My Response

Trustee Viraf Mehta

PT: The BPP Chairman Yazdi Desai and your three fellow Trustees – Noshir Dadrawala, Zarir Bhathena and Kersi Randeria – have quoted their reason to advertise in Parsi Times (PT) because it makes financial sense since PT publishes the matter for free. Since they wish to save on revenues PT was the obvious choice, especially with Jam-e-Jamshed (JJ) not relenting beyond a 15% Discount. What is your stand on the same, as an elected Trustee and caretaker of our community’s interest, about the preference shown towards BPP spending money on Ads, when one of your prime commitments is saving revenue?
VM: While saving revenue is a concern for the BPP, it is not my prime commitment to the community. My utmost commitment stands to help the poor, deserving and needy of the community and improve the standard of living of all beneficiaries. The issue pertaining to the so called ban imposed upon the Jame is not merely financial. For Noshir Dadrawala and Zarir Bhatena it was the Jame ad-rates that were the issue. But for Mr. Desai and Mr. Randeria, it was personal. This so called ban has been created because of the advertisements carried by the Jame during the last elections where Mrs. Armaity Tirandaz defeated Mrs. Arnavaz Mistry.
The BPP for decades has never had an issue with the Jame rates. The BPP has spent 1.5 lacs in 6 months on ads to the Jame, that’s 25,000 a month. Are you telling me that this is denting the pockets of the BPP? I can have a laundry list of other areas the BPP has spent much more than that, or given discounts bigger than that, but shall refrain for now.
The so called ban on Jame means that henceforth the BPP will only advertise with Kersi Randeria owned Parsi Times (PT). At the outset let us be clear that Parsi Times cannot charge BPP as the owner is now a Trustee of BPP. Earlier BPP used to advertise in both Jame and Mumbai Samachar (MS) whose rate were higher than that of the Jame but for dissemination of news to the maximum number of Parsis, the BPP would still advertise in MS. After Mr. Cama became a Trustee, MS published all advertisements for free because a Trustee cannot earn from the BPP. Thus whilst PT which used to charge before Kersi Randeria became a Trustee, the PT does not charge now. The Jame continues to remain our community’s leading newspaper and hence to attempt to ban them due to a clash of egos is not suitable for the larger interest of our community.

PT: We are informed that when the Trustees wished to write to JJ directly to try and get an additional discount, you insisted on taking this up yourself; and through the last 6 months, you’ve been the sole negotiator between BPP and JJ. Why would u negotiate independent of the Trust? And why were you unable to convince JJ for a better rate?
VM: This is absolutely false. When this issue was raised I volunteered to take this matter up with the editor of Jame and only after the approval of the Entire Board did I start to discuss this with the Jame. Everything I have said and done is in my position as a Trustee of the BPP with due authority of the Board, nothing has been done independently. The Jame is a commercial establishment. It, just like all papers earns revenue through advertisements. They have their restrictions.

PT: As a Trustee, you have taken part in the decision of the housing allotment to Dr. Farokh Master. You signed the Leave and License recently for the same, but it was approved by the Board on 23rd March, 2016. Why is it only now (end June, 2016) – nearly three months later – that you have expressed regret for being party to that decision?
VM: Unfortunately your facts here are incorrect again. In March it was verbally discussed to allot the flat to Mr. Master. At that time the Board was made to believe that Dr. Master was a poor and needy fellow beneficiary. I had constantly requested to see the file of Dr. Master, however his file was not shown to me until end April 2016, by which time the Administration had without publishing his name in an advertisement in the newspaper or without signing LL agreement handed over the keys to him. For an organization like the BPP, every decision takes a time to implement. However, for a case like Dr. Master, the BPP Administration seems to have worked expeditiously to hand over the keys to him on 8th April 2016. I have raised serious objections in the Board for the manner in which this case was handled by the Administration. Further I was shocked when I learnt that Dr. Master was neither poor nor needy. He earns over Rs. 2.4 a month and is the owner of more than 2 houses. But then after our Wadia Committee meeting last week, and as fellow Trustee Noshir Dadrewala posted, the allotment to Dr. Master is no more a question of allotting a flat to the poor, needy or deserving but it was the allotment was based on the request of Mr Nusli Wadia to the BPP Trustees, taking into account the vast philanthropy and charity done by his ancestors. In 54 years, Mr. Nusli Wadia has recommended 5 BPP flats for allotment. Hence, based on Mr. Nusli Wadia’s personal request, ignoring the merits of the case, and taking his family’s contribution to our community the Board of Trustees agreed to the preferential allotment of a flat to Dr. Master.

PT: If the Chairman and your fellow Trustees express similar regret, should the matter be put to rest now? Does expressing regret absolve/reduce your sense of responsibility for what was a supposedly collective decision?
VM: How each Trustees decides to react is entirely up to them. Just because a decision is made by a collective, that doesn’t mean it is always the right decision, especially when it was not done openly. I am all about transparency, a sentiment shared by some but not all of my other co-Trustees. As Noshir Dadrawala told me at our Board meeting recently, “This Board should have nothing to hide and be 100% transparent, as long as all the facts are disclosed”. A sentiment I completely echo.  Sometimes decisions are made on half-truths, which if need be, can be rectified when the full facts come to light. I have been elected by my beloved community members to serve the BPP and its beneficiaries. I will constantly endeavour to do what I feel is right and honest. If I err along the way, I will have no hesitation in admitting my mistake, correcting it, learning from it and ensuring it doesn’t happen again. I am not here to play politics and settle petty differences from the past or present. During my election I said the same, I want bygones to be bygones because we have so much work to do. But if certain individuals cannot let go of the past, it is tragically their folly, which I hope the community doesn’t end up paying for.

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