Over the past few months, the BPP’s renewed and assertive efforts – to retrieve Trust flats, in Parsi colonies and establishments under its purview, which are being wrongly kept unused yet locked by some Parsi beneficiaries – is bearing fruit. In a heartening and much appreciated turn of events, a number of such ‘holiday flats’, are now in the process of being handed back to the BPP, so that these can in turn be handed over to deserving humdins who are in genuine need of the same.
The Community has already witnessed how the current BPP Board, despite internal differences, has been able to make a positive difference in the lives of numerous community members, especially when it comes to dealing with the integral aspect of Housing. The Board has so far, already provided Trust Housing for over a hundred and fifty Zarthostis in the last three and a half years.
Even so, there remains a wait for seven hundred other deserving community members, which in some cases can be deemed unfair to them, because while on the one hand the BPP is genuinely trying its best to (literally) accommodate those in need, there are over one hundred and thirty unused and locked houses in Baugs, as per the first phase of BPP’s investigation. The residents of these flats seem to be content keeping them locked, as opposed to handing them back to the Trust.
“The campaign to retrieve vacant and unused flats will only intensify in the coming months,” stated BPP Trustee, Kersi Randeria, speaking to Parsi Times. “This effort is certainly gaining awareness as well as results,” he added. The BPP has spiritedly undertaken the project of identifying such flats, which are lying vacant and used as ‘holiday homes’ by tenants who either live abroad and visit once in a while, or then by those who possess alternative accommodation in Mumbai, but yet choose to hang on to these flats, for reasons that contradict and undo the essence of Trust/Charity flats. This is blatant misuse of Trust property, which is meant to ease the hardships of lesser privileged Parsis. Notices have been slapped on tenants misusing Trust flats and it has started to yield results.
A few conscientious Parsis have promptly handed over their Trust abodes which they no longer use, with simple gratitude and grace; some have done so based on minimal monetary considerations, while a few others are still in the negotiation process with the BPP. Many tenants believe that it is their birth-right to be paid for a flat that had been given free to them/their ancestors as charity flats, at extremely paltry rents. Despite most of them having prospered and flourished since, they seem to have wrongly and unfortunately nurtured a sense of entitlement, as opposed to gratitude, and wish to profit from a worthy charitable gesture. This contradicts the very ethos of being Parsi and is the undoing of compassion and unity between community members.
For those who remain unresponsive or challenge the initiative, cases are being filed against them to ensure the ball doesn’t stop rolling, much to the relief of those in real need of a premises. There is a good number of deserving Parsis who meet the Trust criteria for being given residences – with top priority accorded to married Parsi couples who are awaiting the allotment of a house to start their family, followed by young, to-be married couples, who have had to postpone their marriage due to lack of space and privacy to start a family life. This means delaying hope by delaying the birth of Zarthosti babies into the community – something that our rapidly dwindling numbers can ill afford.
An enlightening and compelling article in the Times of India, by much respected journalist and community member, Nauzer Bharucha, titled, ‘Migrated but kept flat? Parsis must give ’em up’, which further fortifies the BPP’s efforts, quotes, “The Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP), the city’s biggest private landlord which controls over 5,500 flats meant for the Parsi-Irani community… has been issuing eviction notices for the last few months to families who have migrated abroad but have retained their flats. Notices have been pasted on the doors of these apartments in Parsi residential colonies and baugs across the city. Some of the prominent Parsi enclaves are Cusrow Baug at Colaba, Rustom Baug at Byculla, Navroz Baug and Jer Baug at Parel, and Ness Baug at Nana Chowk. In these five baugs itself, the BPP identified 54 flats and have slapped eviction notices on 41 of them. In other baugs and residential colonies across the city, the Punchayat, which looks after the affairs of the community in Mumbai, identified 200 flats of which 82 occupants have received eviction notices.” [Dated 12 July, 2019, TOI, Nauzer Bharucha]
As per the report, the BPP is currently focused on retrieving flats from those who have shifted permanently and live in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but choose to retain their flats in Mumbai. Flats of tenants residing in the Gulf region will not be targeted, as these families invariably return to Mumbai.
“The BPP requests all Community members to come together and help our other deserving brethren who need Housing, by surrendering such flats that are not used as residence, or then, informing the BPP of such flats. Our forefathers set the standards of Charity and Giving very high to save our Community the hardships of life’s basics like housing and monetary help. This was done with the hope that such a platform would further yield greatness of our clan, and that when these charities had served their purpose, those who had been uplifted, would in turn help uplift and support others. Trust property is given on the basis of ‘trust’ in the beneficiary; that once it is not required anymore, it will be handed back, so that it can serve others, just like it had once served its earlier recipient. Let us hope that such ‘Trust Flats’ don’t degenerate into ‘Tryst Properties’!” concludes BPP Trustee, Kersi Randeria.