“Let The Poonawalas Work On The Vaccine In Peace!” Says Noshir Dadrawala

Earlier in the week, there was an unnecessary hullabaloo raked up in the mainline and social media as regards an alleged misinterpretation by Ex-BPP Chairman – Dinshaw Mehta, based on the one-word response of Founder of Serum Institute of India, Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, to his (Mehta’s) request for setting aside 60,000 vials of Covid-19 vaccines, exclusively for the Parsi community.

A number of newspapers carried this news and numerous social media platforms were abuzz, generating a lot of negative comments from many who felt it was discriminatory and unjust, in keeping with the context of survival itself.

BPP Trustee, Noshir H. Dadrawala took to the pen, in his inimitable style, to placate this unnecessary storm in a teacup, thus:


 “Let the Poonawalas Work on the Vaccine in Peace!

Please Stop Embarrassing Them!!

Messages about Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla setting aside 60,000 vials of Covid-19 vaccines for Parsis started going viral on social media on Sunday and by Monday it even found a place in a national mainstream newspaper.

The Parsi community appears to have read this news with mixed feelings. There is a general feeling of gratitude towards Dr. Poonawalla. However, there are also some who feel incensed. The rationale being Parsis should think, speak and act first as Indians and then as Parsis. However, historically this is how Parsis have been over the centuries, loyal to the country and totally integrated with the mainstream. And, the Poonawallas are no exception.

In fact, some of the best known Parsi industries and prominent Parsi trusts are secular almost to the point of being ‘anti-Parsi’. Be it jobs or scholarships or medical aid, there are instances where Parsis have felt they received no preferential treatment and in fact were disqualified by some very well-known Parsi trusts and business houses simply because these trusts and companies did not wish to appear ‘communal’ or even as much as perceived to be providing preference to members of their own community. Why, only recently Mr. Ratan Tata stated that the future head of the Tata Trusts may not be a Tata.

The question is, whether Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla made this declaration on his own? The answer is No! The former chairman of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, Mr. Dinshaw Mehta wrote to Dr. Poonawalla “to reserve at least 60,000 vials for the Parsi community in the first batch” adding “we are a micro minority and every Parsi is required to be saved”. Reportedly, Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla promptly wrote back, “O.K.”.

Now “O.K.” would mean, “we will consider the request at the appropriate time, subject to other considerations”. An important consideration would be that vaccines for an epidemic or pandemic may not be available privately. It is likely to be made available for administration only through government hospitals or government approved and run health centers.

While Dr. Poonawal has a soft corner for Parsis (and why not?) he does not think parochially. His Serum Institute is working on the vaccine not for Parsis or for that matter India. He is working on it for the whole world. He is a man who thinks globally, acts locally and yes, incidentally also has love for his community. Nothing wrong with that. If anything, it is worthy of respect and adoration!

Even where Twitter is concerned, Ronnie Screwvala specifically wrote: “On a lighter note, since Parsi’s are to be an Extinct race (though average age of Parsis show otherwise) there is a lobby that as vaccine does come in there will be a special quota under saving from extinction Race & why not if a Parsi is at the forefront of it”. And Adar Cyrus Poonawalla replied: “Yes, @RonnieScrewvala, we will keep more than enough for the community. Our production capacity of just one day will be enough to cover every Parsi on the planet … given the size of our community!”

Once again, Ronnie was asking “on a lighter note” and Adar simply talked about keeping “more than enough for the community”. So, what’s this unnecessary controversy about? Why even the Government of India loves the Parsi community enough to have initiated the “Jiyo Parsi” (Live Parsi) project to arrest the community’s dwindling population.

Let the Poonawallas work on the vaccine in peace and let us all stop embarrassing them and putting them in a spot. Let’s avoid these needless storms in a tea cup.

If the vaccine is successful and ends up saving the world (and incidentally also the Parsis) we probably may see our first Parsi Nobel laureate. Would that not be wonderful for India, the Parsis and this world?

We know we speak for the community when we say, ‘We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Dadrawala!!!’

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