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Procession by the villages

April '02

- based on a communication from the Working Committee, 
as published in the Auroville News # 935, April 20th, 2002

To the residents:

As you are aware, a number of villagers from surrounding villages have held two meetings on successive Sundays at the eucalyptus tope to discuss grievances mostly related to land purchase and management issues.
On Thursday April 11th, they organised a procession from Kuilapalayam to Bharat Nivas to present a list of their grievances to the office of the Secretary, Auroville Foundation, which attracted press coverage and necessitated a police presence.

The Working Committee and concerned working groups have already met the Tahsildhar, Vanur about this and are preparing replies to the points raised and necessary explanations. We will be continuing our efforts to resolve the situation by trying to engage all parties in a constructive dialogue involving the Panchayats and other local authorities.

Further information regarding the procession and issues raised by villagers

The main points in the list of grievances submitted by the group of villagers who have been organising meetings and the procession on April 11th '02 were: 

  • Newspaper advertisement by Land & Estate Management advising potential buyers of land in the Auroville area of the status of the Auroville Foundation
  • Site selection for a Handicraft Village project
  • Auroville Master Plan
  • Lease and use of puramboke (Government owned) lands

At this point it is important to say that a process of information and dialogue had already been started in February with the elected Panchayat representatives from Irumbai and Bommayapalayam Panchayats (which include Edayanchavadi, Kottakarai and Kuilapalayam) and has continued with follow-up meetings aimed at forming a Joint Development Council. The process is to be expanded so as to include representatives from other surrounding villages also at the next meeting.


Forum for Village & Auroville

These meetings have provided a forum where all issues concerning the development of Auroville and the surrounding villages can be raised and discussed round the table in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration. The acknowledged aim is to facilitate the development of the Auroville project along the lines of the Master Plan while actively addressing the development requirements of the local villages through relevant Government schemes, joint projects and common initiatives. It is also to promote a better mutual understanding on all levels of life, and specifically to sponsor projects and programmes which will help to improve attitudes and mutual appreciation on all sides.
However, since the above mentioned list of grievances has been submitted by villagers not presently involved in this process, the following replies have been prepared for communication to them in consultation with the Tahsildhar and with the Panchayat representatives in the Joint Development Council.

Newspaper advertisement

The advertisement referred to simply advises prospective buyers to be careful before entering into any transactions with real estate agents for purchase of land in the Auroville area. It informs them of the status of the Auroville Foundation which holds land in the area for the Auroville Universal Township project. It further advises them to consult Auroville's  Land & Estate Management for further information. It does not tell them not to purchase land in the Auroville area.
Since this advertisement has been widely disseminated and served its purpose for the time being, we will consider suspending it after consultation with Panchayat representatives.

Site Selection for Handicraft Village project

Auroville has been holding intensive consultations with the Collector, DRDA and other officials to find the best suitable location for the self-help handicraft project. Auroville fully supports the development of local handicraft activities which provide much-needed employment opportunities especially to women, and is willing to provide further support and services as far as possible.

Auroville Master Plan

The Auroville Foundation is statutorily obliged to draw up a Master Plan for the development of the Auroville Universal Township project for submission to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The objective of the Master Plan is to provide for the dynamic and harmonious development of both Auroville and the surrounding villages and bioregion. The Master Plan has been presented and explained to the elected Panchayats of Irumbai and Bommayapalayam villages and to the Collector, Villupuram District. A translation in Tamil language is being prepared; meanwhile full copies in English can be provided as necessary. 

 Lease and use of puramboke lands

The lands concerned are currently not producing any revenue for the Panchayats: income from the lease would provide additional revenue for local development works. The proposal will be submitted to the Panchayats for their feedback.  In many puramboke lands, especially canyons or ravines adjacent to Auroville lands, soil and water conservation works have been undertaken. These works have actually improved the grazing and availability of fodder. Wherever this has reduced access, alternative ways have been provided on patta land belonging to Auroville so that the agricultural activities of neighbouring landowners can be carried on without any hindrance.

The other points raised in the list (there were 10 in the original list and subsequent additions) are being addressed in the same way. They included concerns about employment conditions in Auroville, traffic regulation, siting of Adventure cremation/burial ground, and cultural differences between local and 'foreign' residents of the area.

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