How poor do you have to be in India to get the government to say you’re poor? The Indian government used to say that 28.6 rupees (51 cents) a day or less for urban Indians — about 858 rupees or $15.30 a month was about right. Activists for the poor said that it was unrealistic to think that people who were making more than that amount a day were well off.
As a government-appointed commission works on defining a new poverty line, it might want to consult India’s Parsis, descendants of Zoroastrians who migrated to India from Persia (present-day Iran) several centuries ago.
On Monday, the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), an administrative body for the Parsi community in India, said it will define Parsis as poor if their monthly income is less than 90,000 rupees ($1,613). This translates to an annual income of 1.08 million rupees, way above India’s 2011 annual per capita income of about 85,000 rupees. You’re a poor Parsi if you’re ‘slightly’ richer than the average Indian, in other words.
The punchayet‘s reason for the “poor” label, revealed during a court case in Mumbai, is to ensure that Parsis are eligible for apartments in subsidised city housing.
The Parsis, a close-knit and wealthy community struggling with a dwindling population, have always been known for their enterprising spirit. Some of India’s most successful businesses, including the omnipresent Tata Group, are part of the Parsi tradition.