News & Notes 686:Working Committee report January 2017

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686 icon.jpg   News & Notes 686
11 February 2017

Working Committee report January 2017

The main issues dealt with in January have been the following:

Visit New Delhi

On behalf of the Working Committee, Hemant and Carel went to New Delhi to pursue a number of issues regarding Auroville. We would like to express our gratitude to François Gautier who was instrumental in securing the appointments with the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, the HRD Minister, and the Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Topics discussed:

Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports (with François and Frederick): Possible funding avenues for donations for sports infrastructure and activities.

HRD Minister (with François and Frederick):

1. Expressed the community’s gratitude for the reappointment of Dr. Karan Singh.
2. Asked for help speeding up the development of Auroville, by:
a. Giving permission for the sale of outlying lands;
b. Ensuring that Auroville can be included in the list of institutions that are eligible for funding by public sector undertakings from their CSR budgets;
c. Declaring Auroville an Educational Institution of National Eminence so that Indian donors can avail of 100% tax exemption in accordance with the Income Tax Act;
d. Instructing the granting of the funds agreed upon for the Humanscapes project;
e. Supporting a proposal that, at the occasion of Auroville’s 50th anniversary on February 28, 2018, a special India residents’ status such as OCI is granted to Auroville residents of foreign origin who have been living in Auroville for more than 10 or 15 years.
3. Extended an invitation to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations. The Minister replied that he might come and visit Auroville this April.

Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (with François and Frederick):

  1. Requested his intervention in a number of pending visa renewals and new visa requests as well as a request for Indian nationality;
  2. Requested a change in the Auroville Visa Policy, e.g. the granting of two more 1-year extensions of short term visa;
  3. Requested considering the granting of a special status such as OCI to Aurovilians who have been residing in Auroville for 15-20 years;
  4. Requested the issue of 5-year Stay Visa and Residential permits to those who have entered India with a short-term Entry Visa.

Another meeting took place with officials of the HRD Ministry (with Frederick) to pursue pending issues which included: the status of the appointment of the new GB and IAC members (pending); the change of the Rules of the Auroville Foundation (pending); the HRD approval for the Regulations Entry and Exit (pending); 50th anniversary grant (decision is expected by the end of March); the regular HRD grant 2017-2018 (pending); and the status of the Humanscapes housing project (pending).

There was also a meeting with Dr. Karan Singh and Ms. Ameeta Mehra (with François and Frederick), where all the above topics were discussed. In addition, Dr. Karan Singh was updated on the preparations for the 50th celebrations; the status of the land protection workshops; the status of the Terms of Reference for the Town Development Council; and the status of the restructuring of the TDC.

(V)VIP meetings and visits

Sometimes, individuals or Auroville units/activities are making appointments for meetings with high level officials from the Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry or Central Government or invite them for inaugurations or visits to Auroville. As the Working Committee is the official representative body of the Resident’s Assembly, and in order to avoid confusion – officials may otherwise wrongly assume that those inviting them represent the community – we requests to be informed about any such proposed meeting or invitation. Where possible the invitation should go through the Working Committee and/or the Auroville Foundation office.

Internal functioning

In order to improve our internal functioning, and to help us better articulate our group’s shared agreements we had two respective sessions with Jean-François Noubel who has been invited to Auroville by the Auroville Council. Jean-François advised that the six agreements which have been adopted by the Auroville Council may also be tried-out by the Working Committee. These are: (1) One deep breath before speaking; (2) Listen to the centre; (3) Speak to the centre; (4) Don’t take the floor, have it offered; (5) Speak from direct experience; (6) Anyone can invite silence. Our focus is on the 1st agreement, and as Jean-Francois Noubel explained, the other 5 are agreements that essentially support the 1st one. The Working Committee is currently trying to practice these and requests the silent encouragement of the community to help us, and the Auroville Council, through this challenging transition towards a new shift in meetings. We would like to thank Jean-Francois Noubel for his time and for sharing his experience with us.

We will share our practical experience of these agreements in our next report.

Matrimandir Garden development

Jointly with the Auroville Council, discussions were held with the executives of the Matrimandir and the designers of the Matrimandir Gardens. These discussions have been followed up with meetings of the Matrimandir coordinators with one of the garden designers. We have been informed that an agreement has been reached between them on how to proceed with the execution of the Matrimandir Gardens. This agreement includes:

  1. A detailed design investigation needs to be made for the Living Link to ascertain if it is practicable. Construction of the gardens can go ahead while this investigation is being made.
  2. Trees can be incorporated in the gardens as per the guidelines of Roger Anger, i.e. small and medium sized trees not obstructing the view of Matrimandir can be planted. It is agreed by those present that there are no serious issues regarding the plantation of trees in the gardens as envisioned by the current proposal.
  3. The design team will accept support from experienced teams for the gardens execution. The Botanical Gardens team has agreed to give this support and collaboration. All needed support for the execution of the gardens will be arranged by the Executives.
  4. Other garden designers are welcome to collaborate with the design team.
  5. The design team will share proposals and current design details with the Botanical Gardens team for them to develop to the level of execution drawings. The Botanical Gardens team will share these drawings with the Executives and the Matrimandir gardens design team. If there are different design options for the Progress garden now under construction, discussion will be pursued between the Botanical Gardens team and Marc. In case of an unresolved design point, the Executives will be asked to take the final decision.

Proposal to close access roads

  • The Ravena access to the Abri-Forecomers road for 4-wheelers.
  • Courage access road by 4-wheelers

In order to improve security and safety, we have proposed to the immediate residents, the Auroville Safety and Security Team and the Town Development Council that the Courage and Ravena access to Auroville is permanently closed for four-wheelers.

The proposals have been positively received by most residents, by the TDC and by the Auroville Safety and Security Team.

We have meanwhile asked the TDC to take action.

Effect of bandh

The sudden bandh which was declared on January 20 in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry to protest the ban on Jallikattu has caused discomfort to some individuals who had no access to food that day, as all food outlets were closed. We are looking into the possibilities of organising an emergency provision for food which can serve residents.

Strengthening Auroville Health Services

Jointly with the AVC, the Working Committee has met with members of AVHS. A joint proposal for a change in executives, trust, and scope of the service has been made and been sent to the FAMC for its decision.

Auroville Child Development

The Working Committee has been extensively looking into the functioning of the Auroville Child Development Research Centre for some time, after receiving complaints about its functioning and status. An Administrative Support Group consisting of Frederick, Balabaskar, Kalya, and Beber have proposed that Eric Avril, Pushpa Patha and Antoinette Gervais be the new executives and that André Tardeil, will step down from his executive position. We have recommended to the FAMC that it appoints the new executives accordingly and obtain regular reports from the Administrative Support Group about the functioning of the Centre.

Pharmacy Auroville Health Centre

We have been informed that non-Aurovilians sometimes offer medical advice to Aurovilians and Newcomers and prescribe the use of medicines such as antibiotics. The Auroville pharmacy at the Auroville Health Centre, Aspiration, has informed us that it will not sell any medicines that require a doctors’ prescription without such a prescription of recognised doctor. It also cautions Aurovilians and Newcomers about taking advice from people who are not medical doctors and who do not know their medical history and the possible side-effects and or possible drug interaction with other medicines.

The Working Committee fully supports the stand taken by the Auroville pharmacy.

Keeping up to speed

In order to upgrade our internal functioning, Mike and Min are giving beginners classes in the use of Google calendar, Google Keep and other ways to make our Working Committee e-life more productive and enjoyable.

Pending issues

  • Emotional and Mental Health (EMH): The work is ongoing and the EMH pilot group is making good progress.
  • Sea Erosion Management (SEM): Short term action: Saravanan and Yuval (Eternity) have compiled a report regarding the work of sea protection on Auroville land, which is still being hampered. This issue will once again be brought to the attention of the Collector in the next sub-committee meeting, in order to continue to work on Auroville land. // Long term vision: The sub-group of SEM [Sauro (TDC), Jan (AWS), Aurofilio (PYcan), Yuval (Eternity), Inge (WCom)] is preparing for a visit from the National Institute of Ocean Technology, which has been officially invited by the Auroville Foundation to consult on the erosion of Auroville beaches.
  • Concerns about new Entry Policy: An update is published elsewhere in this edition of the News & Notes.
  • New Executives Matrimandir
  • Terms of Reference and appointment new members Town Development Council
  • Powers of the Interim Town Development Council (iTDC)
  • Revision of the Guidelines between Trusts and Units of the Auroville Foundation
  • Mobility

The Working Committee
Angela, Carel, Hemant, Inge, Kumar, Mandakini, Ranjith.