On February 21, 2009, the Board of Services Support Team, a non-official group of five people who work in various City Services, issued a public complaint about the inequalities, injustices and frustrations that Auroville's present economic system is generating in a large number of people, especially amongst those working in the City Service. Excerpts:
Auroville's economy today is channelled through two parallel systems: one for the services and one for the commercial sector and there are substantial differences between the two in terms of maintenances, policies and regulations. Over the years a big gap has been created between these two sectors. We believe that this needs to be addressed and positive steps taken to correct it. The following is a description of the differences:
The various components of the personal maintenances are strongly regulated for the City Services, with defined upper limits and percentages of what is made available in kind and in cash. This is compulsory for everyone working in City Services. Rarely are exceptions made. In the commercial sector, in contrast, unit holders don't have any upper limit to what they can access from their units. An attempt made around two years ago by the then Economy Group to start a discussion with the Board of Commerce (ABC) about setting up guidelines and upper limits to the maintenances of commercial unit executives was turned down by the ABC as they preferred no regulations.
It is common practice that the expenses of executives of commercial units for motorbikes, cars, travel, telephones, watchmen, and repairs or extensions of a house are entered into the accounts as expenses of the unit. This facility is not available to those working in City Services. Sometimes, certain expenses can be covered in part from specific collective budgets allocated by the Central Fund but everybody knows the constraints of these budgets and the bureaucratic proceedings needed to obtain any individual help. The usual way for someone working in the City Services to meet an extraordinary expense is to request a loan from the Financial Services which is then to be repaid from the cash part of the personal maintenance. The repayment of these loans is often difficult under the limitations of the present maintenance system.
Over time more and more attempts have been made to regulate and quantify the activities of the City Services, particularly in terms of finances and the availability of funds needed. In contrast, in the commercial sector we find that many important aspects (i.e. personal maintenances and personal expenses) are not being regulated.
The present dual system has created a big disparity within Auroville in consumption levels, standards and styles of life, and even in values and mind sets. This situation is unhealthy, affects Auroville as a whole, and particularly the Aurovilians working in the City Services. Many Aurovilians who have for years given their time and energy to work in this area have found the disparity so discouraging that they have chosen to stop working for any of the City Services.
Create one system
We believe that as one of the ultimate goals of Auroville is to create ONE spiritual community we need to discover and define strategies to arrive progressively at ONE economic system in Auroville FOR ALL addressing and reducing the present inequalities. As Aurovilians working in the City Services, we want to stress that we have not found enough receptivity for these concerns in our current working groups which in the last years have postponed any serious reflection on these matters.
It is not the intention of this statement to point the finger at anyone or any group in particular, or to create an atmosphere of confrontation in the discussion of these matters. All the same, we cannot continue in silence. All of us have collaborated in creating this situation actively or passively and we believe that it is also with the involvement and support of all that we will find the appropriate ways and means to move forward and come out of this situation. The Budget Coordination Committee has been preparing the overall Auroville budget for this year. It provides a ready framework for the review of these issues.
Board of Services Support Team
Anandi, Isha, Joseba, Juergen, Nicole
Distribution of maintenances
As per the population statistics of November 2008, published in Auroville Today issue # 238, December 2008, Auroville has 1587 permanent residents.
The Budget Coordination Committee has no data on the income situation of 845 residents. It has data on 742 residents, 415 of which are working in the City Services. Of these, 238 receive a full-time maintenance of Rs 5,000/month; 177 people receive a part-time maintenance of less than Rs 5,000/month because they are working part-time. It is not known how these people supplement this part-time income.
The Budget Coordination Committee also maintains data on the maintenances of 327 other people working for some commercial units, projects and guesthouses. These data show that 17 people take a maintenance of more than 10,000/month 13 are working for projects, 3 for commercial units, and 1 in a guest house. On average people working for these commercial units get Rs. 1,754 more than people working in the City Services. But the Budget Coordination Committee has no information about perks.
Source: City Services.