At the outset itself, I must clarify that this article does not in any manner aim to indulge in personal attacks on any of the candidates, despite my being a victim to such unfortunate stratagems. My endeavour is to only offer you an insight into the present state of affairs at the BPP and the genuine difficulties that exist today in our Board room, only to enable you to make an informed vote on 1st July. A vote that will be in the interest of the BPP and will ensure preservation of its legacy that now finds itself besmirched in “a cesspool of politics” as my co-Trustee Mr. Noshir Dadrawala rightly calls it.
The BPP is a charitable Trust requiring its 7 Trustees, all equal, to administer its properties and assets for the charitable objects of the Trust for the benefit of and in the interest of its beneficiaries. It is not a political or a family organization of sorts, to be misused to further political or personal agendas. The Trustees of the BPP are duty bound to act freely and fairly without fear or favour and are required to exercise their voting rights in the Board room based on the merits of an issue and not let personal differences and ego problems or past baggage come in the way of their discharge of duties as Trustees.
However, the present state of affairs at the BPP is truly tragic, to say the least. Out of 7 Trustees, the present Board was effectively reduced to only 5 Trustees for the majority of the term served so far. Mr. Zarir Bhathena due to his health conditions leaves the Tuesday board meetings by 8.15p.m, while the rest of us sit till well over mid night on almost every Tuesday but items that are contentious are taken up only when he is there to vote for crucial issues on which we disagree. Therefore, on most of the Agenda items, Zarir does not cast his vote. Mr. Munchi Cama’s vote was not being exercised due to the then pending Charity Commissioner’s order which has now come in favour of Mr. Cama but he unfortunately has been allowed to attend just one board meeting in the last almost three years. It is a known fact that Mrs. Tirandaz and myself are in the minority on most contentious issues, since Yazdi- Kersi- Noshir-Zarir have always voted jointly, only because of their personal alliances, irrespective of the real merits of the issue, though recently Noshir has tried to be Independent and votes on merits of each issue. In fact, voting on the Agenda Items has been reduced to a mere farce, with foregone conclusions and no real opportunity for deliberating over matters. Noshir has been the only saving grace on this Board, at times being the balancing factor, though, on most occasions he has voted along with the majority.
In principle, the BPP cannot risk having a husband-wife alliance on the Board at any point in time; not just this election. It takes away objectivity from an issue and independence in voting. Many have argued to say that there are several other Parsi organizations / Trusts that have a husband-wife duo on the Board. Why not the BPP then? This is because there is so much at stake in terms of the around 5000 flats and 1500 plus properties that we administer, the finances under our control and mainly, the discretionary powers in housing allotments,since the present Board does not follow any merit-rating Scheme,but allots on ad-hoc basis as per the influence of the applicant, that we can ill afford three votes in one family itself (including Chairman’s casting vote). It will breed favouritism, dictatorship and eliminate even the semblance of meaningful deliberations/debates that take place in the Board room today.Moreover, the BPP is a professional Trust. That necessarily means that it cannot be run like a family estate.
In a front-page article published by Jame-Jamshed newspaper on 17th May, 2015, (copy enclosed in this issue), Yazdi has himself conceded that Anahita and he cannot stand for elections at the same time, which is why he chose to stand in October, 2015 and not Anahita. He acknowledges the fact that the BPP requires professionals on its Board.With the nature of complicated issues of fact and law that the Trustees are faced with while administering these properties, “social work” is not a sufficient qualification to occupy a seat in the Board room. Mrs. Desai has admitted in recent public interviews that her only contribution, if elected as a Trustee, will be “There are no big plans of Oh! I will make so many flats or I will do this and that. I think there is a lot that needs to be done in the working of the BPP and how we deal with the beneficiaries. I think that is basically what I would like to be there for.”
With all due respect and without in any manner undermining the good work that I am told Mrs. Desai does for the community, I am of the strong opinion that Mrs. Desai does not need to be elected as a Trustee to be able to contribute in the limited manner in which she plans to perform as a Trustee. The BPP has the post of a CEO whose duties and functions are exactly that – to assist in the working of the BPP. She may consider applying for that. Why waste a vote in the Board room (which vote will always swing in Yazdi’s favour) that can otherwise be exercised by an independent Trustee, with application of his own mind and who is more likely to rescue the BPP from its present dictatorial Majority regime. With Mrs. Desai’s inclusion on the Board and the required quorum of the Board Meetings being only three Trustees, absent participation from the rest of us Trustees, Yazdi-Anahaita-Kersi are free to run the show completely! Why even have the remaining 4 of us?The BPP will then be not so much a professionals’ Trust but one professional’s Trust.
In another election, when her husband is not already on the Board, I would not oppose Mrs. Desai’s candidature, because she’d probably do more work than Yazdi does, as he himself admits in the Jame-Jamshed article. But with this Board especially, I strongly believe that Xerxes’ inclusion will be like a breath of fresh air. A much needed change that the BPP presently needs. Being the chartered accountant of the BPP for over 20 years and having the required expertise in assisting the BPP overcome the financial problems it’s mired in today coupled with solutions to resolve the same, there really can be no other option to vote for. Empowering him with a vote to cast in our board room will help the BPP move away from the inaction and work towards taking action (Eg.- reference being made to the ‘Refundable Deposit Scheme’ of which unlike Mrs. Desai, Xerxes, Mrs. Tirandaz and myself are strong advocates of .)
It is a matter of fact that our Tuesday Board Meetings start at 6 p.m. and go on till 1 a.m. and even 2 a.m. at times – (Side note: I have to be in office by 6 a.m. every day). But this is not because the Board is getting a lot of work done in those 7-8 hours, it’s because most of the times we’re internally fighting about petty personal issues that have no relation to the merits of the Agenda items. I am not the only one saying this. Noshir, too, has admitted this in his public exchange of emails. Therefore, bringing in Yazdi’s wife will NOT solve our problem in any manner whatsoever. In fact, it will only ADD to the existing turmoil, let alone (i) be a sheer waste of a vote in the Board room; and (ii) Mrs. Tirandaz and myself continuing to be in the minority. I must clarify that I am not opposing the concept of an organization functioning by way of its majority. Neither will I have a grievance if I continue to be in the minority if another independent candidate is elected and all Trustees after a healthy discussion, vote based on the merits of the issue, consequently resulting in my being in the minority. Everyone is entitled to a difference of opinion. But the ultimate resolution passed should be in the interest of the BPP and its beneficiaries; not one that is merely vindictive in nature. Yazdi has now conveniently changed his opinion about his wife and he serving on the same Board, only so that he can retain and further strengthen his majority dictatorship; giving one family three votes! Noshir, at the time he considered resigning from the present Board, disclosed the high-handed manner in which Yazdi functions as the Chairman, even going as far as to say that the present Board’s manner of functioning is worse than the previous! Noshir’s emails were openly being published for the whole community to read and open its eyes to the regretful manner in which Yazdi-Kersi operate at the BPP.
I fully understand why the community is fed up with the politics. Quite frankly, I can hardly think of a Board Meeting of Trustees gone by without my family being maligned, let alone being mentioned. There are days when I have truly hoped that there could be a way to have the entire present Board resign and instead replace the Board of Trustees with young minds, wanting to do genuine constructive work for the BPP, free of the baggage of the past and wholly uninterested in mindless politics. While I realize that I’d have to wait 4 more years for such a dream team to come alive, I also believe that the present vacancy in the post and the elections on 1st July, 2018 is the beginning of such change. Anahita’s inclusion on the Board will only foist upon the BPP old baggage of the past. Xerxes’ inclusion on the other hand will be a step towards introducing fresh faces, independent minds and young, baggage-free Trustees.
Therefore, this election is extremely crucial and will determine the future course of the BPP’s manner of functioning. Let this election not become about the Mehtas or the Desais or the Randerias or WAPIZ / Orthodoxy or Reformists or other such narrow personal /religious outlooks. It’s really about a public charitable fund, our Bombay Parsi Punchayat, and its charitable bent of mind that is suffering in the bargain. I urge each and every one of you to come out and vote, and please votein the interest of the BPP and not in the interest of one family.