News & Notes 727:Report of the Working Committee

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727 icon.jpg   News & Notes 727
9 December 2017

Report of the Working Committee

Period: October and November 2017

1. Reporting

We apologize to the community for the delay in sending the report over the month of October. The absence of some members, the selection process of new members and an overload of work including the Delhi event preparations in which one of our members is actively involved made it impossible to get the report ready in time. This report covers the months of October and November.

2. Selection of new members

We welcome Sauro and Partha as new members of the Working Committee and welcome Carel and Ranjith back. All four have been appointed for a three year term. We would like to thank the resigning members Angela and Kumar, Angela for her energy and diligent work over the last three years and Kumar for having attended for a year.

3. Visa issues

On November 22nd, the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, Mr. Chunkath, accompanied by Mr. Srinivasmurty, François Gautier and Frederick, met with officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs. They discussed a note specifying various issues relating to the Auroville Visa Policy and the status of some pending visa renewal requests.
They also discussed the requirement that foreigners who wish to attend Auroville workshops and conferences will need a conference visa, and that tourist visa holders cannot attend conferences and workshops. For the discussion on this topic, an additional note prepared by the COALA team was handed over to the authorities. The authorities took note of the concerns expressed, but stated that a quick solution cannot be expected. It will probably take a few months before an amendment to the existing policy can be expected, if at all.
This means that a conference visa will be required for all those who wish to attend workshops and conferences in the coming months, and that it will not be possible for foreigners holding a tourist visa to attend workshops and conferences. The Ministry officials clarified that, in case someone holds already a valid Tourist visa for a long duration, and wishes to attend a workshop or conference in Auroville, an additional conference visa would need to be applied for. However, the original visa would retain its validity.

4. Visitors' Centre road.

We are grateful to the Neyveli Lignite Corporation for making a donation in kind to the value of Rs 1.1 crore to Auroville from its Corporate Social Responsibility funds, specified for making the road in front of the Visitors' Centre. The donation includes paving the road with paver blocks, as well as the service road to the back entrance of the Visitors' Centre and the pathway from the parking area to the Visitors' Centre. This donation is the result of the fundraising efforts of one of our members.
The design of the roads etc. was done by Jan in collaboration with Nicole and the former TDC.
The paving of this road is necessary in view of the visit of the Prime Minister of India and would otherwise have been taken up by the TDC / Road Service and paid for from the regular GOI grant for Auroville. This money can now be used for other road works.
NLC has started making the paver bocks on site. The road will soon be closed for a week to do the substrata work. The road will then be reopened and people will be able to drive over it for two weeks. Then it will be closed again to lay the pavers. The road work is scheduled to take 6-8 weeks.

5. Certitude road and Solar Kitchen roundabout

In a meeting attended by the Secretary, the new members of the TDC and members of the Working Committee, the TDC confirmed that the dirt road from the Certitude corner to the Solar Kitchen roundabout will be stabilized by the Road Service using the poured earth concrete technology from the Auroville Earth Institute. Also the repair works on the Solar Kitchen roundabout will start soon. The TDC stated that works will be ready before the visit of the Prime Minister.

6. Governing Board invitation to the Sri Aurobindo Society to attend the Auroville celebrations for the 50th anniversary.

At their request, a letter from concerned Aurovilians objecting to the decision of the Governing Board to invite the Sri Aurobindo Society to the Auroville celebrations, was sent by us to the Chairman and members of the Governing Board. They have responded stating their disagreement with the views of the concerned Aurovilians. These responses have been published on the Auronet ([...])

7. Visits New Delhi.

In the beginning of October, Hemant and Inge accompanied by Jürgen visited New Delhi to prepare the 50th events in New Delhi. They met with the Director and officials of UNESCO, Delhi to discuss details of the planned event in UNESCO; with the Director and officials of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts for preparing the events there; with the Director for the Für die Freiheit Foundation, who agreed to moderate the panel discussion at IGNCA; and with a executives of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Delhi Branch.
They also met with officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and discussed the GOI grant for the 50th anniversary; asked for the release of the next installment of the regular GOI grant; and discussed the possibilities that Auroville qualifies as an Institution of National Importance so that donors can get with 100% income tax exemption; and enquired about the appointment of the last two members of the Governing Board and the members of the International Advisory Council.
By the end of November, Ranjith and Carel went to Delhi to participate with the other Aurovilians present in the 50th anniversary celebrations. They also met with Governing Board member Dr. Anirban Ganguly and former International Advisory Council Chairman Sir Mark Tully, and together with Inge with Governing Board Chairman Dr. Karan Singh.
The main topic discussed with Dr. Karan Singh was about GST (see below).

8. Grant for 50th anniversary celebrations

We are grateful that, at the beginning of October, the Government of India approved and released a special grant to the amount of Rs 10 crores for capital expenditure for the 50th anniversary celebrations. The spending is allocated and monitored by the 50th Core Team together with the Secretary and Under Secretary of the Auroville Foundation. A request for an additional grant for 'general' expenditure for the 50th celebrations is still pending.

9. UNESCO resolution.

A note from the Chairman of the Governing Board, informing about a resolution on Auroville that has been tabled by the Government of India at the General Conference of UNESCO was published on the Auronet ([...]). We have been informed that this resolution has been passed unanimously by the General Conference. We await the formal communication and will publish it on the Auronet.

10. Communal housing policy

Members of the Working Committee have participated in a working group with members of the Housing Service, the Auroville Council, and the FAMC on a communal housing policy for projects such as the “Humanscapes” project and the “X, Y and Z” housing projects. The policy has been finalized and is published on the Auronet ([...])

11. GST

A subgroup of members of the Working Committee and Funds and Assets Management Committee have been meeting together with Chartered Accountants and specialists from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram to find a solution for the problems that are being faced with the implementation of GST in Auroville. The problems are caused by the fact that the Auroville Foundation has one PAN but has over 45 management trusts and departments that together hold over 400 units.
Though already more than 80 GST registrations have taken place, this doesn't resolve all the problems. The subgroup members have come to the conclusion that a request for a partial relief from GST should be made. For this purpose Dr. Karan Singh has agreed to write to concerned officials with the request that a team of GST officials meet with a small delegation from Auroville to find a solution to the problems.

12. Ambassadors' visits.

During these two months, Auroville received the visits of the ambassadors of France and China.

13. Work of beach erosion control on Samuthira beach

No progress has been made in the efforts to control further beach erosion on Samuthira and other Auroville beaches, as the case at the National Green Tribunal started by TamilNadu Can is still pending. A meeting between the Secretary, members of the Working Committee, concerned Aurovilians and the headmen of the fishermen community has taken place and the decision has been made that the Auroville Foundation will implead itself in the case.

14. Rauf Ali’s legacy

Rauf Ali has left the sales proceeds of an apartment he owned in Pondicherry to Auroville to be used for helping students studying biology. The Auroville Foundation is dealing with the matter to ensure that the apartment be sold at the earliest.

15. Data Management Group.

The Data Management Group started a few years ago by the Working Committee has not been able to work as anticipated. For this reason we have decided to discontinue it. Requests for data from the Master List are now to be sent to the Working Committee, which will evaluate the request and instruct the Residents' Service to give the requested data, if appropriate.

16. Films on Auroville

Recently, a 15:40 minutes video was filmed in Auroville which featured Bread and Chocolate (inside the restaurant and outside), Farm Fresh (inside), Svaram (tour and therapy session given by Aurelio), Visitor Centre and the Matrimandir viewing point.
This film was made without any knowledge of OutreachMedia or of the Auroville Foundation. The permission of the Auroville Foundation is required for any film to be made in Auroville, which is handled by Outreach Media.
During the 50th anniversary celebrations Auroville many people will come to Auroville wishing to make a film. To avoid any problems, we request all those who are approached by someone who wishes to make a film to inform OutreachMedia who will then assist them with the process. OutreachMedia will not take any responsibly if a film is made without its knowledge.

17. Dispute involving a non-paying guest.

The dental clinic and an Auroville guesthouse have complained to the Working Committee about a guest who has not paid the dues. We have not been able to help resolve the issue and have advised that the issue is taken up with the police.

18. Mr. Sraddhalu Ranade follow up

We received a letter from a group of Aurovilians objecting to the decision taken by the executives of Savitri Bhavan at the request of the Working Committee to discontinue the classes given by Mr. Shraddhalu Ranade and asking that he be allowed to restart his classes. At their request, we have forwarded their letter to the Chairman and members of the Governing Board. No reply has been received as yet. Similar requests were received from a few non-Auroville residents.

Pending issues:

  1. Land Board Selection
  2. Entry Board selection
  3. Adventure sports Ground
  4. Explore Auroville App.

The Working Committee