News & Notes 644:Report from the Working Committee

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644 icon.jpg   News & Notes 644
9 April 2016

Report from the Working Committee

We have been extremely busy with the preparation of the meetings of the Governing Board and International Advisory Council which took place in the beginning of March 2016. For that reason, our monthly report over the month of February could not be finished in time and we decided to publish instead a report over the months of February and March.

Meetings Governing Board and International Advisory Council

The Governing Board and International Advisory Council met with members of the Working Committee, TDC, Land Board, SLI, and FAMC. The members also had interaction with foresters and farmers at Pitchandikulam and with students of Future School, Last School and NESS.

The report of the International Advisory Council has meanwhile been published. The report of the Governing Board is still awaited.

The following topics were discussed:

  1. New Secretary. We have been informed that the HRD Ministry has decided on the appointment of a new Secretary to the Auroville Foundation. However, till date this appointment has not been effected. We hope that the appointment will take place soon.
  2. Permission for the sale of lands. The Working Committee presented two legal opinions on the need to obtain prior government permissions for the sale of outlying lands, in order to obtain the funds to purchase the lands inside the city and greenbelt areas. It appears that only HRD permission will be required.
  3. Revision of the Rules of the Auroville Foundation. The Working Committee has urged the Board to ensure that the HRD Ministry approves the revision of the Rules of the Auroville Foundation.
  4. Land protection. The Working Committee has asked the Board to set aside an adequate sum to cover legal expenditure for land protection.
  5. Kottakarai area conflict. The Board and Council were informed about the conflict in the Kottakarai area and the ongoing efforts to find a solution.
  6. Restructuring the TDC. The Board was informed about the new proposal of the Working Committee for the restructuring of the TDC. This proposal was discussed in a general meeting at the end of which the Working Committee, after hearing various views and objections, proposed a one-day retreat to further discuss the proposal. At the time of writing of this report, the retreat is in preparation.
  7. Status New Town Development Authority for Auroville. A discussion with authorities from the Government of Tamil Nadu is ongoing.
  8. GOI grant 2015-2016. The Ministry of HRD, Government of India, has effectued cuts in the grants of all its affiliated organizations. The budget of the Auroville Foundation for the financial year 2015-2016 has been cut with Rs 2 crores, which means that the total grant of Rs 15 crores has been reduced to Rs 13 crores. The cut has been divided over the GOI grant beneficiaries. The final allocation over 2015-16 is as follows: [see table]
  9. GOI grant 2016-2017. The Working Committee has made a budget request for the GOI grant 2016-2017 for a total of Rs.26.50 Crores. This projection does not include any reservation for the preparation of the 50th anniversary celebrations. The budgets include all the ongoing activities like SAIIER, Bharat Nivas and TDC and some new items as per emerging priorities in line with the outcome of the Retreat. The decision from the HRD Ministry is being awaited. Implementation of the budgets will depend upon the actual amount approved. Once we know sanction amounts, the budgets would appropriately be apportioned.
  10. 50th anniversary celebrations. The Envisioning Committee appointed by the Governing Board has met with the 50th anniversary preparatory team and has requested the inclusion of a few essential programmes. On the basis of the final report of the preparatory team, the Envisioning Committee will make a proposal to Dr. Karan Singh after whose approval the proposal will be submitted for funding.
  11. Administration of Government of India grants. The Governing Board, in its previous meeting, had approved the Procedure for Utilisation of Plan Grants, which is based on its Standing Order No. 7. The Working Committee has scrutinised these documents and proposed a Revised Standing Order which it requested the Board to approve.
  12. Internal audit and maintenance of accounts. The Governing Board and the International Advisory Council had both made strong comments in the minutes of their October 2015 meetings on perceived ‘lapses’ in the maintenance of the accounts, and lack of transparency in the financial activities. These comments followed The Internal Audit Note on Auroville Financial Management prepared by the internal auditor of IPAI and an interaction between him with the Board and the Council. The Working Committee and the FAMC have expressed regrets that the Acting Secretary has not shared the Internal Audit Note either with the Working Committee or the FAMC, and expressed distress that the Board and Council have taken the observations of the Internal Audit Note at face value and have not asked the views of the Unity Fund executives, the FAMC and/or Working Committee before making censuring observations in their minutes. Subsequently, detailed comments were presented on the Internal Audit Note which shows that its observations lack substance. The FAMC’s presented its observations and proposals on CAG audit and internal audit.
  13. Regulations for Trusts and Units of the Auroville Foundation. The Governing Board was informed about the changes effected by the Working Committee and FAMC in the Guidelines between Commercial Trust and Units of the Auroville Foundation, approved by the Board in its 45th Board Meeting. The Working Committee and the FAMC found it necessary to widen these Guidelines to be applicable to all trusts and units of the Auroville Foundation and change the name into Regulations for Trust and Units of the Auroville Foundation. These Regulations have been published in “mandates and policies” ' in the section “references” of the Auronet.
  14. Auroville Foundation (Entry and Removal of Names of Persons in the Register of Residents) Regulations, 2013. The Governing Board was reminded that these regulations (a.k.a. Entry and Exit Regulations) are still to be approved by the HRD Ministry as per section 32 of the Auroville Foundation Act. The Board was requested to ensure immediate approval of the Regulations.
  15. Visa issues. The Board and Council have been informed about the attempts of the Working Committee, helped by a few Aurovilians, to resolve the visa issues due to overstay or wrong actions of some Auroville residents, who have subsequently been blacklisted and thus prevented from returning to Auroville. Meanwhile Fabrice has been allowed to return, but we are still awaiting the return of Jean-Yves and Mark Scott.
  16. UNESCO resolution. The Working Committee has suggested that for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Auroville, the Government of India is requested to propose to the General Conference of UNESCO to pass a resolution on Auroville.
  17. Update about conflict between some members of Kottakarai village and Auroville. The Working Committee continues to work towards a peaceful and respectful interaction with people of Kottakarai. A sub-group has been formed that now deals with this matter, consisting of members of the Working Committee, Land Board, AV security, Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG), as well as a few others. The sub-group is planning a meeting with the concerned individuals. Two Working Committee members visited the Collector of Villupuram District in response to a letter circulated to the Auroville Foundation dated 02.03.2016 (See previous report for details). She agreed to either chair or delegate a person to chair a peace meeting for which meanwhile representatives and village leaders have been contacted. Several individuals in Auroville and from the sub-group are continuing the dialogue and have reported back to the Working Committee. The aim and hope is for an imminent peaceful interaction, where the issues and concerns raised by the Kottakarai conflict can be addressed. The Working Committee takes this series of incidents as a feedback towards the importance of a continued cooperation with the bio-region.

Guidelines for sharing data

Jointly with the Data Management Group, a subgroup constituted by the Working Committee last year, guidelines for handling requests for data have been finalised. These guidelines have been published in the section mandates and policies under ‘references’ section of the Auronet. The Data Management Group consists of Vikram, Ulli, Jurgen, Lyle, Gumsoon, and Philippe and Angela on behalf of the Working Committee.

Removal of the status of Persona Non Grata – Ms. Nahid Khan

In 2012, the Working Committee issued the status of Person Non-Grata to Ms. Nahid Khan, following allegations of deceitful behaviour towards several Guests and Aurovilians during her stay and volunteering in Joy Guest House. The Working Committee asked Koodam to facilitate a meeting with some of the concerned individuals where concerns have been addressed. The Working Committee announces the removal of Ms. Nahid Khans’ status of Persona Non Grata, with immediate effect.

Aspiration Sports Ground issue

Jointly with the Auroville Council, the Working Committee has tried to resolve the long-standing conflict between neighbours and early morning badminton players of the Aspiration sports ground. The Working Committee and the Council have proposed a solution which included offering an alternative location for the early morning hours, but this has been turned down by the badminton players. Therefore the matter will be referred to arbitration.

Reorganization of the Auroville Security

In March 2015 all three members of the Auroville Security Service, Anandamay, Ramesh and Shahar, submitted their resignation. Both Anandamayi and Ramesh agreed to continue to serve till the process of redefining and restructuring the security system would be finalized.

Upon receiving several proposals, the Working Committee jointly with the Auroville Council have worked on synthesizing them. The outcome is as follows:

  1. AV Security Service will be re-named AV Safety and Security Team (AVSST)
  2. The AVSST will be composed of 3 segments: the Vision Team, the Coordination team and the Ground Force. 2 members of the Vision Team will be members of the Coordination Team as well, in order to bridge the gap between vision and ground reality.
  3. The AVSST has started to function with effect from 1st of April 2016 with the following Aurovilians, who have submitted proposals and also stepped up to be part of the new team: Carlos (Citadines), Peter Clarence-Smith (Gaia), Sam (Citadines) and Srijita (Matrimandir Nursery).

We take this opportunity to express our thanks and appreciation to Ramesh, Shahar and Anandamay for their dedicated work and commitment to the Security Service throughout these years.

Information provided by RAS on town planning

In the last few weeks, the community has received five emails dealing with various aspects of town planning. The RAS informed us that L’Avenir has taken the decision to approve the Detailed Development Plan through a 3 weeks feedback process and that the RAS felt it appropriate to inform the community in this way.

The Working Committee and Auroville Council, while appreciating the efforts of the RAS to properly inform the community, do not agree that the DDP is sought to be approved in this manner as the circulated emails are difficult to read and understand in all its implications. We have requested the RAS to start preparing a series of general meetings in which community members can discuss the various topics with the members of L' Avenir. Each meeting should deal with one topic only. The participation of all the TDC members, as well of those who are preparing for the retreat on town planning which is scheduled for the end of April in these general meetings is essential.

Matrimandir Special Guest reception

Jointly with the Matrimandir Access team, the Working Committee has formulated a working protocol between the MM Access Team, the WCom and the AVF for the reception of Special Guests to the Matrimandir. We have submitted it to the AVF for their feedback.

Pending issues

The Working Committee is also involved with the following pending issues:

a) Water Harvest / Water Service complaints
b) Non-Aurovilians occupying Auroville assets
c) Drafting an appeal process (jointly with the AvC)
d) Centralising Auroville’s Accounting Services
e) Windarra (jointly with the AvC)

The Working Committee (Angela, Carel, Elisa, Hemant, Inge, Mandakini, Ranjithkumar)