Few Aurovilians are comfortable with rules and regulations. Yet it is surprising how many, over the years, have been involved in the drafting of the Regulations for Entry and Exit of the Auroville Foundation
Many Aurovilians are deeply unhappy with anything that resembles ‘old world stuff' such as formal rules and regulations. Hadn't The Mother herself said ‘No rules or laws are being framed. Things will get formulated as the underlying truth of the township emerges.”? Would regulations, once accepted, not infringe on our freedom? These and other concerns were repeatedly voiced when the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation exerted mild pressure on Auroville to present it with a proposal for regulations for entry and exit.
Let's review what happened over these last years. In 1997 Mr. N. Bala Baskar, then Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, formulated draft regulations for Auroville's internal organization in cooperation with a senior Aurovilian and members of the then Working Committee. They specified how the Residents' Assembly and the major working groups, the Working Committee, the Entry Group, the Evaluation Committee and the Funds and Assets Management Committee should function. However, an Auroville General Meeting described the draft regulations as ‘old hat' that “do not testify to Auroville's aspiration to boldly spring towards future realizations”. The meeting concluded that these regulations could not be submitted for approval to the Governing Board, but that the discussion on regulations should continue. That was in January 1998. The Governing Board, at the time, was chaired by Dr. Karan Singh.
Years passed. New Governing Boards came and went, but none expressed particular interest in the Regulations of the Auroville Foundation. Then, in September 2005, Dr Karan Singh once again became Chairman of the Auroville Foundation. He lost little time in reminding Aurovilians of their statement seven years earlier and asked for the whereabouts of the Regulations, particularly those relating to entry and exit and to the dealings and mode of decision making of the Residents' Assembly.
The Working Committee was not completely taken by surprise. In September 2004, concerned by the decision to send away three Aurovilians for improper behaviour, a group of Aurovilians had started preparing draft Regulations for Entry and Exit. The draft went through 13 versions and consultations with lawyers before it was finalized in December 2004. However, in January 2005 the Auroville Council decided to reopen the issue and invited a new group to formulate regulations. The new group took great pains to solicit everybody's point of view and even opened a public counter for information and discussion at the town hall entrance. By the end of the year it presented its own version of entry and exit regulations. In February 2006, the Governing Board, confronted with two drafts which widely diverged at certain points, asked the Working Committee to harmonize them so that there would be one proposal agreed to by both groups. The Working Committee subsequently called on all involved to collaborate.
Meanwhile, the community became increasingly aware of the benefit of having regulations. Regulations would give the community legal power to make decisions on entry and exit; they would protect the community and individual members from arbitrary interference from outsiders; and they would clarify the conditions under which a person joins Auroville. Last but not least they would provide transparency to all and sundry by being publicly available on the Auroville website.
In April this year, after months of intensive work, a common proposal was presented to the community. However, to the surprise of many, it was once again rejected. Those who attended the Residents' Assembly called to ratify the proposal spoke about there being ‘no need for regulations as we have the Charter of Auroville and that should be sufficient'; or attacked various points of the proposal. On the initiative of one of the participants the meeting was transformed from a Residents' Assembly meeting into a Platform meeting with a ‘Talking Stick,' a device used by the Native Americans, which was held by each speaker to guarantee a safe hearing so that everyone else would know that it was their turn to listen. In the series of Platform Meetings that followed, the decision was reached to once again work on the drafts. Two new groups formed spontaneously. However, as they were unable to reach agreement, each group presented its own draft to the community a few months later.
On August 17, in a meeting of the Residents' Assembly specifically called for the purpose, the two new proposals and the old one were voted upon by the 64 Aurovilians present. The old proposal received 24 votes; one of the new ones got 14 votes while the third one obtained no votes at all. The chairman, a member of the Working Committee, then declared the old proposal accepted and informed the community that it would be presented to the Governing Board. Those who later muttered that the 24 majority votes could hardly be called ‘representing Auroville' were reminded of the many Aurovilians who, at some point of time, had participated in the drafting of one or other version of the proposals and that nobody had been prevented from attending this meeting. “If they don't want to come, it's their concern,” concluded the chairman, who reminded the meeting that, as long as the community had not redefined the rules for decision making of the Residents' Assemblies, there were the rules of the game.
Case closed? Not really. Various Aurovilians have meanwhile proposed revisions of the accepted proposal. Apart from this, the proposal has yet to be accepted by the Governing Board, which may and most probably will make amendments, before it is sent to the Ministry of Human Resource Development who will lay it, in accordance with the Foundation Act, before each House of Parliament.
The Auroville Entry Regulations The proposed Auroville Entry Regulations are in two parts: the Regulations proper which, after approval of the Governing Board are to be sent to the Ministry of Human Resource Development; and the Admission Policy which will only require the approval of the Governing Board. The Admission Policy can therefore be changed more easily as and when required. Mother's words about Entry to Auroville are part of the Admission Policy.
The Regulations prescribe the constitution and mandate of the Entry Service. It will be gender-balanced, consist of seven members from different age groups and nationalities (six old-timers and one person who recently became resident) and they will hold office for three years. They will endeavour to make decisions by consensus, but if that is not possible, a decision will be made by two third majority. An affected person can appeal against its decisions.
The Regulations further specify when a person ceases to be Aurovilian. To deal with complaints about a person's behaviour as being incompatible with Auroville's ideals, a Review and Assessment Service will be constituted which has the power to take measures against the person concerned, ranging from public warnings to deciding that a person has to leave Auroville for a certain period of time or permanently. Appeal against the decisions of this Review and Assessment Service is possible in most cases.
The Regulations also deal with the Register of Residents and the Master List, and specifies what is to be done in case the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation refuses the request to give his recommendation for a visa or residential permit.
The Admission Policy differentiates four categories of people living in Auroville: Aurovilians, Auroville Students; Relatives and Partners of Aurovilians; and Friends of Auroville. The Admission Policy specifies the conditions for joining Auroville under each of these four categories and details the work of the Entry Service in this regard. A major change from the present admission policy is that the Newcomer probationary period has been reduced from two years to one year, though it can be extended by periods of six months if required. The new Policy also gives a special status to former Aurovilians who want to rejoin Auroville under the header ‘Returning Aurovilian.' The Auroville Students' section not only deals with children of Aurovilians below the age of 18, but also gives the conditions under which other persons below the age of 18 can study at Auroville schools, without being accompanied by their parents. This section will gain importance if Auroville schools decide to educate non-Auroville children. The section on Relatives and Partners describes how ageing or ailing family members of Aurovilians who need to be near their Aurovilian relative, can live in Auroville. It also deals with spouses of Aurovilians who have not become Aurovilian. The category Friends of Auroville clarifies how a person who regularly wishes to visit Auroville and live there for a limited period of time without becoming an Aurovilian can contribute to an apartment for temporary use in Auroville.