Quit The Witch-hunt! Face The Truth!!

Trustee Kersi Randeria

PT: You’ve always preferred to stay low key and away from the public eye, much to the ire of your editors. However, during the last elections and the past couple of weeks, your name has been liberally used in the negative context as the owner of PT who’s also a BPP Trustee. Your reaction?
KR: Till September 2015, I was comfortable in not seeing my name or photograph in print particularly in my own newspaper. But my decision to contest the BPP elections reluctantly forced me to accept the idea of seeing my photo and my views in the press. But the unbelievably cheap and dishonest potshots taken against me left a very bad taste in the mouth.

PT: Parsi Times is constantly attacked by some individuals, simply because you are the owner. Why so?
KR: It is extremely disturbing that baseless and untrue allegations are made against Parsi Times by individuals with malicious intentions, even though these individuals are all of a handful. Over the past five years PT has established itself as the unbiased platform for all factions, groups and individuals to express their views freely – the orthodox and the reformists, the young and seniors, men and women – all get free space to share their views equally. Maybe this is what makes those individuals uncomfortable as they are always catering to divisive politics, whereas my philosophy as a Trustee and PT’s vision has a progressive, unifying intent.


PT: Last Sunday, the Editor of Jam-e-Jamshed, Shernaaz Engineer said in her paper, “Parsi Times giving the BPP free advertisements is not a logical argument, as they cannot charge the BPP a single rupee with the owner being a sitting Trustee.” Your response?

KR: Strangely, my colleague Trustee Viraf Mehta used almost these exact same words in the Board Room when discussing this issue. Let’s hope this is a simple co-incidence. However, Ms. Engineer needs to be more responsible and know what she is talking about, as opposed to parroting words that she’s been asked to! Section 13 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 should set her mind at rest and convince her that what she has claimed is not true.

Here I would like to state, for the record, that I am aware that Parsi Times can legally charge the BPP for its advertisements, as per the law. However I have taken a conscious decision not to charge my Trust – not because of the law of the land but simply because I Do Not Want To! It may be difficult for some individuals to understand such commitments to the community, leave aside lauding such acts. But it would only be fair and in good taste if they did not make comments and assertions without knowing the law.PT: Shernaaz Engineer has also quoted, “…just the way Mumbai Samachar cannot charge as Muncherji Cama is also a Trustee.” She has also said that incidentally Mr. Cama has never tried to block or ban Jame by using the bizarre argument that since Mumbai Samachar is printing BPP Ads/Announcements free of cost, Jame should give a 50% discount or be debarred.’

KR: Shernaaz’s tirade against PT and me is a lesson in how a person, particularly an Editor, and more specifically an Editor who claims that she is running an independent newspaper that does not take sides and alleges political vendetta. etc, must not make statements/allegations without bothering to verify the facts… After claims made by Shernaaz Engineer and Viraf Mehta about Muncherji Cama and Mumbai Samachar, I inquired with the administration and was informed that the BPP HAS BEEN MAKING PAYMENTS TO MUMBAI SAMACHAR! I have with me copies of two bills of Mumbai Samachar – Bill No. 9321/286 dated 14-2-16 for Rs. 16,320 and Bill No. 9448/424 dated 5/3/16 for Rs. 51,000/-. The same were shown to Trustee Viraf Mehta during the Board meeting on 5th July, 2016 and if Ms. Shernaaz Engineer so desires, I can send her the copies too or she could verify the same with Viraf, if she prefers.

Please look at the facts. Stand-alone BPP accounts show a loss of 6.32 crore in FY 13-14 and 3.66 crore in FY 14-15. The Board spends hours negotiating with the hoarding contractors, water suppliers etc., for small sums of Rs.10,000/- to Rs.15,000/- a month! I have spent hours with all of them, one on one, generally on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons, in the Board Room – pleading and fighting with them for sums as low as Rs. 4,000/- a month! Compare these efforts with the amount of around Rs. 1.5 lakh that we paid Jam-e-Jamshed from bill dated November 2nd 2015 up to bill dated March 16th 2016 – just 4 ½ months!!
Also, six months ago, we decided to write to JJ to request a higher discount than the 10% that the Trust was getting. We were aware that JJ gave more than the 10% discount to other advertisers. Viraf refused to allow us to write directly to Jame, insisting that he had an “excellent” personal rapport with Shernaaz and he would therefore be the right person to negotiate with her. For the first few weeks he claimed to have “forgotten” to talk to Shernaaz. To our surprise and discomfort, he told us that the editor was not willing to give us more than 15%. We insisted that he try again. He informed us that he did and she reused. After trying for 5 to 6 months, even the Chairman gave up.

PT: You’ve been accused as the owner of PT to enjoy ‘unfair advantage’. Your comments?
KR: Rubbish! Just a comparative look at the number of pages of advertisement given to Viraf Mehta in PT and those that carried my advertisements during the October 2015 elections will surprise you to note that Viraf was given more advertising space in PT than I was! And this was over and above the huge number of pages that he took in Jam-e-Jamshed, where my name only appeared in negative allegations, which, needless to say, were false and reflected badly on the advertisers and the publication. Sadly, during that crucial period, Jam-e-Jamshed viewed my decision to contest the elections as an opportunity to sully my name and the reputation of PT through third party advertisements/comments.

PT: How do you react to what Shernaaz has called a “ban” of Jam-e-Jamshed (JJ) by the BPP?
KR: Jame has NOT been banned as a publication for its reportage, it’s just that the Board has decided not to advertise with them anymore as it is costing the Board and thereby, the community! Surprisingly, once again it was only Trustee Viraf Mehta who used that word “BAN” in the BPP last Tuesday. When it was pointed out to him that a ‘ban’ was never discussed, leave aside proposed and accepted, he admitted that somehow that word had “gotten stuck in his head!”
It was not the majority of the Trustees or me who took the first step. The Chairman, Yazdi Desai, who is handling the herculean task of managing finances, decided to stop advertising with Jame. Surprisingly when Jame noted that they were not getting the advertisements, Shernaaz did not write to or speak to the Board of Trustees. She spoke to Viraf Mehta who raised the issue. Three of the Trustees said no to wasting the much needed community revenue and supported the Chairman’s decision not to advertise. Shernaaz’s immature endeavor to once again try and target me by saying that Dadrawala and Bhathena ‘were not very much in favour of the “ban” tells its own story of Jame never having “written anything against the BPP and its Trustees”! Sadly, once again Shernaaz has not gotten her facts right. My question to her is why is she merely relying on hearsay? Why does she irresponsibly make wrong allegations, pass innuendos and commit such glaring faux pas based on input from just one Trustee? It sort of makes one wonder about all her claims about independent press, etc.!

PT: In Mid-day, Shernaaz Engineer has directly attacked you saying that PT is BPP’s favoured publication, because you are now a Trustee, and therefore the BPP has chosen PT to channel its media interaction. What would you say to that?
KR: As an editor of a publication, Shernaaz crossed the line by attacking PT and me, especially in the main-line media. Only recently, a Parsi beneficiary has accused Shernaaz and her family through an email that was sent to all Parsi publications! PT’s editor and owner, both showed the necessary respect for the editor of a sister publication and did not publish the letter, much to the ire of the gentleman who wrote it, even though the facts he presented were prima facie correct. There are some lines that should not be crossed. However, Shernaaz has attacked me and my paper, through unbelievably dishonest and disgusting ‘paid advertisements’ as well as her own comments, including but not restricted to attacking me, simply for being in ‘business’! Despite that, I refused to believe that an editor of a community newspaper would give her comments through email to other main-line newspapers. I’m learning that respect is sometimes a one-way street.
PT: It seemed like finally things were moving well for a while. But overnight there was this raging controversy in JJ and the mainline media. How and why did that happen?
KR: Let’s take the case of Dr. Master. It was approved by the Board on 23rd March, 2016. It was approved along the same lines as any other flat approval in the Donor’s quota. All six Trustees signed the Leave and Licence agreement. After more than three months, Viraf Mehta says he is personally unhappy. Why?
The answer lies in the fact that somewhere in mid-February 2016, we received a written complaint about the allotment of a 2-rooms plus kitchen flat to Viraf Kapadia, who, it was alleged, was done a massive favour only because the building in which he lived before moving to Godrej Baug, is presently owned by Dinshaw Mehta. This was thoroughly investigated by one of the Trustees and a 35-page report (including xerox copies of all relevant papers) was put up before the Board on 21st June 2016.
23rd March : Dr. Master’s flat is approved and L&L agreement executed thereafter.
21st June : Viraf Kapadia’s Investigation Report is put up before the Board
Immediately therafter, the Dr. Master allotment takes wing. Go figure….Viraf Kapadia’s old flat is now a big automobile spare parts shop, which probably fetches a few lakh rupees per month as rent. In a letter to the Board in 2001, Dinshaw Mehta claimed that Viraf Kapadia sold his flat for Rs. 15 lakhs, of which he gave 5 lakhs to the BPP (a figure which even the then CEO Dastur questioned as being ridiculously low). So, he gave Rs.5 lakhs allegedly to his old “landlord” and kept Rs.5 lakhs for himself. These facts are not on the record of the Trust. All that the records show is that he is “rewarded” for helping in the Bhika Behram Well issue and a 1-room kitchen flat is allotted to his family. The day on which Viraf Kapadia was handed the keys, and even before he moved into the flat, he demanded a larger flat, and viola! A 2-room flat was allotted to him in the ‘Donor’s Quota’! Why? Because he and his brother were likely to get married!!
Interestingly, in that period, the building gets purchased in the name of a lady, the wife of a very old friend of Dinshaw Mehta, who is also his business partner. And the cost of the building? FOUR LAKHS! (Please remember here that the flat was sold for 15 lakhs!!!). And finally in 2010, the building gets transferred to the name of Dinshaw Mehta who ‘purchases’ the building for 25 lakhs!
Who would not be worried if such facts came out? So, in order to prevent this from coming out, diversionary tactics needed to be employed to try and discredit those who could expose these facts before the community.

PT: Viraf Kapadia and Rayomand Zaiwalla seem to constantly write against BPP. Who are these people and do they have an axe to grind with the BPP?
KR: Viraf Kapadia has a long history with Dinshaw Mehta. In fact, he is the cause of the present diversionary attack by Dinshaw Mehta. Zaiwala was one of the petitioners in the High Court in the election case in March 2016, and he and his co-petitioners opposed the appointment of Court-appointed officers to oversee the elections – that the Trustees had requested the Hon’ble Court to appoint. The Trustees view was upheld by the Hon’ble Justice Shri Kathawalla in his chambers that evening, but the bonafides of Zaiwala and Kapadia stood exposed before the Court and the community. Maybe Zaiwala should explain why he was against the appointment of High Court officers to oversee the April elections that the Trustees of the BPP (barring Viraf Mehta) insisted upon?

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