News & Notes 858:Auroville Council Report for Oct/Nov/Dec 2020 & January 2021

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858 icon.jpg   News & Notes 858
13 February 2021


Auroville Council Report for Oct/Nov/Dec 2020 & January 2021



Auroville’s Growth

On request of the Entry Service, the Council started an initiative to evaluate the ground reality of population vs sustainability in Auroville. Besides the Entry Service and Council, the Housing Board, FAMC & BCC are participating in this effort. Issues such as housing, maintenance, skills required to create a sustainable economy are some of the questions that are being pursued by finding ways to create updated statistics on all topics. Another concern is the availability of jobs for Aurovilians and Newcomers following the Covid pandemic. At a later stage the Council intends to call a GM to present the issues to the Auroville community and brainstorm together on ways forward.

Data Collection

An updated count of current citizens in Auroville, along with an updated email contact, is very important for all RAD processes that either the Council, Wcom or Residents Assembly initiate. To have precise numbers is important in order to have a valid quorum. The Residents Service and Foundation Office maintain the details of residents with the utmost care for confidentiality to secure the privacy rights of the residents and do not share it with anyone without full clearance of purpose. To arrive at this updated list (with the names of the citizens, corresponding community and email ID) that is much needed for the community process, the Council initiated a joint effort from members of Council, Auronet and RAS. The list of residents is constantly changing as new members are added as Aurovilians and deceased as well as people that left Auroville are removed. Changes of residences, email and phone numbers add to the complexity. The team is now steadily working on it.

Selection Process 2021

In early October 2020, the Selection Process Review Task Force presented the final proposals A, B, and C. The Working Committee submitted a proposal D additionally which was an amended version of the approved Selection Proposal used to choose the Interim members in March 2020. Proposal C was dropped off the list for RAD since it required a change in the composition of the FAMC group, thus also requiring a change in their existing mandate. This decision was made jointly by WCom, and FAMC in the presence of RAS members, to allow the authors of proposal C to review the changes needed in the mandate for this proposal to be valid.

RAD & amended PWG 2020

The Council facilitated the necessary process to publish the Selection Proposals via the RAS for the residents to choose one among the 3 proposals. In the RAD of December proposal D had the highest support in the community. As the Proposal D was chosen, the Council facilitated the amendment of the PWG document accordingly with Section 3 of the document being replaced by the new version of the Selection Process. The Council, along with Wcom and RAS, initiated a fresh approach to conducting the Selection Process on weekdays along with a request to the managers and executives to grant 2 days leave at work to the participants, so that the Selection Process included more community members in the making of the working groups.

Task force to review FAMC mandate

A joint decision was made by the concerned working groups in October to have the FAMC mandate 2016 reviewed by a Task Force. This task was necessary because the proposal C for Selection Process required a change in the composition of the FAMC group, thus also requiring a change in their existing mandate. The Task Force was to be comprised of the authors of the proposal C for Selection Process, 2 FAMC members and 3 residents.

The Council made a call to the community inviting Aurovilians to come forward as representatives of the community at large to be a part of the Task Force and out of the 6 people that had stepped forward 3 were appointed. The FAMC has not collaborated yet and have instead published their reviewed mandate directly without following the process. The Task Force is continuing their task to review and are due to submit their reviewed version by April this year.

Design Evaluation Panel for the Matrimandir premises

For many years, successive teams of Matrimandir executives often faced the need for a body which could evaluate offered designs, in a variety of fields and give an authoritative view. This need is felt in areas such as general safety, gardens excellence, mechanical features on Matrimandir and within the compound, just to name a few. New design questions arise frequently and call for evaluation. Since this evaluation is not the role of the Matrimandir executives and requires peculiar expertise in given fields of works, a panel of experts was needed to be formed. The Council in collaboration with Matrimandir executives initiated the formation of this panel with a call for qualified people to come forward to be a part of “Design Evaluation Panel” (DEP). The Council made a call to the community inviting Aurovilians from the fields of architecture/ design/ landscape/ engineering/ construction/ Integral Yoga. The Council will publish the names for a collective selection of 1 person from each field to form the DEP.

Auronet Guidelines

The Council integrated the feedback that was received in October, after posting the first version of the guidelines in September. Besides a lot of positive and encouraging mails we received a substantial amount of valuable inputs that helped us to increase precision in the wording. While everyone unanimously agreed that slanderous and malicious posts using names of individuals should not be allowed on the Auronet, several had questions about the moderators and the moderation support group. Some people questioned the need for guidelines, fearing that they could be misused and turn to censorship. The guidelines however were to form a collectively held platform to freely express with respect for each other and rooted in Auroville’s guidelines and values.

For one year the Auronet administrators, Annemarie and Manoj, will act as moderators. After that the Council together with the moderator support group will look for 2 suitable individuals that are willing to do this work. The revised version of the Auronet guidelines with incorporated feedback is ready to be presented to the community for an RAD after the general Selection Process is completed.

Housing Mandate & Housing Policy

FAMC forwarded the Housing mandate to the Council to publish it to the community for feedback, and the Council reviewed it, collected feedback and approached the FAMC to include the feedback. However the FAMC published the Housing Mandate without the suggested amendments that came through feedback from the community members. A joint request from Council and Entry, to be included in this revised mandate, was also ignored.

Similarly, the Housing policy was also published by FAMC directly to the community without it being first reviewed by the Council to be published via RAS for feedback. The Council will be initiating the process of incorporating feedback in the Housing mandate with the newly appointed FAMC team. In the meantime, the older mandate and policy will stand valid.

Due diligence for dismissing an Aurovilian from the workplace

The Council frequently faces situations where an Aurovilian is dismissed from his/her work place without a proper process. For this reason the Council, in collaboration with FAMC, has been working on a document that provides an outline on steps to be followed when a working relationship is deteriorating. The document is finalized and is now with FAMC for a final perusal to then be presented to the community for feedback.

Youth Center, guidelines

The Youth Center residents together with other youths had been requested to approach individuals they trust, to form a support group that could step in when there is an issue/problem at the YC that the youth is not able to resolve. This support group of young adults is now formed, and Guidelines for the YC were formulated.

Council and Wcom members also met with the youth in regard to noise/ parties and also came to agreements on how to hold a collective space, such as the Youth Center, successfully. The youth are willing to communicate with neighbors to inform them prior to organising any event that may be noisy, and agreed that open community places such as YC are to be kept free of alcohol and drug consumption at all times.

Social Services Hub

An attempt to create a coordination Hub for challenging issues is being made by the Council & WCom in collaboration with Koodam, Restorative Auroville, Mattram, Internal Complaint committee (ICC), Child Protection Service, Santé, Auroville Health Services & Auroville Security. A concept note was made with the intention to formulate a proposal to manifest this hub. The process is underway to find the most agreeable way forward along with all concerned groups.

Conflicts and Conflict Resolution Policy

The Council had initiated a review of the section 3 of the Conflict Resolution Policy (CRP) based on the need to update the CRP in regard to domestic violence, sexual harassment and child protection that have been developed since the CRP had been approved by the community. This review group with members from AV Council, WCom, Koodam and AV Security (AVSST), also assessed the methodology to improve and to provide more clarity for those supporting these cases in terms of process and consequences. The reviewed section will be presented to the community in the near future.

Many of the conflict issues arriving at the Council are emergencies that required the immediate presence of the Auroville Security Services Team (AVSST), wherein the AVSST calls a member of the Council to be present as well when needed. Oftentimes when conflicts are presented to the Council there is a need from the residents to be immediately heard and their matter be addressed so that the matter does not escalate. Koodam requires time to analyse cases that could use the tools they use to resolve conflicts and therefore the Council seeks ways that would encourage people to wait until Koodam may decide how to proceed. Council members find themselves challenged and criticised for not prioritising the residents if immediate care is not taken to address their issue, while Koodam requires time to involve and their tools are effective when they are handling the case from the very beginning.

Koodam has been very helpful with their facilitator’s pool to facilitate joint meetings for the Council with other groups and individuals. Appeals and arbitration cases are actively and largely handled with the guidance of Koodam members. Koodam also trains interested individuals to become arbiters.

Mental and emotional wellbeing and counselling

The Council encourages residents to approach Mattram when they feel overwhelmed emotionally and mentally. The professionally qualified members of Mattram have been very cooperative working with the Council by accommodating cases that needed immediate care and expert advice with promptness and with good results. The Council, in collaboration with Mattram team, is also in the process of addressing the problems of families that are suffering from addictions, or who are under severe stress due to large sums of debts incurred. An awareness program on debt management is planned but has not yet taken place.

Appeals/Arbitrations

  • A new appeal has been submitted by Kavitha and Michael against the FAMC decision on Roma’s Kitchen.
  • Mouttou’s appeal in regard to Nandini is pending.
  • Gnanavel and Venkat’s appeal against BCC/FAMC’s decision to merge HRT with BCC has been completed. The Appeal Body found that the initial decision of FAMC of the 24th of September 2020 to close and merge HRT with BCC, is valid.
  • Facilitated meetings between members of Morning Star project and FAMC and WCom are being organized by Koodam facilitators. For February a few facilitated meetings are planned for appeals against decisions of L’avenir/ TDC.
  • Sanjana: arbitration in process, most of the needed financial data has been collected.

Reckless Driving

In October the Council received many complaints about careless driving, dangerous driving, noisy bikes, and racing. As often before, fingers were pointed at the youth. A survey conducted by residents of Kalpana on the traffic on the stretch of road between the roundabout and Humanscape brought to light that it is not only some AV youths that drive at high speed but also adults, and also the local population on their way to and from work.

The Council is aware that there are real issues with traffic safety within Auroville. A meeting was held with youth and parents to share the concerns and invite all into taking more responsibility for safe roads for everyone, and also respect the needs of the people that live next to the road and are impacted with disturbed sleep, with loud bikes racing in the late evening/ night. At the meetings with youth and individuals on road safety, suggestions were made:

  • for better marking dangerous curves and blind junctions, as well as proposing reasonable speed limits, were sent to TDC on which the Council got the reply that there are no funds to do the improvements.
  • The School Board was contacted to look into traffic education and to make a renewed effort to address minors driving bikes with gears.

The Council also received proposals for long term improvement.

  • Raju, Vehicle Service, presented a project for a Driving School.
  • Two young adults presented their project called Driving Academy - a Fun/ Speed track , where under supervision and proper guidance/ instruction, and with protective gears, skilled and safe driving can be learned and experienced.

African Pavilion

The new management team appointed to take care of the African Pavilion did a lot of clean-up work on the African Pavilion site and also repaired the roof of the round building. Apart from the regular activities, a vegetable/crop garden was created. They began with an African restaurant in order to become financially sustainable.

The new team requested more time to prove their efficiency and dedication and expressed that with the present dynamics in the team, where the ground work was not complete and established, they did not feel ready to include some individuals of the previous management team owing to the differences in values and vision for Auroville. However, they were willing to maintain an amicable relationship with the previous team. The Council encouraged that credit be given for the extensive work put in by the previous management team who had built most of the facilities with their hands and objected to the exclusion and dismissive attitude towards them. The started construction of the caretaker unit was discontinued. The African Pavilion support group has tried to collaborate with them and assure that building materials are well kept for future use. Similarly, they have offered to help with the reintegration phase of some of the previous management team. But the collaboration came to a standstill due to the unacceptable behavior of one of the African pavilion team members.

The Council also objected to publications made in some media, with pictures of them with non-registered volunteers and non Aurovilian Africans declared as members of African Pavilion.

Recently, in consequence of a recent incident that involved outside authorities, the Council and WCom decided to pause all activities of the African Pavilion and revoke the management responsibility from the present management team.

Discipline Farm/Community

In November, members from Council and FAMC formed a task force to look afresh at the unresolved situation with Discipline Farm and arrive at a process to appoint a new manager for the Discipline Farm. A facilitated meeting was organised with Discipline residents, Aurovilians involved in farming at Discipline Farm, Farm Group, and also members from the recently started Farm Group Coordination Team. In this meeting it was agreed that a thorough assessment of the farm was needed. A subgroup was formed consisting of 2 farmers from the farm group, 1 Discipline farmer, 1 Discipline community resident farmer, 1 FAMC and 1 Council representative. The process is led by a facilitator. The assessment work is ongoing.

Auromodele, poultry farming in a residential area

The Council was requested to intervene In a situation in Petite Ferme where residents had started to use neighboring land to make a chicken and poultry farm. A shed was built without NOC and quite a large area was fenced off with mesh. Neighbors were impacted by the noise and the bad smell. Auromodele had asked the concerned residents to stop the farm. The issue is slowly getting resolved.

Closure of Old Cases

Based on statements received from a current BCC member and an ex BCC member, the Council concluded that termination of 2 members of News and Notes in 2019 was made by the BCC as a result of the assessment made by FAMC on the merit of the printing section and de-linking the printing section from the budget of News and Notes. Therefore any post on Auronet alleging Sabine's involvement in this decision is incorrect.

The long-standing case of persistent conflicts in New Creation between the management team of Child Development Project (CDP) and a family that has been occupying one of the assets of the project, is still pending. The family refuses to vacate the premises on account of a letter given by the now deceased founder of the CDP Andre. This letter giving permission to live there was given to support the individual in the Newcomer process to submit a proof of accommodation to the Entry Service in 2010. It was meant for the period of volunteering at the school, but the person continues to live there, now along with a partner who is a Newcomer. Although the individual refuses to leave the asset, there have been no more disturbances. The regularization of the assets by CDP by registering their activity under the Foundation is underway and eventually will sort matter in terms of stewardship of the asset.


~ Auroville Council