“Stop the Steal” was a term coined by supporters of former US President Donald Trump, who could not cope with the fact that their President got voted out because Joe Biden supposedly “stole” the elections, by allegedly rigging it. In the case of the Parsi community, no aspiring candidate allegedly rigged nor stole the hot seat of trusteeship… instead a ‘Grinch’ stole the entire elections away, and if we may add, just before Navroze!
In Dr. Seuss’ ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, the Grinch is a green, humanoid creature. In the story, he was the epitome of everything negative and unpleasant. It seems that the number one reason the Grinch hated Christmas was because his heart was two sizes too small. It’s been the same case with the Parsi Grinch. His heart is two sizes too small and he had no place in his small heart to see any candidate on the BPP Board, except his own! But knowing that one particular candidate was in the lead and not likely to toe his line, the Grinch decided to steal the elections.
How Were The Elections Stolen?
It is to everyone’s knowledge that this entire orchestra was conducted under the baton of the Grinch. On Tuesday, 9th March, 2021, all the candidates were called to the BPP Board Room at 4:30 pm. The Grinch was also present. A mock drill was performed. The Election President and his team as also auditors for the election and others, were invited too. The Board room was packed to the brim with no fear of catching Covid-19 by the Grinch and the BPP Chairperson, both of whom are senior citizens. About two hours were wasted.
Finally, when all the candidates and the Election President and his team left, Trustee Viraf Mehta proposed that the elections should be postponed! The two of us were obviously taken aback. When the Chairperson and another trustee were asked if they were in agreement, they simply and sheepishly nodded in agreement!!
We argued that if there was any government order or restriction, we would abide by the law, but in the absence of any such restriction, the election process, once it commences, cannot and should not be stalled. But, might is right and the three trustees, by a majority vote, decided to steal the elections from the community.
The slogan for postponing the elections by the Grinch was “Safety First”. The question remains – Whose Safety??
Elections do not spread Covid-19. It’s carelessness that does. Four States in India will be conducting elections this month itself. There was no specific directive from the Municipal or any regulatory body, including the police to the BPP, to postpone the elections when we approached them. The Grinch only made safety of senior citizens and voters a lame excuse. What he was worried about was the safety of his three pets on the Board of the BPP.
BPP’s Safety Protocol…
Where BPP is concerned, the following safety measures were put in place: Compulsory to wear a mask and if voter came without proper mask, a mask would be supplied free; Hand sanitizer, temperature and oxygen level check at entry point; A holding area with chairs kept at a distance and to be periodically sanitized; Not more than ten people in the queue standing with social distancing. This would have been a model for all others to emulate!
We agree that recently the number of cases in the city have jumped from a daily average of 1,000 per day to 1,500 per day, but that’s still 0.005% of the total population of city!! Besides, the virus is spreading not because of elections or opening up of establishments and other facilities. It is spreading because the public is not ensuring health and safety norms! Where BPP is concerned, all Covid-19 SOPs were in place and the people wanting to vote would have been a few thousand at max, not lakhs as in the case of State elections.
Why We Were Opposed To Postponement?
We, as Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, were opposed to the move to postpone the elections because the intent behind the postponement was not safety of the senior citizens, but safety of the majority on the Board who have a stranglehold.
The BPP is suffering a major cash crunch, but yet three trustees during our absence, at one meeting, completely waived the service charge of Rs. 750/- per month. This has caused the BPP an annual loss of Rupees Two Crores. What’s worse, at a subsequent meeting, they even waived forty-three months of outstanding dues of those who had refused to pay, and thus bleed the already bleeding Trust further! It is only matter time before those who have already paid, may ask for refunds. After all, why should defaulters be rewarded, and honest, compliant residents get punished?!
In recent times the policy pushed by the majority of three trustees has been rank commercialization of all charity flats, premium or otherwise. The BPP is a “charitable trust” and not a “commercial landlord”. Mobilizing funds through auctioning all charity flats, even non-premium flats, cannot be justified or legitimized. On the other hand, all legitimate proposals to mobilize funds (e.g. ownership building at Godrej Baug or Bharucha Baug) face resistance.
Security deposits taken after auctioning flats is not an asset, but booked as a liability, and the trust has eaten into its entire liability. This is a potential disaster waiting to happen.
There is a “Governance Gap” on the BPP Board which needs to be filled without further delay. First, Trustee Zarir Bhathena took ill, was hospitalized and passed away around June 2020. Later, Chairman Yazdi Desai suffered a stroke and since then, the Board has functioned as a Board of five, instead of the full Board of seven, which is mandatory under the High Court framed Scheme of elections!
The Reason Why Elections Should Have Been Conducted On 14th March Is Clear…
- A) Hold it within the due date sanctioned earlier by the High Court;
- B) Hold it while covid-19 cases are still relatively low;
- C) What is the guarantee that things will improve by the end of March or April? In fact, if things worsen, the elections may have to be postponed indefinitely and which is exactly what the Grinch wants!!!
To borrow from the story of the original Grinch: “One man’s toxic sludge is another man’s potpourri.” The Grinch may have stolen not just the elections, but some joy out of Navroze 2021 as well. But, everything we do comes back to us, whether it’s good or bad. We’re a reflection of what we put out into the world. If you constantly use and abuse people, life will use and abuse you, and that is the law of this universe.