“To pause all clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work on the Right of Ways of Crown, Radials and Outer Ring in order to enable the community to define a way forward for Auroville’s development, following:
- collective processes,
- the ‘Master Plan: Perspective 2025’ framework,
- and other relevant regulations.
The outcome shall be approved through a ratified Residents’ Assembly Decision-making process, before the above specified clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work resumes”.
In my view, the call to decide to ‘pause all’ is a bit lost and late. Why?
Lost because, it is calling to pause all work, which I understand, given the circumstances, but, until when? As they say, the devil is in the details. Further, it says… ‘in order to enable the community’, but doesn’t define ‘What will make the community feel adequately enabled?’ Then again, it says, ‘to define a way forward’. To be noted, not ‘to move forward’, but only to further ‘define’, which again is an ambiguous term.
Point to be noted is ATDC is already structured in a way that enables the community to participate in self-organisation. Refer the Standing Order for ATDC, 2019. The mandate and the roles are already defined in it. Why duplicate and waste our already thin community resources? Why not ‘COLLECTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE EXISTING COMMUNITY PROCESSES’ ?
Second, Late because, the work of clearing, infra laying and construction work on RoW of Crown has started long back, in 2009. The first work order to make the Crown Road was given then. Subsequently, work has taken place in the mentioned areas in sporadic ways. If at all, someone had apprehensions, there was a 12 year window to put forth alternate ideas, and even join ATDC to change as they wish. In fact, many protesting figureheads were part of ATDC, why didn’t they bother to correct the course, while it was still in the cold storage. Realistically, it is now almost impossible to pull back this decision, after having enacted all the drama till now. However, there is still scope to discuss the Radials and outer Ring Road. I wish we could focus our energy on the radials and outer ring, rather than the Crown. I’m ok for losing a battle to win a war.
The final para, ‘The outcome shall be approved through a ratified Residents’ Assembly Decision-making process, before the above specified clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work resumes” is a bit worrisome too, as it puts a condition that work can only resume, provided we arrive at an outcome, given the undefined terminologies like ‘Collective Processes’ and ”Other’ Relevant Regulations’ – we can happily dedicate our lifetime to define what those are – we still arrive at some decision. Let’s say we decide to meander blissfully and avert the endangered Darkali. Now, the question is, will the work be stopped if Auroville loses the NGT case against the Auroville Foundation?
Let’s put this in context.
ATDC presented its plan for ‘the Crown’ to the Secretary, Auroville Foundation in August 2021. Yours truly was part of the ATDC then.
ATDC informed the Secy, AVF that the HTL of Crown is incomplete as the stewards are unwilling to allow the HTL to go through the planned circle.
Secy, AVF agreed to support ATDC in finishing the ‘long-pending’ work, and wanted to know the status of the pending roads. When it declared that it is bankrupt (which ATDC is, it depends on BCC and other willing donors) and cannot finish the work due to paucity of funds, she committed to get a GOI grant to help ATDC finish the work.
Secy, AVF believed she could take ATDC out of the logjam and went on a slew of meetings, walks, discussions, etc to find a solution to the stewards’ concerns.
Then, came October, and the new Governing Board members visited Auroville, listened to the requests of various working groups and assured support to finish ATDC’s work.
Again, many a meetings followed. Btw, there are 17 stewards on the pending crown area and almost all of the them agreed to the CRoW plan barring B, YC and D. They were asked to present their concerns and possible solutions to ensure the Crown goes as per plan. For eg. an alt space for YC or for Darkali, a type of technical solution to move the man-made water catchment area a bit, or to build bridges over stormwater flow, or transplanting trees, or anything else that they deem fit, as a solution to find a way for CRoW. However, the solutions from B,YC&D only recommended design changes to the CRoW plan itself. This was disappointing from ATDC’s point of view. Though, I think the responsibility for the misunderstanding rests on the ATDC. ATDC was ambiguous and flexible in its messaging, yet firm and quick in its actions.
In November, as requested by the Secy, AVF, it gets the necessary funding for the Crown, Radial and Ring work. And, the Crown work was supposed to be finished by 31st Dec. ATDC takes its sweet community-recognised work style and time. Honestly, ATDC was accustomed to working in hand-to-mouth mode, it did not have the wherewithal to shift gears and accelerate. We wondered, pondered and squandered the time.
Fast forward to Dec 3, the minutes of the meetings of the Governing Board are released and Secy, AVF requests ATDC to start the work immediately.
ATDC starts it on 4th Dec and ‘somehow’ continues till 10th Dec. Auroville gets a stay order from National Green Tribunal to stop the felling of trees until further notice.
As of today, the 17th Jan, the stay continues. If the stay is lifted, most likely the work shall resume, as the GB most likely believes they’re supporting Auroville Community work, as nothing came from them. They must wonder what all this hue and cry is about, after all they’re only helping implement Auroville’s own Master Plan (spare me the whataboutery). Can the RAD stop the resumption of work? Excuse the long detour.
Do we, as Auroville Residents’ Assembly, have a power to over-rule the GB’s decision? By all means, we can wish, request, advice, plead, beg, pray, appeal, ask, solicit, petition, seek, invoke, etc. to the GB to change their mind, for the sake of Auroville. But, of course, our enlightened mind, elevated soul, and advanced selves may find it demeaning. On the other hand, can we order, demand, summon, dictate, stipulate, pressure, command, impose, declare that the GB abide by the ‘community’ decision?
The Auroville Foundation Act, clearly defines the roles and powers. We may interpret it the way we want for internal consumption, but, would it help our cause?
I wonder, will we truly win, even if we win against the larger, external powers. I wonder what will be left of the community after winning? I also wonder what are we afraid of losing? as we anyway do not own anything physically.
I personally came to Auroville for inner work, and I’ve great battles to be fought there. And, my first battle ought to be against writing long essays.
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