News & Notes 768:Report of the Working Committee of the months of August and September
Report of the Working Committee of the months of August and September
A brief report on the Governing Board meeting and on the various visa issues was published in the News and Notes No: 765, dated 24th September 2018. Here follows a more extensive report on the main issues dealt with in August and September.
1) Meeting of the Governing Board: The Secretary of Auroville Foundation has sent us the minutes of the meeting of the Governing Board held on August 8th. He has requested us to publish the RA relevant excerpts of these minutes in the News and Notes, as the News and Notes (and Auronet) are also read outside Auroville. These excerpts have been published elsewhere in this News and Notes.
Please note the full minutes are available with and can be read at the Working Committee office.
2) Highway: We regret the aggressive and accusatory language which has been used against one member of the Working Committee regarding an email he had written to the OSD of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways after the first visit to the Ministry. The email in question confirmed the Ministry's verbal concession made in the meeting that the proposed highway would not go through the Master Plan of Auroville; the email also expressed concern that the highway would yet go through Ravena and Forecomers and the OSD was requested to see if the highway could go around these areas.
The community was informed about the highway topic in the public presentation of the Working Committee in a general meeting on July 12th. The Highway Task Force, which was setup during this meeting, received copies of all correspondence, including this email, shortly afterwards.
When the second delegation met the Ministry's officials in the beginning of August, they learned that this email had been interpreted as an agreement. Evidently, neither the Working Committee nor the HTF members had realised this. At the instigation of one of the HTF members, a second email was sent from the Working Committee to clarify the status of Auroville.
For the progress on the proposed highway issue, we refer to the reports of the Highway Task Force.
3) Visa: We regret the aggressive and accusatory language which has been used against two members of the Working Committee concerning their recent interaction with the FRRO, Chennai, jointly with the Secretary, Auroville Foundation. During this meeting the following was achieved:
- a) Out of a list of 34 pending visa renewal cases, 24 cases have been cleared. All the persons concerned have been informed. Only 10 cases are now pending.
- b) The FRRO awaits the views of the Ministry of Home Affairs officials on our request for re-admission into India of Vladimir, Sonia and Marie -Claire, as each of them has all sent a letter to the MHA.
- c) The FRRO was also informed that we had not received any information on some old cases which were discussed during the visit of the FRRO and MHA officials in May to Auroville. The FRRO was asked to communicate the decision.
- d) The FRRO was requested to inform the Secretary, Auroville Foundation, and/or the Working Committee of any case of violation of the Entry Visa conditions by a person holding an Entry Visa for Auroville and not to resort to not informing the person, blacklisting the person and sending him/her back upon his/her return to India. We explained that those who have chosen to live permanently in Auroville do not have a home anymore in their country of origin and that the penalty of barring entry into India is often not commensurate with the violation. Shortly after this discussion, we learned from an article in the Economic Times of September 23rd, 2018, of a verdict of the High Court in New Delhi which disapproved of the practice of authorities not informing Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders or foreigners holding a valid visa in advance about them being blacklisted. The Delhi High Court has directed the Centre to ensure such individuals are in intimated in advance that they would be denied entry into the country. This verdict may also be of relevance to Auroville.
- e) The FRRO agreed to provide a clarification on what conditions Auroville residents of foreign origin, who are holding an Entry Visa issued for Auroville, are allowed to undertake activities or work outside Auroville. This clarification is required to prevent confusion, the more so as recent stay visas issued by the RRO mention "Valid for Auroville only. Employment / Business / Study not permitted".
- f) The FRRO also agreed to provide a clarification on the rules for Auroville residents of foreign origin attending a course or workshop outside Auroville. (see point 5 below)
- g) The FRRO also agreed to provide a clarification on what conditions foreign visitors to Auroville who come with a tourist visa and who wish to give a talk or a free performance or engage in education or wish to display their art work can do so. These clarifications are awaited.
- h) The FRRO confirmed the present policy that Auroville residents of foreign origin need to inform the RRO when they leave Auroville for more than 2 weeks, e.g. for taking a holiday. We request residents to strictly follow this policy.
- i) The FRRO also stated that in case an Auroville resident of foreign origin needs to be hospitalized in India for a period of more than 6 months, the RRO needs to be informed as in such a case the entry visa will need to be converted into a medical visa.
4) Invitations and visa applications for foreign participants of seminars/workshops/courses: Auroville activities or units inviting foreign nationals to an Auroville workshop/course/seminar are requested to contact us at workingcom (at) auroville.org.in, so that we can forward the request to the Secretary, Auroville Foundation. The Secretary will issue the required letter of recommendation for a volunteer or seminar visa. A template for the information required is available.
Please ensure to apply a minimum of 6 weeks in advance, so as to give ample time for processing and for the foreign national to apply for the visa in his/her country.
5) Information about attending a seminar/workshop/course outside Auroville: In our present understanding, Auroville residents of foreign origin can attend a seminar/workshop /course outside Auroville without obtaining prior permission from the RRO in case the seminar/workshop/course is in the context of the work of the resident for an Auroville unit or trust.
In case attending the seminar, workshop and conference is for the private benefit of the Auroville resident, prior permission from the RRO, Pondicherry, is required. The Working Committee will forward the request to the Secretary, Auroville Foundation, who, after giving approval, will forward it to the RRO.
As mentioned in 3f above, we await the clarification of the FRRO on this topic.
6) Sumit and Eric: Jointly with the Auroville Council, we are in the process of arriving at our decision. We have met with Sumit and Eric, both individually and together, for which a facilitated conversation was held with the support of L’aura. Our next steps are to communicate our decisions to Sumit and Eric, respectively. The community will be kept informed.
7) Frequently asked questions: The Working Committee is frequently asked about topics related to revenue and administrative affairs, such as taxes, births and deaths registrations, accidents, security and ambulance, police liaison, visas, aadhaar, disputes, etc. as there is a general lack of information or knowledge on these topics. For this reason, we are preparing a comprehensive and hopefully user-friendly manual to be available on Auronet. Similarly, AVSST is preparing a website where relevant information will also be available.
If there are any topics on which a resident has no clear idea on what process to follow, please inform the Working Committee and we will do our best to clarify and communicate this to the wider community. Also, if anyone has any knowledge administrative process which they wish to share, please email us at workingcom (at) auroville.org.in. We will inform the community when this is available.
8) Disputed land purchase: A case has been filled by the Office of the Secretary in the High Court at Chennai. We are waiting for the judgment.
The Governing Board has asked to conduct a Departmental Enquiry into the land purchase. A group is being setup by the Secretary with the Auroville Council.
9) Revision Entry Policy: When the Entry Policy 2017 was approved by the RA on 23rd September, 2017, it was agreed to give the policy a look again after completion of its first year to make improvements. Jointly with the Auroville Council, we are soon going to initiate the process of revision of the Entry Policy 2017, starting with collecting feedback from the community and others who have experienced the policy.
10) Drone usage: A draft regulation from the Director General Civil Aviation has been published specifying the conditions for the use of drones in India. This regulation is expected to take effect in December. In accordance with this Regulation, foreigners will not be allowed to fly drones anywhere in India, including within Auroville. This also applies to Auroville residents of foreign origin. As Auroville is an educational institution, the Auroville Foundation has the authority to permit the usage of drones within Auroville, both to residents of Auroville of Indian nationality, to Indian nationals who are not a resident of Auroville, and other organisations. In such a case, the drones should not be heavier than 2 kilograms and fly less than 200 feet high. Usually, Outreach Media is the unit in Auroville through which this permission has to be applied for.
11) Misuse of the name of Auroville: At the request of the Name and Symbol of Auroville Protection Group, the Working Committee, jointly with the Auroville Foundation, has initiated legal action against three outside organisations using the name Auroville.
12) Selection new Working Committee members postponed: As per the Auroville Council’s communication to the community in the News & Notes No: 764, dated 17th September 2018, the selection process for replacement members of working groups, including the Working Committee’s, is postponed by two months. The two Working Committee members whose term ends, Hemant and Inge, have agreed to remain available as resource person till the next selection process, which is scheduled for February or March 2019.
The Working Committee
(Carel, Hemant, Inge, Mandakini, Partha, Ranjith, Sauro)