This is my second address as Chairman of the BPP to our community through BPP Connect. On behalf of my Board of Trustees, I would like to update you on all that has been worked upon in the past month. I thank Parsi Times for extending this platform free of cost.
Though the BPP was primarily formed to look after Doongerwadi, over the years, Housing has become the prime area objective. To the best of my knowledge, no previous BPP Board has been as responsive to the plight of the needy as the current Board. Every week at least half a dozen families/couples approach us in need of shelter. The Trustees review their circumstances and allot a suitable house almost ‘on the spot’. For those who may wonder if the Trustees are ignoring the Merit Rating List, please note that
most of those who approach us in desperate need for housing have already been languishing on the list. The increased severity of their needs and circumstances force them to come personally and plead their case before the Board. Here, I commend the outstanding contribution of our Senior Staff in Housing, Ronny Patel, who has now become an encyclopedia of available vacant flats and who is promptly able to recommend apt fitment of flats for each case. Ronny goes out of his way to guide beneficiaries in need of housing, who are directed to him by the Trustees.
The bunglis of the Doongerwadi, in the past few months, have been undergoing renovation – one at a time. The lower bunglis (Durvish and Tarachand) which were badly in need of an overhaul, have been completely refurbished by ex-BPP Trustee, Maneck Engineer, on behalf of a donor who chooses to stay anonymous. Maneck personally supervised and carried out the entire renovation with his team, right from the leaking roof, to the polishing of the furniture, painting, plumbing, electrical work, etc. Let the pictures speak for themselves. On behalf of my Board of Trustees and our community, I sincerely thank Maneck for getting these Bunglis in ship-shape condition.
Many may not be aware that behind the Doongerwadi’s office and the Wadia Bungli, there’s a small structure – the ‘diva no room’, where diva glasses are prepared and distributed to various bunglis for prayer ceremonies. It was in a shambles. Also, the long sewage/gutter line along the ‘ravan-ni-chawal’ (residential quarters of the Doongerwadi staff) had collapsed. Through the funds of MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha, the ‘diva no room’ as well as the sewage line has been renovated. (Kindly note that the MLA of any area has an amount sanctioned by the Government earmarked for the maintenance of cemeteries/burial grounds/crematoriums, etc. The Doongerwadi repairs by MLA Lodha are from this sanctioned amount which we are entitled to. (In my opinion, there is no shame in utilizing MLA funds available to the community for its benefit. After all, the Parsi community honestly pays taxes disproportionate to its population!)
Godavara Agiary (at Fort, near ideal Corner):
Due to lack of funds and the huge expense involved in repairing an old building, the Godavara Agiary has unfortunately not been repaired for years. This year, a well-wisher, who is also a sitting BPP Trustee started the ball rolling by having the roof, over the kebla and main building area, repaired. The well-wisher will also have the roof of the rear portion of the Agiary repaired. Donations are welcome for repairs to our Godavara Agiary.
The BPP has negotiated a settlement with the Mumbai Mazdoor Sabha Union for Class IV employees. The agreed increase in gross salaries includes: for the First Year (2015): Rs. 3300; for the Second Year (2016): Rs. 1500; and for the Third Year (2017): Rs. 1500. This translates to an approximate year on year increase of 11% on 2014 gross salary. The BPP has clarified with the Union that:
1. all employees can be moved to other BPP premises, as and when required, temporarily or permanently. Eg. Doongerwadi’s maalis and sweepers can be moved to other premises depending upon exigency of work.
2. Maalis will be responsible for cutting / cleaning rank vegetation twice a year in all BPP premises.
3. There will be no designated geographical area of work demarcated for any Employee within any given location/colony.
4. The Trust has the right to assign work for full 8 hours of duty, within the same category.
It is my sincere hope that this settlement with the workers will bring about a harmonious working relationship between the Class IV employees, the BPP and the residents of the Colonies. It will be my endeavour to consult and involve the Baug Associations in running the affairs of respective colonies.
Defunct Anjuman Committee (DAC):
The BPP, as the big brother in the Federation of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of Indai (FPZAI), has taken the initiative to steer the DAC to preserve, protect and monetize in a transparent manner for the benefit of our community, the properties of Anjumans all over India, where the Parsi population is dwindling. Efforts are on to persuade the Neemuch Anjuman to sign the custodianship agreement with the FPZAI so that its Agiary and lands can be protected. In response to information that the Anjuman property in Allahabad is being illegally usurped, the DAC has appointed a lawyer to pre-empt such attempts. Sam Chothia, In-charge of DAC and Vice President of West Zone B of FPZAI, will be visiting Khambat, Nadiad and Surendranagar to ensure that the properties in these locations are adequately mutated for the benefit of our Community in the land records and in the records of the Charity Commissioner.
Higher Education Committee (HEC):
With a vision to financially assist the Parsi/Irani Zoroastrian students by way of Education Scholarship for their higher studies, especially abroad, a separate Committee called Higher Education Committee was started in 1935, whose present Corpus and yearly contributions by way of donations are as under:
1. Sir Dorabji Tata Trust: Corpus of Rs. 20,00,000/-
2. Sir Ratan Tata Trust: Corpus of Rs. 8,00,000/-
3. Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust: Corpus of Rs. 50,00,000/-
4. M. K. Tata Trust: Rs. 1,00,000 every year
5. Jamshed & Shirin Guzder Trust: Rs. 35,000/- every year
6. Merwanjee D M Jeejeebhoy Trust: Rs. 35,000/- every year
7. Bombay Parsi Punchayet: Rs. 10,00,000/- every year
This year the HEC met in July and interviewed all 21 student applicants for various courses like Chemical Engineering, Interior Design, Fine Arts, Dispute Resolution, Construction Project management, Forensic Science, Architecture, Journalism, Sustainable Nuclear Engineering. For the first time in many years there were more boys applying for scholarship than girls. These scholarships are merit-based and not income-based. The total amount sanctioned is Rs. 12 lakhs for FY 2016-17.
Upkeep of Colonies:
Custodians appointed by the BPP are mainly responsible for the upkeep of all BPP Colonies and Wadia Baugs. A meeting of the custodians was called in June and it was reiterated to the custodians that they are not merely rent collectors, but the ambassadors of the BPP. The custodians have now been sufficiently empowered to discipline the maintenance staff in the colonies, to check and stop reckless and unauthorized renovation carried out by residents and have been made accountable for the cleanliness and upkeep of the colonies. While the BPP is working through our custodians to bring some discipline into the Maintenance and Housekeeping work-force to keep our colonies clean, this result can only be achieved with the co-operation of the residents. Therefore, I humbly request all colony residents not to throw garbage from their windows and balconies onto the compound, footpath and behind the buildings. Please keep it in a bin or a garbage bag and give it to the sweeper who comes daily to each doorstep to collect your garbage.
Strengthening the Organisation:
My Board of Trustees is committed to bringing in a corporate culture or professional management into the running of the BPP. As a first step, the CEO has been empowered to take all administrative decisions in the running of the BPP and its various institutions (Doongerwadi, Parakh Dharamshala, etal) and the Trustees will not interfere in the decisions taken by the CEO. Staff members whose performance has not measured up, inspite of repeated warnings, have been dissociated and new, critical positions have been filled in. By December 2016, there will be a new professional Manager in charge of our Doongerwadi estate. We have appointed Armaity Dharwar as the Executive Assistant to the CEO, Mr. Cawas Panthaki. Armaity will be the SPOC (Single Point of Contact) for the Trustees to follow through on the decisions taken by the Board.
Help to the Community as the Apex Body:
There have been few instances of beneficiaries staying outside BPP Colonies/Wadia Baugs who come to the Board for help as the redevelopment of their buildings has run into problems. For example, the BPP is presently assisting the residents of Sanjana Building located at Forjett Street who have been rendered homeless by an unscrupulous builder who bought this dilapidated building and allowed this building to fall into such disrepair, that tenants are forced to move out in fear that the building will collapse any moment! The BPP is also assisting the residents of Vasai Taluka Parsi Punchayet who are being unfairly threatened with eviction from their homes by their Trustees. Here I must record my appreciation of our legal consultant, Adv. Mangesh Chavan, who in addition to his regular BPP work, has taken up cases of the residents of the Sanjana Building and of the residents of Vasai Taluka Parsi Punchayet, to get them justice.
a) The BPP is currently in discussion with the Cusrow Baug League on the final stages of implementation of the Rain Water Harvesting Project. This project is the brain child of ex-Trustee Maneck Engineer, Rustom Irani and Hoshang Jal – all residents of Cusrow Baug. This remarkable project will augment the supply of municipal water to Cusrow Baug and will be a model for Housing Societies in Mumbai to follow. The project cost of Rs. 1.3 crores has been shared 50:50 between the BPP and the residents, with each flat contributing Rs. 7,000, with some residents contributing more.
b) The BPP has refused to renew the license of the Mobile Towers on the Multistoreyed Building of Bharucha Baug, even though it will result in loss of revenue. This Board is very clear – we will sacrifice wealth if it comes at the cost of health. We will not compromise/risk the health of our community members for revenue gain.
c) The BPP has granted permission to the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) to plant 500 tree saplings at Doongerwadi, of plant species indigenous to the topography of our Doongerwadi lands.
Meeting with the Chief Minister:
The premium building in Godrej Baug which is under construction has run into a ULC stipulation which restricts the size of each flat to a mere 450 sq ft. This would be a big impediment in the sale of apartments at premium prices. Through the good offices of Trustee Kersi Randeria, a delegation comprising Trustees Noshir Dadrawala, Kersi Randeria, Zarir Bhathena and myself met the Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, and sought his help to waive this restriction. The CM informed the delegation that a high-powered committee will be set up by the Government to examine this restriction, since about 2000 acres of land in Maharashtra is affected by this ULC restriction.
Objection to Draft Development Plan:
The revised draft Development Plan 2034 was published in the Govt. Gazette on 27-05-2016. Objections if any were to be filed by 27-07-2016, which have since been filed by the BPP and the Wadia Committee of Management.
Of particular concern to me is that the existing open ground in Rustom Baug, where I live, has been shown as a designated ‘Playground and Recreational Ground’ in the Draft Development Plan. This will therefore have to be surrendered to MCGM for use of the general public. The BPP has filed an objection on the basis that this ground is being used for recreaction by residents and members of our Parsi Community and is of cultural significance since 100 years. In my opinion, the misplaced eagerness of certain committee members of the Sir Ness Wadia Memorial Pavilion (SNWMP) to put this ground to commercial use (for shooting, non-Parsi Cricket tournaments, etc) to earn a few extra bucks will seriously jeopardise the exclusiveness of this beautiful ground.
Conclusively, I sincerely hope that each of my Co-Trustees will act solely in the best interests of the BPP and our beloved Parsi Community, without exception. Thank you for your patient reading – we look forward to your feedback.