News & Notes 635:Report of the Working Committee
Report of the Working Committee
Major topics dealt with in January 2016
Recent Road blockages
We have often reported about the progress in the Kottakarai issue, where FIR’s have been filed by some villagers against an Aurovilian and by Auroville against some villagers for not providing access to the Auroville owned area called Mangalam and obstructing any development there.
For the past 13 months we have tried to resolve this long-standing issue which involved about 10 peace meetings with Kottakarai villagers and senior Aurovilians. The talks took long as there was constant change of the village representatives. Also, there were differences of view between the villagers themselves. Yet, a mutual understanding was reached and an agreement between the villagers and Auroville has been drafted. This would not only have solved the conflict but also be a step towards future collaboration.
Unfortunately, we have been forced to halt signing the agreement as Auroville has suddenly been facing an onslaught of vandalism and violence. On 21.01.2016, a group of people from Kottakarai village, using a JCB, dug several trenches on poramboke lands and so blocked the roads between the Town Hall and the Ganesh Bakery, in front of the Auroville Language Lab, the Tamil Heritage Centre and Auro Creation. This was done without permission of any local authorities. The actions have created a lot of inconvenience, not only for Auroville but also for many workers and school children from the villages.
The mob not only dug up the roads but also went around and damaged property in Afsanah Guest House, Auro Creation, the Language Lab, fences on Auroville lands in the International Zone and threatened people in several communities around Kottakarai.
The Working Committee along with the Auroville Security Service has been lodging complaints and FIRs of these incidences with the Auroville police station. There have been several rounds of discussions and meetings with the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Kottakuppam range, urging him to provide security and prevent any untoward incidence towards the people and assets of Auroville. The DSP assured us that the police will maintain a constant vigil towards maintenance of law and order and has posted a constant vigil in the Kottakarai area.
On 25.01.2016 a joint meeting was held at the DSP’s office with representatives from Auroville (Working Committee, Land Board and Security) and with people who have been leading the unrest from the Kottakarai village. At first, several grievances were expressed by the group from the village. Towards the end, the village representatives explained that the main reason behind the unrest was that they wanted to unblock the barrier Auroville has created on the Crown Road between Arka and Gaia, arguing that this road block was disturbing a farmer from a local village. They offered to remove the road-blocks on the paromboke roads and stop the unrest, in exchange for Auroville clearing the block on the Crown Road.
We declined the offer and explained that the road-block on the Crown Road and the road diversion were created on Auroville-owned land. We also explained that our internal road diversion does not disturb the local farmer – who is in fact a businessman from Chennai – as we have provided him suitable legal access to his lands. Towards the end of the discussion it became apparent that the unrest could have been instigated by someone outside this area as a pressure tactic in land negotiation matters.
We informed the DSP and the villagers that Auroville maintains its commitment to the development and support of the Kottakarai village as has been demonstrated in the recent building of a basketball court, our draft agreement, employment opportunities, and cultural and social activities offered by Auroville in Kottakarai village. However, we will not accept the actions of hooligans causing damage to Auroville assets and threatening Aurovilians, or blocking poramboke roads without permission of the authorities.
On 29 January we met with the Superintendent of Police, Villupuram. At his instruction all the road-blocks have been removed with Police presence. Those who objected to the removal have been arrested. To prevent any further incidents, he has instructed that a strong police contingent be posted in Kottakarai.
The Governing Board, in its meeting held at the beginning of October, 2015, decided to restructure the TDC and establish a Town Planning Department before March 2016. The Board mandated the Selection Committee to prepare a list of key personnel and their job descriptions required for the functioning of the office. The key personnel would be selected by merit and appointed with the approval of the Governing Board in their next meeting. However, this proposal was not taken further by the Selection Committee, a major issue being the difficulty of attracting highly-skilled planners to the relatively remote area where Auroville is located.
Carel together with Sauro from the TDC, subsequently, met with Mr. B.V. Doshi on 04-01-2016 to discuss a new proposal on the restructuring of the TDC and the possible involvement of the Vastu Shilpa Foundation. This proposal was subsequently approved by Dr. Karan Singh and has since been submitted to the community via the Residents’ Assembly Service. For further details please visit the webpage: http://ras.auroville.org.in/restructuring-tdclavenir/
Visa issues: Hemant and Carel together with Mr. Srinivasamurty, Acting Secretary Auroville Foundation, and François Gauthier, Frederick and Chali, met with the Additional Secretary (Foreigners), Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi to discuss pending visa issues. We were informed that the Indian authorities are tightening the visa policy because of increased security concerns; that visa for Auroville are only issued to people who want to live in and work for Auroville and that those people should not live elsewhere in India; and that anybody who overstays in India is automatically blacklisted, as the Indian government is of the view that those who violate the visa conditions should not return.
The pending issues were brought to his notice with the request that the Government allow people who have unintentionally overstayed to return to Auroville.
A note on the topic of visa for Auroville was requested by him and has meanwhile been sent.
HRD Issues: Hemant and Carel, together with Mr. Srinivasamurty, met with officials of the HRD Ministry. The following topics were discussed:
- Appointment new Secretary – this issue is still pending.
- Land sales approval. The request from the Auroville Foundation is still pending
- Regulations Entry and Exit. The approval of the HRD Ministry can be expected soon.
- Amendment Rules of the Auroville Foundation. The notification can be expected soon.
- Budget 2015-2016. We have been warned that our government grant may be cut as we have not spent sufficiently as per the norms. (We should have spent 67% of the grant by 31-12-2015; instead, we spent only 58%.) Our explanation that spending was halted due to excessive monsoon rains will be considered.
Meeting with Dr. Karan Singh: Hemant and Carel together with Mr. Srinivasamurty and Frederick and Chali met with Dr. Karan Singh. Main topics discussed:
- Plan Grants 2015-2016 and 2016-017. The overviews presented by the Working Committee and actions to be taken were discussed.
- 50th Anniversary celebrations. Chali gave an update on where the team is with its preparations and about the necessity to scrutinize the proposed programmes and budgets. Dr. Karan Singh agreed that a proposal for a separate budget for the 50th can be submitted to the next Board meeting.
Common umbrella for CBSE
At the request of the Under-Secretary, Auroville Foundation, we have initiated a discussion on the possibility of having a common umbrella for all Auroville outreach schools under the Central Board of Secondary Education. These schools are NESS, Udavi, Aikiyam School and AIAT. All school executives have expressed their interest and we are jointly developing the idea further.
Moderating Auronet Postings
We participated in a general meeting called to discuss the desirability and possibility of moderating Auronet postings. This topic is now being taken up by the Residents’ Assembly Service.
Register of Residents
The review of the Register of Residents (RoR) and the Master List (ML) is on-going. We continue to contact those residents who are not living and/or working in Auroville (regardless whether they are holding a visa or not.)
Upcoming Meeting of the Governing Board
The upcoming meeting of the Governing Board is scheduled in the first week of March 2016. We request those who wish for a time slot to submit their presentation to us latest by 10th February.
The Working Committee is also involved in the following ongoing topics:
- Water Harvest / Water Service complaints
- Non-Aurovilians occupying Auroville assets
- Reorganization of the Auroville Security
- Drafting an appeal process (jointly with the AvC)
- Centralising Accounting Services
- Complaints about the utilization of the Aspiration Sports Ground (jointly with the AvC)
- Windarra (jointly with the AvC)
- Request for access to Auroville’s Master List.
The Working Committee (Angela, Carel, Elisa, Hemant, Inge, Mandakini, Ranjithkumar)