New "Joining Auroville" document approved
Entry Group plans to re-open Auroville soon
After a one-year process, a new document on
joining Auroville has been accepted by a meeting of the Residents'
Assembly. The main changes are that the newcomer period has been
extended from one to two years and that newcomers are expected to
participate in the Economy 2000 experiment. The document also contains a
confusing statement about housing, to be clarified in a future
attachment. A declaration that the newcomer understands and agrees with
the document and commits him/herself fully to the realization of the
ideals of Auroville, has to be signed.
The way this new document has come about
raises certain questions.
When Auroville closed its doors to newcomers in
October 1999, the reason given was that Auroville could not offer decent
housing to its newcomers and that newcomers were often housed in
inappropriate structures. Members of the Entry Group explained that
about 40% of the new applicants - an average of four persons every
month - were not in a position to provide the finances for their own
housing and hence ended up living in storeroom-like structures. By
closing Auroville, the Entry Group was attempting to find solutions by
"referring the problem to the community" - in other words, by
putting pressure on the community to find a solution to the housing
While waiting for the community's response,
the Entry Group - witnessing, in the words of some of its members, "the
development of class society where affluent Aurovilians built houses in
the price range of 10-30 lakhs (US $ 20,000-60000) while others had to
struggle to find a decent accommodation and break even with the monthly
expenses" - meanwhile embarked upon an attempt to rewrite the entry
policy. This effort was stimulated by the introduction of the Economy
2000 experiment, in which more than 300 individuals opted to share their
income, and moves were set in motion to make it mandatory for newcomers
to join the experiment. This provoked strong protests within the
community as the Economy 2000 experiment is not universally regarded as
a step towards the ideal economy Mother had described. The final wording
was modified to read "newcomers are expected to participate".
Objections were also raised to other strong statements in the first and
subsequent drafts of the revision. (See AVToday #135, April 2000 and
#137, June 2000)
It took the Entry group, together with other
interested Aurovilians, about one year to come to a new policy document.
It regularly called upon the community to participate, and published
drafts and final versions of the document in the AVNews before the
Residents' Assembly meeting was called to ratify it. The 70 or so
Aurovilians who attended this meeting - the choice of the day and time
for this meeting, Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m., should be questioned -
soon learned that the time for discussion was over. It was 'yes' or
'no', a process with which not all who attended agreed. Finally,
only 45 people voted: 30 in favour and 15 against. The Entry Group then
announced that the document had been ratified with a two-thirds
"Those who expressed reservations may please
acknowledge that it is exceedingly difficult in Auroville to reach
consensus on any policy document, even after having followed all the
necessary steps - in this case, a transparent one-year process, with
regular calls for participation to the whole community, resulting in a
wide-spectrum involvement. Still, at one point, a conclusion has to be
reached for the work pertaining to the document to start, in this case,
for the entry process to resume," wrote the Entry Group in the
Auroville News, announcing the ratification of the document. And the
Entry Group later confirmed that, as soon as the two appendices to the
document "Joining Auroville" (one on housing policy the other
on economy) are ready, newcomers can join again.
While it is good news that Auroville will soon
reopen its doors to those who aspire to join, feelings of uneasiness
remain, notwithstanding all the good intentions and the hard work done
to come to this new document.
The main criticism is, of course, that the
reason why Auroville was closed - to solve the problems of those who
would like to join Auroville but who do not have the financial means to
contribute towards a house - has not been solved. The attempt of the
Entry Group to pressurize Auroville to find a solution by closing has
failed. What is worrying is that even today, no working group is engaged
in finding a solution to this problem.
Another criticism concerns the way in which the
new Entry document has been made, as the process was less transparent
than the Entry Group maintained. What was presented for ratification was
what a certain group of Aurovilians felt should be the new entry rules
for Auroville. Many of the suggestions for changes or deletions of parts
of the document or to improve the document did not get incorporated in
the final draft because those responsible for the rewrite did not agree
with them. These suggestions were never presented to the community.
This problem touches upon one of the core
problems of decision-making in Auroville. The case of transparency would
certainly have been served by publishing all the suggestions made in the
AVNews, together with the reasons for rejecting them, even though this
process would have been very time consuming.
A third criticism is that, since the meeting of
the Residents' Assembly was called only to cast a vote, better systems
could have been thought of to allow for a wider community participation,
such as voting by mail or e-mail. For can it truly be said that the
community has accepted a document if only 30 out of the 900 adults
explicitly approved it?
And finally, in view of the large number of
people within the community who objected to the closing of Auroville,
the question begs to be answered why there was no vote called on
formally ending the closing.