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Parsi clinic to preserve community

Mumbai, Sept. 18: With dwindling figures looming large and the latest census putting their number merely at a few thousands, Parsis here have set up a fertility clinic to preserve ' and hopefully expand ' their community.

The clinic in Mumbai Central is the brainchild of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, a body officially inaugurated today. It is an attempt to raise awareness among Parsis, especially young couples, about the availability and necessity of fertility treatment.

Introducing the clinic, Minoo Shroff, who heads panchayat, said there was no cause for alarm ' but there was an urgent need to look at the decreasing numbers of the community.

The initiative to set up the clinic took final shape about four months ago, but the census report and its stern observations were the last push.

The Census Commission had pressed the alarm bell with its report this month. According to the latest census, the Parsi population in the country has gone from 76,382 in 1991 to 69,601 in 2001. The report stressed the need for 'urgent and drastic' interventions.

'It is apparent from the 2001 census results that urgent and drastic interventions are required by all concerned, including possibly by the government and definitely the Parsi community leaders to ensure survival of Parsi population in India,' the census release said.

'Fertility improvement initiatives rather than fertility control measures adopted by the community so far are possibly the need of the hour before it reaches a point of no return. It is expected that this loud and clear message from 2001 census awakens the country and the Parsi community from the deep slumber it is possibly in and have a beneficial effect,' it added.

The clinic would try to be an answer to the census report.

'I was approached my Mr Shroff about four months ago,' said Dr Anahita Pandole, a fertility expert who would be in charge of the clinic.

'We would offer free fertility services and especially encourage young couples to come forward for a check-up, even if they are planning for a child later,' she said. 'That way, treatment could begin early to enable conception. It could be a large fibroid impinging on a woman's fertility, or an intra-uterine septum. Their removal would greatly increase chances of conception,' she said.

Pandole said the basic services would be free, funded by the Parsi Panchayat. 'Initial services like blood examination and semen analysis would be free. Patients requiring more extensive treatment would be charged, but the treatment would be subsidised by the community.'

Some of the members of the community present at the inauguration, however, said the census figures did not take into consideration the number of Parsis who had migrated and stressed that there was no cause of alarm.

According to the figures, women outnumber men in the community: in 2001, the break up was 33,949 men and 35,652 women (total population 69,601); in 1991 census, it was 37,736 men and 38,646 women (total population 76,382).

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