State of the union

The Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) trustees’ infighting has resulted in an agitation of the Class IV employees of the trust protesting against the lack of progress in negotiations over the renewing of the three-year labor agreement that expired in January this year.

An email dated June 22, 2015 from BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta to fellow trustees and others read: “Due to Yazdi Desai’s intransigence in not having even a preliminary meeting with the union for their demands, aided and abetted by the majority trustees, today there is a union agitation going on at Doongerwadi. Before things worsen remedial measures need to be taken. Earlier also the union had warned Yazdi not to allow his wife to interfere in Doongerwadi affairs.”

Doongerwadi’s agitating khandias/nassesalars (top) and malis/cleaners (right) wearing red caps
Doongerwadi’s agitating khandias/nassesalars (top) and malis/cleaners (right) wearing red caps

Desai responded immediately that “there is definitely no agitation except that the Class IV staff are wearing red caps.” He felt that the matter could be discussed at the weekly board meeting on the following day especially since he and trustee Jimmy Mistry were out of town. “Hard copies of the union demands and the BPP response had been circulated to all the trustees and was on the agenda last week and Dinshaw Mehta as the chairman of the meeting has deliberately not taken up this item… The union agitation is abetted, aided and encouraged by Mehta and at his behest the union leader Dhunji Naterwalla had the temerity to write an insulting letter to a trustee some months ago.” (This was written in the wake of Desai returning the Diwali gift given by the union.) Desai also contended that most of the trustees were against putting up a union notice board in our sacred Doongerwadi, but Mehta insisted that it should be allowed and even accompanied the union committee members to Doongerwadi to ensure that it was done.

“For the record, my wife Anahita has always accompanied trustees Khojeste Mistree and Arnavaz Mistry to Doongerwadi, and helping to improve the condition of the bunglis and sending outside labor and paying them for removing garbage can by no stretch of imagination be termed as ‘interference,’” Desai wrote. “It will be in the interest of the BPP and the community if Mehta stops abetting union activities in the BPP and holding the BPP to ransom to further his personal vendetta against me and the majority trustees. Now that Mehta has been reduced to a pitiable minority, he will do his best to disrupt the working of the BPP, especially in Doongerwadi, so as to show the majority trustees in a bad light.”

Mehta promptly countered that “union demands have been on agenda since over six months and even our senior executive Aspi Sarkari brought to our attention about the union requesting a meeting and Yazdi taking on the mantle that he will reply. All this is minuted. Last week I terminated the meeting discussing (Muncherji) Cama’s resignation to avoid confrontation and controversy as recently witnessed and his twisting this adjournment to save himself is despicable. I have at no stage aided or abetted the union but I treat all staff with respect and not as menials…” Regarding the objection to Desai’s wife interfering in Doongerwadi affairs, Mehta said “stop blaming me for everything” and “it would be in (the) interest of (the) community if you stopped aggravating the union else you will bring Doongerwadi to a standstill.”

“I hope they come to their senses,” said Mumbai Mazdoor Sabha general secretary Naterwalla, speaking over the phone to Parsiana on June 22. He said all the Class IV employees are wearing red Gandhi caps to protest the BPP’s indifference to renewing the agreement that expired in January this year. “They are not even willing to discuss the matter. The crux of the main problem is Yazdi Desai. He thinks he is high and mighty,” Naterwalla stated.

Published in Parsiana.