News & Notes 873:Working Committee Report – March 2nd to May 16th 2021

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873 icon.jpg   News & Notes 873
5 June 2021


Working Committee Report – March 2nd to May 16th 2021



The last few months have been a time of adjustment as the members of the newly formed Working Committee get to know each other and settle into the work and its related intensities and complexities, while at the same time discovering how and where to apply each of their strengths and function as a team in spite of the diverse personalities in the group. Some of the topics that have been addressed since our last report:

Functioning of the Working Committee

Auroville Foundation

  • The appointment of the Chairman and members of the next Governing Board is still awaited.
  • The appointment of new members of the International Advisory Council is still awaited.
  • The appointment of the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation is still awaited.
  • The response of the Working Committee to the meeting minutes of the 56th meeting of the Governing Board (held online on November 7th, 2020) was sent to the Acting Secretary on 7th April 2021.

Covid situation

  • Members of the Working Committee are interacting regularly with the Santé Coordination Team, which includes members of the now dissolved Covid Task Force, and with Santé Core Group and Ambulance Team to coordinate together Auroville’s response to the recent increase in cases and in the number of residents who are unwell due to the virus.
  • We would like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to all of the above for stepping up selflessly and for the sake of our community’s health and wellbeing.
  • Efforts are being made to make Sharanam (Bharat Nivas campus) a central facility to receive residents who have tested positive and have moderate to more severe symptoms and may require oxygen and round the clock medical monitoring. We are awaiting approval from the Bharat Nivas trustees with terms that are acceptable to all.
  • Please be alert to the regular Covid bulletins that are being posted to share updates regarding government restrictions and other important information.

NESS

  • Last year some complaints were received by the Working Committee from teachers and students of NESS regarding the firing of a teacher by the Principal and other issues. The trustees were asked by us to look into the complaints.
  • It was decided to form a Task Force to do a review of all the complaints and the functioning of the school. The members of this Task Force were Devi Namasavayam, Nikethana and A. Satish.
  • After a thorough review process was carried out a report was generated by the Task Force and shared with the trustees and the Working Committee.
  • In the meantime, 2 trustees have resigned and there is an urgent need to appoint new ones as there are only 2 remaining.
  • The Working Committee has decided to appoint 4 new trustees now who have been suggested by the existing trustees and are willing to serve, and another 1 to 2 will be selected from those who have offered themselves for this role. Selection criteria have been formulated by the Task Force and a small subgroup of 2 WCom members, 1 TF member and 1 community at large member is being formed for this.

African Pavilion appeal process

  • The managers of the African Pavilion have filed an appeal against the decision of the Auroville Council to remove them as managers.
  • According to the Auroville Appeal Policy (ratified by the Residents Assembly January, 30th 2017), appeals are handled by the Auroville Council. However, since in this case the appeal is against the Council, the WCom coordinates the process.
  • Three Aurovilians from the list of arbiters have agreed to form the appeal body that will take up this case.

GOI grant

We have not received any information regarding allocation or disbursement for the 2021-222 financial year.

Reminders re Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)

  • All work places of Auroville have to comply with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 (POSH Act). In accordance with this Act, on the 24th of October, 2015, the Working Committee appointed the Auroville ICC. Current members are Anbu, Angela, Bunty, Elisa, Lakshmi V, Peter K, Thera and Dr. Vidyaramkumar.
  • Further, since 2016 there has been an Auroville Policy on Prevention of Sexual Harassment which follows the POSH Act and extends the application of it to any gender and to more places within Auroville.
  • The ICC therefore considers any and all issues of sexual harassment that involve a resident of Auroville, a Newcomer, a Friend of Auroville, a volunteer in Auroville, a student of Auroville, a guest of Auroville as well as a person employed by or working for an Auroville trust, an Auroville unit, an Auroville service, any other Auroville legal entity, or individual residing in Auroville.
  • Executives of an Auroville Unit should reach out to the Auroville ICC if they receive a complaint of sexual harassment at their workplace or under their supervision and communicate to the concerned individuals about the ICC's existence and process, including how to register a complaint, unless the executives of the unit/work place have formed their own internal ICC and informed the Working Committee about the members of their constituted ICC.
  • The POSH Act and the Auroville policy can be found at this link [...]. Posters in English and Tamil have been created by the ICC that give details of the rights of employees in this matter. If you are the manager of a work place in Auroville and do not have these posters displayed in a prominent place, please contact the ICC (icc (at) auroville.org.in).

Aurovilians Confirmed date

  • Encouraged to do so by feedback from concerned residents and the Entry Board/Service, we have revisited our previous interpretation and conclusion regarding when someone is considered to be 'Aurovilian'.
  • We agree that the final decision of who is accepted as 'Aurovilian' should stay with the Residents' Assembly.
  • Therefore, we have written to: the Residents' Assembly Service that those who have been announced as Confirmed Aurovilian by the Entry Board are eligible to participate in all community decision-making processes along with those who have been entered into the Register of Residents maintained by the Secretary's Office; the Matrimandir that Confirmed Aurovilians can have access there in the same way as all other residents; the Residents' Service that Confirmed Aurovilians be entered into the Master List with the date of confirmation by the Entry Board as the Aurovilian date.

Proposal for improving relationships with neighboring villages

  • A Working Committee member (Partha) is collaborating with another Aurovilian (Sanjeev A) to try to work on improving Auroville’s relationships with its neighbors.
  • There is a proposal to find practical ways of having good and fraternal relations with the villages that surround Auroville.
  • Auroville has done a lot of welfare work for the villages in terms of giving employment, education, skill development, health care and implemented many government schemes related to women welfare. However, more attention is needed in building healthy and collaborative relationships with the village leaders and elders in order to reduce the instances of misunderstandings that can flare into conflict. The idea is to create an atmosphere where Auroville and the villages that surround it work in a complementary relationship.
  • If you are interested by this program and are also in a position to contribute to the success of it because of personality, contacts in the villages, etc, please contact Partha or Sanjeev directly.

Labor issues

  • A resource pool of individuals who can address labor disputes is being created jointly with the FAMC.
  • We advise anyone considering hiring a new employee, whether as a household worker, gardener or in a unit/service, to ask for past employment history and to get feedback about performance at work from past employers.

VIP reception team

  • Although the number of VIP visitors has not been high this year due to the pandemic, it has been decided to add some diversity to the current team so Shanthi Gastmans will join Bunty and Eric A (in collaboration with Matrimandir Access Team as well as Sanjay and Shiva from Matrimandir) in this work.
  • There will be a six-month orientation and trial period after which the situation will be reviewed.

Sri Aurobindo's 150th Year

As previously announced, a core team has been appointed and has started functioning. They will keep the community updated as things develop.

Clarification regarding violence

In our last report we informed the community about the arrest of an Aurovilian for violence against another Aurovilian. We expressed our disappointment in the action of going to the police when internal processes were ongoing and steps being taken to try and address the safety of all involved. We acknowledge that this criticism may have felt unfair and one-sided since similar criticism was not explicitly expressed towards the individual who perpetrated the violence. We do encourage everyone to sincerely and completely exhaust all internal possibilities for conflict resolution before going to external authorities. At the same time, we would like to state clearly that we do not condone violence of any kind in Auroville and we are disappointed by the number of instances of misunderstandings and miscommunications that become conflicts that too often involve either verbal or physical violence.

New DIG, Mr. M. Pandian

  • Mr. M. Pandian was appointed as the new Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police for Villupuram, Cuddalore and Kalakurichi districts in February 2021.
  • A courtesy call was made to him by a delegation consisting of a member of the Working Committee, Security Service and the Land Board with Mr. Balamurugan, liason officer, in April.


Follow up of various topics & issues continues with local, district & state level authorities.


~ The Working Committee