At the same time a reply is formulated by a part of the divided Working Committee:
We are in receipt of your letter of 6th May, 2022, regarding the Register of Residents. We are writing in our capacity as members of the Working Committee and the Residents’ Assembly. We note that your letter is partly in response to a letter, comments and documentation sent to the Secretary’s office by the other 4 Working Committee members. We would like to put on record that this letter contains inaccuracies in the statements made as well as the basis for the ‘questions to be asked’. We were not involved in writing the letter and we do not agree with many of the observations that were made in it.
In response to your letter we have the following observations:
It is not correct that the Register of Residents has not been updated since 2005. An exercise of updating the RoR, with the help of the then Working Committee and staff dedicated full time, was undertaken in 2018-19 and the Auroville Foundation Office issued ID cards on that basis. Information about births, deaths and new people joining Auroville is regularly sent to the Secretary’s office. It is then the job of the office of the Secretary to update the RoR accordingly. As per the Auroville Foundation Act, Section 18.2, it is the responsibility of the office of the Secretary to maintain the RoR.
Moreover, every person, on joining Auroville, signs a form that has been officially gazetted as part of the Auroville Admission and Termination Regulations, 2019. The same form should be used for updating the RoR as this is what was approved by all 3 bodies of the Auroville Foundation. If changes are made to the form or a new form is proposed, due process is needed in order to gain similar approval.
We do not share the view that the Residents’ Assembly Service is a dysfunctional body. As per section 19 (3) of the Auroville Foundation Act, the Residents’ Assembly may function by establishing committees and the relevant documentation has been sent to the Auroville Foundation Office from the Working Committee in January and April 2022. No comments have been received on this matter and if there is some area of dissatisfaction regarding their performance it must be brought to their notice with a chance for self-correction.
We refute the statement that the Residents’ Assembly as whole is a dysfunctional body. After the establishment of the Auroville Foundation, the Residents’ Assembly has successfully completed the construction of Matrimandir. It has created and runs schools for Auroville and for the local region and our education system is attracting growing interest and attention from experts and observers. The Health system is running, our economic units are flourishing and financially supporting the community – the income from Auroville’s own units constitutes the backbone for its functioning. The environmental work undertaken in Auroville is attracting increasing attention in India and worldwide. In the last twenty years an important effort for development has taken place with new constructions in the City Center, the starting of the Residential Zone and several public buildings in the cultural zone. A large proportion of these developments have been made through funds raised by Aurovilians and only part through grants of the Government of India. It is important to note also that all lands purchased by Auroville have been entirely procured through fund raising efforts that have encouraged and resulted in private donations from abroad, from India and sometimes Aurovilians themselves.
During the pandemic, when even the Auroville Foundation Office was closed at times, the Auroville Community showed an extraordinary resilience in facing the challenges of the lockdown, managing its public health system in direct coordination with the local authorities, facing the economic challenges and preserving its economic resources at a time of a global challenge.
As for the complaints received by the Governing Board, in the spirit of natural justice, proper procedure would be to create a neutral body to hear both sides and arrive at a fair evaluation. Improving and growing is part of progress. The Working Committee had suggested in previous GB meetings to appoint experts from reputed organizations to study our systems and processes and suggest possible ways and means to make improvements for the future. But it seems instead that a judgement has arrived only giving weightage to certain voices and perspectives.
Finally, regarding Residents’ Assembly Decision-making (RAD) processes, we would like to respectfully note that it is the prerogative of the members of the Residents’ Assembly to decide its internal mode of function. As it was stated in the Rajya Sabha by Mr. Shiv Shankar, Minister of Human Resources Development, presenting the Auroville Foundation Bill, 1988: “As far as the day-to-day activities are concerned, they will be looked after by the residents through appropriate autonomous arrangements, which will include Residents’ Assembly and its Working Committee. The idea underlying this arrangement is that the residents of Auroville should have autonomy so that activities of Auroville can grow under an atmosphere conducive to harmonious growth.”
While highlighting the great amount of work and progress that has been made in Auroville’s 50 years of existence, we also readily acknowledge that there is a great scope for progress and improvement and we agree that Auroville should progress faster in a direction of inner and outer growth. It is our firm belief that the best way to enable and accelerate growth and progress in a manner that is reflecting the true spirit of Auroville is through collaborative rather than authoritarian methods and intentions.
We would be happy to provide any further clarifications that may be required.
Chali, Hemant, Sauro
Members, Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly