Land Board Report for the Governing Board and the International Advisory Council, May 2022
Overview of Auroville Lands
Auroville lands have been purchased by voluntary sale by the owners over the years. Negotiations are carried out by the land board and purchases are made through donations received by devotees, Aurovilians and well-wishers.
Thus, the consolidation of land holdings in the master plan area has not been achieved as yet and Auroville has developed correspondingly.
Within the masterplan concept Auroville owns: 82% of the city area, (some 138 acres remain to be purchased in the city area of which 18.56 acres of private land are on the crown area alone). And 32% of the Green belt, (some 2522 acres remain to be purchased). Auroville also owns approximately 1100 acres of land in the Oustery area, north near Saidapet and on the coast that were purchased primarily around 1965 under the surveillance of the Mother, they are located outside the Masterplan concept.
Please note that within the Master Plan area, a total area of 710 acres constitutes; Village settlements, Peromboke or Temple lands- these are primarily located in the Green Belt area- except for Kottakarai Village that is partially located in the city area-.
These 710 acres can be further broken down to approximately 368.4 acres of village settlements and 342 acres are Temple and/or Poramboke lands respectively.
The Land Board
The Land Board is constituted by some 30 persons who perform the various functions of; purchase, survey and protection on behalf of the Auroville Foundation.
The previous Auroville Foundation secretary Mr Chunkath, had assisted the LB in numerous ways, guiding the Land Board in setting up procedures to prevent fraudulent document purchases and halted land exchanges, after assessing that these had been un-favorable to Auroville. He recommended an empaneled evaluator be hired on the rare occasions it would be necessary. The adoption of these procedures was positive and have ensured genuine documents with transparent procedures for purchases, the stopping of exchanges has encouraged sales to reoccur once again, instead of parties demanding exchanges only.
One disadvantage of the purchase procedure is that it takes time (2 months at minimum from price agreement to purchase conclusion) whereas local sellers are often prompted to sell land to attend to urgent personal matters (such as education, marriage or health). Therefore, any internal delays need to be avoided.
A recent suggestion by the AV Foundation office was to include the undersecretary to join the registration in Vanur, we are concerned that this may add further delays.
We have observed increasing land purchases by outside parties (non-ancestral land owners) who escalate the prices, and/or develop the properties in areas zoned for agriculture and are also demanding the use of the Auroville’s private accesses, (access are provided by mutual agreements to the ancestral farmers owners only and are not transferable upon sale).
We note that especially after the lockdown (see graphs below) purchases have increased. Roadside development and commercial activities in the green belt have also increased, therefore coordinated strategies with regard to preventing development in the green belt, applying appropriate statutes (see GO of TN 2003) or similar, and providing incentives to ancestral land owners whilst dissuading speculators are needed
Steps and actions are needed that can minimize the causes of price escalations, and land use regulations may assist that the Auroville concept is sustained for the future. It is the duty of the LB to assist in these goals and to utilize the donations in a responsible manner on behalf of Auroville, we believe that communication and collaboration with the estate manager is essential to success.
Currently speculation and development by outside parties in the Master Plan area. (Business’s and Plot layouts) are being carried out un-checked (permission from the TDC was required previously). The roadside developments and plotting layouts do not have any waste management or dump sites. These issues are affecting the ecology, beauty and atmosphere that Auroville aims to manifest. Waste is dumped on AV land or by the roadside; poorly managed water governance and loss of green areas will lead to over extraction of the aquifer which will lower or deplete the water table. This will negatively impact the whole area, causing particular hardships to the neighboring villages, farmers as well as Auroville.
Issues faced and questions
The present secretary has directed land acquisition for the city area, the LB assisted in providing the detailed information as requested (plots remaining, owners, guideline values) however we do not have any new information on the matter. The LB was recently invited to a meeting with the Collector but was not admitted to the meeting.
Q: Is there any update regarding land acquisition?
The LB would like to know what strategy to follow when owners come forward to sell land in the city area in view of the acquisition? As the LB purchases are transparent the registered price may be escalated therefore communication is needed. If city lands will be acquired shall the Land Board focus its attention on the green belt instead?
It has been reported in some instances that parties are registering fake sales at a high value to influence land evaluation in the area for acquisition without actually proceeding with the sale.
Q: Can the consideration amount of the actual sales be verified, to prevent escalating the evaluation price for land that is not actually sold?
We are still facing problems for more than a 100 Patta transfers from earlier purchases, 14 are in Pondicherry state and some 90 in Tamil Nadu.
Q: Can assistance be provided to expedite the pending Patta transfers in both Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu?
Q: Can any advantage be provided to Ancestral land owners for selling land to Auroville? (Such as Income tax waiver or any other incentive?)
Two purchases recommended by the FAMC and WC were negotiated by the LB, but were not executed.
1) an area of 1.59 acres in the Greenbelt, authorization requested on 22 Dec 2021
2) an area of 0.30 acres, in the Greenbelt, authorization requested on the 17 Nov 2021
The Auroville Foundation Secretary office hadn’t provided the required authorization letter despite many requests thus the parties sold elsewhere. It may be noted that considerable energy, time and expenses for; legal opinions, newspaper publications were incurred to bring the purchase prior to the final step of requesting an authorization letter to register the purchase.
Two purchases are currently awaiting authorization; (These are important agricultural lands, providing water, electricity and consolidating existing property).
3.95 acres authorization requested on the 10 of March 2022
0.76 acres authorization requested on the 28th March 2022
Q: Can a yearly authorization letter for purchases appointing 3 or 4 members of the Land Board be issued for purchases that are jointly agreed upon by FAMC and WC in favor of Auroville Foundation Offices? As opposed to an authorization for each purchase. Or can the Foundation permit the WC to authorize purchases?
Encroachment and Damage to Auroville Foundation (AVF) property:
A select number of (5) evictions and encroachments were sent on 12 February 2022 via the WC requiring the attention and action of secretary/ Estate officer. To date no answer has been received.
An outside party purchased a property in the eco-sensitive Pitchandikulam area and demanded to use Auroville’s private access instead of negotiating a closer access through the private Auropark layout.
The party used a JCB to destroy the gate and check post bringing goons to intimidate the residents on 23rd March 2022, claiming he had permission from the secretary. The secretary had been requested by the WC on the same day to file a criminal complaint for destruction, trespass and intimidation and to clarify if she gave permission for the access (as was claimed). To date no answer has been received from the Auroville Foundation.
The AVF response is crucial to prevent acts of violence, trespass, destruction and threats to person and property, in order to emphatically dissuade similar present and future acts. Not doing so will make the work that the LB carries out on behalf of the AVF and the residents much harder. The destruction of the live fence by JCB, without prior intimation or in the presence of a Government surveyor has occurred on the Auroville Foundation beach properties located in Pondicherry district in April 2022. The destruction was finally halted by the police and a survey requested, which is awaited. AVF has not acted against these aggravated encroachments. Police complaints filed by the Land Board are the sole action within our purview and are limited in effect, as the Land Board does not have authority to proceed further in court without AVF’s authorization. We note that encroaching parties are behaving with impunity and taking advantage of the present confusion and lack of effective follow up. We are facing aggravated encroachments into Auroville land and land grabbing issues. The Land Board has faced such problems, however with the assistance and involvement of the secretary, we were able to deal with these issues effectively.
Protecting and securing the existing Auroville land must be of prime concern to the office of the Auroville Foundation. The powers and authority of the Estate Officer have been unexploited in some of these instances.
Pending Legal Matters:
Urgent legal proceedings that need AVF secretary signature has as yet not been received.
An authorization to take the matter forward by the LB was requested on 3rd Jan 2022, in order to represent the AVF to sign the review papers through the concerned advocate, regarding an encroachment on AVF property to date none has been provided.
It has been reported that the AVF is meeting with vendors and or other parties related to land issues. kindly consider including or informing the LB so that we are not working at cross purposes.
Regular meetings between the AVF and Land Board could help to mitigate such issues, as discussed and agreed to earlier, however regular meetings have not been held so far.
The Graphs below show the acres, years and areas of land purchase along with weighted average from 2018-2022 (Bear in mind the lockdown/ restriction periods in 2020-21 and the time of this report for 2022)
To know more about the Master Plan: https://standforaurovilleunity.com/master-plan/