Who will Compensate Auroville for its losses?

For over a year now the Forest Group and the Youth Centre (YC) have opposed the clearing of the Crown (ROW) and the laying of an electrical cable alongside it. Arguments have been heard from their side justifying their claim that the Crown should not pass through the YC or the Bliss Forest. The TDC has replied to their arguments explaining why it is necessary to clear the circular Crown right-of-way (RoW) as provided for in the master plan. Almost 300 Aurovilians have written a letter of support to the TDC requesting them to continue their work. The Secretary of the Auroville Foundation has also directed the TDC to complete the task of clearing the master plan RoWs and to lay the HT cable along its designated path along the cleared Crown RoW. He has also directed that other master plan RoWs must be cleared. When the TDC sent a team to survey and mark the Crown, YC residents told them that they are not welcome there and that no survey should take place. One member of the Forest Group had remarked in a posting that proceeding with the work may lead to violence (“We seem to be heading for a violent clash. When the TDC orders the JCB to cut through the YC it will be hard to find peaceful space for dialogue and mutual understanding”).

The defiant blocking of the progress of the development work of building the Township goes against the fundamental structure of the Auroville Foundation Act, the provisions of which govern the functioning of the Auroville Foundation.

How is one to deal with such a situation? It was never expected that Aurovilians would act against Auroville. Hence this situation is new and needs some thinking on what to do.

For those who do not know the background of the TDC here is a brief history of the creation of the TDC.

The Auroville Master Plan provides for the establishment of a “Town Development Council” with an organisation structure as given in Appendix V of the Master Plan (page 108). The Auroville Master Plan also provides for a “Prescribed Authority” to be established by the Auroville Foundation for the implementation of the Master Plan.  In the Standing Order by which the TDC was established by the Governing Board in May 2011, the TDC was also designated as the “Prescribed Authority” for implementation of the Master Plan. The Standing Order by which the TDC was established was amended in June 2019 to take care of a technical detail.

The Governing Board has been given the mandate of ensuring development of Auroville in accordance with the Auroville Master Plan as per section 17(e) of the Auroville Foundation Act. With the establishment of the TDC, the Governing Board undertakes this responsibility through the TDC. Residents of Auroville are expected to take part in the planning and development of Auroville as also shown in the organisation diagram of the TDC on page 108 of the Master Plan document.

The TDC Standing Order makes a reference to l’avenir d’Auroville as follows: “Since the name “L’avenir d’Auroville” was given by the Mother for the Township Planning, developing and building the organisation; the Council shall retain it and may use the expression “Auroville Town Development Council – L’avenir d’Auroville” in its internal communications”.

Getting back to the situation of blocking the progress of the works of TDC, here are some thoughts:

The Mother has told us: “No big creation is possible without Discipline – individual discipline, group discipline, discipline towards the Divine” (16-09-1968).

Could it be that far too many people have entered Auroville who do not have any faith in Mother’s idea of Auroville and want to replace Her idea with their own? If that is so then what should be done? From various communications, postings and meetings it appears that increasingly residents of Auroville seem to think that they are the “clients” of the TDC and that the township is to be built as per their wishes rather than acting as volunteers who build the Mother’s town, where she is the “client” and we are the workers.

The blocking of the work of the town development infrastructure has caused financial losses to Auroville. An issue arises about who will compensate Auroville for these losses. There is an urgent need to hold the people causing these losses accountable and liable to compensate Auroville.

Another related issue arises from this and similar incidents: Many individuals, institutions and corporations have provided donations and grants to Auroville. The Government of India has also provided grants for the development of the Auroville Township. The project of the Auroville Township has been detailed in various brochures that describe Auroville as well as the master plan that sets out how the Auroville Township is to be developed. These brochures have been circulated amongst donors who have contributed for this purpose. Land has been purchased with this plan in mind. Equipment and materials have been purchased to develop the township, including its infrastructure, as per this plan. To use the land for purposes other than for which it was purchased creates a criminal liability towards those who have donated. The people who have encroached upon the land and put it to some other use need to be held accountable and liable under the law of the land.

A reading of the minutes of the meetings of the Governing Board confirms that the Governing Board on numerous occasions had called for accelerating the development of the Auroville township including the preparation of detailed development plans. In their meeting of 8th September 2019, the Governing Board noted that the true experiment of Auroville will only start when Auroville is a vibrant township with 50,000 residents. The Board further noted: “All programs and projects of the Auroville Foundation will henceforth be aligned with the larger program of building the Auroville township within a time frame and as per the Auroville Master Plan.”

However, these directives and guidelines have been flouted specially in relation to the structure and functioning of the Town Development Council, compliance with the Auroville Master Plan and consistent and continuous engagement with the Tamil Nadu Government for the creation of a statutory land use regulation mechanism.  

A masterly continuous argumentation over some issue or the other causing long delays and effectively annulling the directives of the Governing Board has been a strategy used to good effect. Some members of Auroville working groups are seen openly taking sides with those who oppose the Galaxy Concept and the Master Plan based on it, and with those who block the clearing of the Crown and other master plan RoWs and the installation of infrastructure services. In effect they use their position to support the blockage against the work of the TDC rather than assisting with the development of the Auroville Township.

This leads to the following reflections:

1.  What are the consequences for either individuals or a working group that causes financial loss to Auroville? Since no machinery exists within Auroville to claim compensation for losses caused to Auroville, do we use the ordinary legal machinery of the civil and criminal courts to claim this compensation? If we do not want to use the ordinary legal machinery then what are the other ways to deal with this ?There is a need to think about this before it is too late and things go out of our hand.

2. Auroville is being built with financial support in the form of donations and grants, which are given by people who have been touched by the vision of the Mother of her Township. Should there be any consequences for individuals or groups of individuals who covertly or overtly work against the township plans? Since there does not seem to be any mechanism in Auroville to deal with such actions, should Auroville act under ordinary law where such acts may be perceived and treated as cheating and misappropriation, which are criminal offences? Would Auroville need to resort to such measures when the need arises?

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