The term of office of the members of the Working Committee and Auroville Council ends on June 22nd.
Both groups have published anappraisal of their functioning over the past two years. Here we share excerpts from these self-appraisals.
The mandate of the Working Committee is to represent the Resident's Assembly in interactions with Governing Board, International Advisory Council and the Secretary of the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation, in collaboration with relevant working groups.
Our first and foremost guidance in executing our mandate is not only the Auroville Charter but also the Auroville Foundation Act. The Act is primarily to support and help the development of Auroville in accordance with the Charter. We believe one of the main responsibilities of the Working Committee is to assist the Residents' Assembly to express the inherent strength of the Residents' Assembly and its decision-making bodies to such an extent that it can function and sustain itself independently from any outside decision-making functionaries, however well-intentioned they may be.
The Governing Board and the Human Resource Development Ministry have confirmed that Auroville is an autonomous body. This opinion has also been given by two senior lawyers of the country. Although the legal interpretation has been clarified, there is much work to be done to ensure this is reflected in actual practice on the ground.
Auroville eventually can only be governed by its own strength and wisdom while incorporating all that is of inherent value from any part of the world. But the final decision has to be ours.
One of the tasks in this regard is to cultivate and maintain a mutually-constructive and respectful relationship with the Governing Board, International Advisory Council and Foundation Office. This has been particularly challenging with the present Secretary of the Governing Board. The Foundation Office has a potentially positive role to play in Auroville's development and growth but it certainly is not currently acting as a catalyst to achieve the independence which we understand to be the underlying principle of the Act. In fact it almost appears to be the opposite of what it is supposed to be.
This then becomes a contentious situation in which it is difficult to navigate and guide the community to be more self-sustaining and independently functioning. In addition, there are times when we, in Auroville, undermine this principle ourselves, as when some Aurovilians try and influence their project initiatives directly with the Secretary, and/or members of the Governing Board and its Finance Committee.
A second aspect of the mandate is to maintain cordial relations with the Central and State Government. While we have maintained and strengthened contacts, especially at the Central Government level, more work needs to be done on the level of State government. Recognition of the Master Plan at the Central Government level has been achieved by its gazetting by the Governing Board. At the State level there is a move by the government to change the Town and Country Planning Act which could be favorable for ‘institutions' like Auroville.
Another task is the coordination of the relations with the surrounding villages and improving the contacts with the local authorities. We have tried to do so by initiating a process whereby regular meetings are held with the local authorities, also involving the Tahsildar and the Collector, and three meetings have been called in two years. These meetings are very important for Auroville and we hope they will be followed up further.
We have also have established and maintained a good working relationship with the local police, in collaboration with the Security Service. We are particularly appreciative of the interactions and support we have had with the Director General and Assistant Director General of Police, Chennai, and the District Superintendent of Police, Koot Road .
Yet another important aspect of our work is to strengthen the role of the Residents' Assembly. We have been working towards this goal by improving communication. We provided an open door hour three times a week for any resident to present their issues or topics for our deliberation and follow-up. We tried our best to ensure that written communications received at least an acknowledgment, and that all those who requested an interaction with us received one. There was a conscious effort to write our reports in an informative, open and friendly manner, while still respecting privacy and other concerns. The team has had regular interactions with the other working groups of the Resident's Assembly. Lastly, the way we, with the help of the Council and RAS, facilitated the selection of the new team for L'Avenir d'Auroville, was done with the intention of involving the Residents' Assembly.
Although we may not have made as much progress in this goal as we would have liked and is needed, we believe there is some positive change in the air.
The issue of transparency needs special mentioning. The bulk of our work is related to issues involving Auroville and external entities (individuals, organizations, government offices, etc.). However, there are instances where issues of an internal nature are also brought to our table, and these often require collaboration with other working groups, services, and individuals.
Ideally, all community processes would be totally transparent, and we firmly believe in the necessity of achieving this goal. Unfortunately, the current reality makes this difficult because untimely information can undermine certain processes that are still ongoing, and some individuals take things out of context and confuse matters. Many situations and processes are very complex and sensitive, so we weigh how much and when to share information and decisions with the community.
However, we do try to regularly remind residents that if they are sincerely interested in a particular topic they can come to our office and get more details than we feel comfortable of sharing in an open forum.
Our time in the Working Committee has been extremely challenging on many levels, exhilarating at certain times and discouraging at others. But it has also been a very interesting and eye-opening experience, a prime example of unending education through the yoga of work.