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April 2006

 

Accelerating the building of the city?

- Carel

A proposed Auroville Universal Township Development Council does not mention a role for Auroville’s population.

On February 15th a letter from Roger Anger to the Chairman of the Governing Board was leaked. In the letter, sent on January 17th, Roger considered that, with the Matrimandir now nearing completion, a need is felt by many, particularly those participating in the Auroville Vision 2012 initiative, to accelerate the planning and construction of the Auroville Township and complete it within a specific time frame. Recalling that the task of building the Auroville Township is the work and responsibility given to him by the Mother, Roger mentioned that during the last couple of years he has endeavoured to create awareness amongst Aurovi-lians and the members of the Governing Board about the need for changes and reforms in Auroville, which would allow him to take up the task of building the Auroville Township. But till now, he wrote, such changes and reforms, which include a re-dedication to the Charter of Auroville and to the aims and objectives given by the Mother for Auroville, have not taken place. He proposed that the Governing Board appoint and empower a special body, ‘The Auroville Township Develop-ment Council', to plan, develop and build the township under his overall supervision and guidance.

A detailed note labelled ‘draft 6' containing the proposed mandate of the Council was also leaked. It would have “an executive team of twelve persons” with “five-year tenure,” a management team of five executives and an external expert advisory committee of four members, all appointed with approval of Roger Anger. Each executive would have responsibility for a specified functional area, such as planning, engineering, construction, administration, human resources, communication, village development and integration, quality assurance and liaison with governments. Existing Auroville activities related to planning, design and building of Auroville would be integrated in the Council. The powers of the executives were to be specified, but the final decision was to be Roger Anger's alone.

This proposal at once became the talk of the town. The fact that it didn't mention the Auroville residents and ignores the existence of the Residents' Assembly, one of the authorities of the Auroville Foundation Act, did not escape attention. Some observed that Roger's mandate was given to him by The Mother at a time when nobody was living in Auroville; today over 1800 people reside here, and not to give them any say in the shaping of the place where they live seems unrealistic if not outright unfair. Others wondered why the Auroville Planning and Development Council (APDC), a working group constituted a few years ago, had not been consulted. After all, this body has at present the community's mandate for planning. And why was the Vision 2012 process mentioned in the proposal but its facilitating team not informed about it?

The team behind Vision 2012 immediately distanced itself from the proposal, stating publicly that it implied a circumvention of the AV Vision 2012 process, and would consolidate the decision-making authority over Auroville's development in the hands of a very few. “We feel that it is only by us joining together and offering ourselves as instruments in a true aspiration, sincerity and receptivity, and by doing so rising up to meet the manifestation that is descending from above, that Auroville will come to be. In that meeting point, all impossibilities, all opposites dissolve. All those who are impelled from within to participate in this process are naturally part of it and are welcome and valued,” wrote the team.

Auroville's intranet, a medium not known for its shyness of expression, also blossomed with objections and observations. The top-down approach of the proposal was challenged – seen as an attempt to establish a totalitarian dictatorship over Auroville's evolving group soul. In an open letter Roger was asked to reflect on ten questions on the proposal and the Master Plan. Does either serve as a viable model for the spiritual and ecological development of India and the rest of the world? Do they reflect the true and liberating spirit of the Charter of Auroville? Can the community evolve an alternative development plan? Who would be Roger's successor as the head of the new organization if the time would come for him to leave? And how will Roger's leadership serve as an example to us all? “To say that you have Mother's blessing and to then use this blessing in order to impose your will on the community in 2006 is not enough. Until we hear your voice, until we see your actions regarding these very important questions I cannot help but feel that the imposition of you and your chosen team will be a great danger to the Charter of Auroville,” wrote someone. These questions have remained unanswered in print, even though, as another correspondent observed, “They express a deeply moved and very concerned portion of the evolving population of Auroville – and as such they cannot be put aside.”

Roger meanwhile wrote to the Working Committee that he objected that drafts of his correspondence with Dr. Karan Singh were published without authorization.

In a separate communication, Aurovilians were invited to a clarification and reflection with the team that has assisted Roger in the formulation of the proposal on Sunday February 26th. That invitation also included the final draft of Roger's proposal – the earlier draft, apparently, had never been sent to the Chairman of the Board. But the final proposal contained similar elements as the earlier draft, with the notable exception that it did not mention who would constitute the Council, though it would still be empowered by the Board. But in this draft also, involvement of the community was excluded; the final authority of Roger had been maintained. The final version also stated that the creation of the Council should be complemented by other changes in Auroville such as in the areas of economy, education, organization, and communication.
The discussion on that Sunday did little to assuage the fears of the community and the conviction that a small team of people are endeavouring a ‘take over'. The views of the Governing Board on the proposal are now awaited.

 

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