parsis as most couples have only one child), there is a need to increase the allowance for the maintenance of the aged as well.