Date: Thu, May 26, 2011
The last few decades have seen the community go from one crisis to another. Lack of strong leadership was clearly evident. Worse than that was the attempt made by vested interests to influence the community's thinking towards a course of action which would only result in disintegration of the community and loss of its identity. Fortunately, the 2008 BPP elections gave the community the much needed opportunity to assert itself and choose the leaders it wanted. The AFP combine, whose agenda left much to be desired, was routed at the hustings. But even after that, the community was not to know peace. The new Board was assailed with litigation after litigation, a distinct attempt being made to browbeat and harass the Board and prevent progressive schemes and ideas from fructifying. The objective was simple – prevent effective functioning and make the new Board look incompetent. After more than two years of conflict, the dysfunctional trustee finally stepped down.
The community is once again at crossroads. BPP trustee Noshir Dadrawala's resignation has necessitated an election to fill the vacancy. Five hopefuls have already thrown their hats into the ring viz. Ms Anahita Desai, Muncherji Cama, Tehemtan Dumasia, Adi Govadia and Noshir Gotla. (as we release this, we have learnt that Tehemtan Dumasia has withdrawn his candidature). But the community is well aware that the major contest is between Ms Desai and Mr Cama. The others will only ending up eating into the votes of the main candidates, either unwittingly or by design. The combined wisdom of the community will put a new incumbent in the chair. At a time like this, it is necessary to sit back and think objectively about the qualities that the new BPP trustee should possess and whether the hopefuls possess the same. This is the right time for the community to learn from the experience of the past years and make a proper selection - an informed, intelligent choice.
So, what qualities and credentials should the new incumbent possess? As we understand it, the incumbent must have -
1) An impeccable record of honesty in thoughts, words and actions. Saying one thing for public consumption and doing something diametrically opposite later is definitely not on! He / She must be willing to walk the talk!
2) An abiding sense of pride in being a Parsee Zarathoshti and believing in and honouring the time honoured tenets and traditions of our religion. The incumbent must be willing to safeguard and protect our religious institutions against depredation, internal and external. He / She must have a PROVEN track record of service to religious causes and institutions.
3) An ability to think independently and courage to assert his/her views, even in the face of strong opposition from vested interests.
4) An inclination to spend time and resources to further causes of use to the community. There must be an established record of community service.
5) An ability to be a team player and not indulge in games of one-upmanship.
6) The ability to administer and ensure that decisions are implemented and do not just remain on paper.
7) Firmly believe and understand that BPP trusteeship is an office of service and not a prize bestowed by the community to enjoy and use at will. It involves leadership by example.
Now let's attempt to evaluate the two main contestants against these parameters:
Ms Anahita Y Desai
· Scrupulously honest. Not a single allegation of financial impropriety has been levelled against her till date, even by her political opponents.
· Very traditional minded. Was a prominent part of the team which was battling to save Doongerwadi against the onslaught of the DDD-AG. Galvanised support from the various Anjumans of India and defeated the proposal to form a cosmopolitan World Body. Has a proven track record of protecting religious institutions and properties from the builder lobby e.g. Lalbaug's Wadia Agiary, Kappawala Agiary, Dadiseth Atashbehram. Has always supported traditional causes spearheaded by others like The Parsee Voice. Is the CEO of WAPIZ, an organisation formed to protect and uphold the religion and its institutions.
· Has been strongly recommended as a fitting and capable person for trusteeship by the learned High Priests of Mumbai.
· Fiercely independent and always willing to stand by the cause she has espoused. Known to be frank and outspoken.
· Has a distinctive track record of community service, liaising with baug committees and individuals alike to help all community members in need. Though not a trustee, is closely involved with the functioning of the BPP and execution of its various projects and activities e.g. project for Children with Special Needs, looking to the needs of the inmates Gamadia Boys' Hostel, providing better facilities at doongerwadi for bereaved families as well as the resident khandhiyas and nassessalars, meetings of the Federation of Parsi Zoroatrian Anjumans of India.
Mr Muncherji Cama
· One of the owners of the Mumbai Samachar. Is also a trustee of several housing related trusts and other community trusts.
· Claims to be traditional-minded but actions do not reflect that. Since years, he has permitted the Parsi Tari Arsi (PTA) column in his newspaper, Mumbai Samachar, to be used by close friend, Berjis Desai, to deride and denigrate the tenets of our holy religion and its institutions and spew venom against the traditional minded folks. During the 2008 election, Desai was instrumental in forming AFP to further his unholy agenda. Cama was one of the candidates put up by the AFP, but lost the elections. Has never been in the forefront on any of the issues facing the community all these years.
· Is a donor of ZTFI (an organisation which has sprung up after the AFP was routed). ZTFI is involved in charitable activities for the community. However, it is silent on its religious agenda.
· Has no known involvement with the BPP or its functioning.
If one views the whole situation dispassionately, keeping in mind the current requirements of the community and the existing state of affairs, the need is definitely for a dynamic, vibrant person with youthful vigour to face the various challenges and do justice to the role. Mrs Anahita Desai clearly stands out as having the mettle and the wherewithal to do justice to the job at hand and deliver the goods at this critical juncture! So, it is in the community's own interest to put her competence and passion to good use and put her in the BPP.
To add icing to the cake, the community's learned High Priests, based on their personal experiences till date, have also voiced their strong endorsement to her candidature.
The Parsee Voice team