Integrating the neighbourhood
Auroville finds itself within certain boundaries created by the existing legal and organisational structures of the host country.
Although during the last thirty years through Auroville's various village related activities an increasing collaboration and co-evolution between villages and Auroville has taken place, a more formal regional, collaborative structure has as yet not been formed.
While shaping up the township's Perspective Master Plan, the Aurovilians are becoming aware of the need for such a structure and a series of meetings in this regard have begun.
We here give you the report of the latest meeting,
in August '01, concerning this very important topic as it circulated
through the community by means of its AVNews, the weekly news bulletin
for the residents.
Auroville and villages in the immediate neighbourhood
Opportunities and problems
The Working Committee convened a meeting of a select group of Aurovilians on the 8th of August 2001 at 3 pm in the SAWCHU building. Mr N. Bala Baskar, Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, in his opening remarks emphasised the need for accepting the reality of the villages in the immediate neighbourhood; understanding the individual aspirations and genuine development needs of the villagers; improving the communication with the village communities; and exploring all avenues for co-operation with the villages. A lively discussion followed. Participants shared many useful insights gathered on the basis of their experience. Some of the important insights were:
1. Energy of the youth in the villages needs to be channelled. Organising sports activities on a regular basis in the villages for the youth should be given top priority. Cultural activities and libraries for the youth in the villages should be organised by Auroville.
2. Auroville employs nearly 4,500 persons and of this only half the number are from the neighbourhood villages. Aurovilians need to reflect deeply on the policy of employing outsiders in their homes and enterprises. Influx of outsiders into the neighbourhood villages creates special problems for the village communities. As far as possible, Auroville should employ only persons from the neighbourhood villages.
3. As long as there are two distinct classes of people in Auroville - namely employers and employed - the ideal of Auroville cannot be achieved. Aurovilians should move towards a system where all work in Auroville is performed by Aurovilians themselves.
4. Villages in the neighbourhood should be developed in such a way that the quality of life for the villagers is eventually similar to that in Auroville.
5. Auroville should provide greater opportunity for training the village youth for better employment opportunities and for setting up their own enterprises. Earlier experience shows that village enterprises need a lot of help in marketing their produce. Auroville should provide this marketing link.
6. The delicate balance between development of individuals in the villages and the development of facilities and infrastructure in the villages needs to be kept in mind. Also, development needs should be identified in consultation with the village communities. Auroville should not impose "development" on the villages. The perceptions and views of the villagers should be taken into account in all such decisions.
7. There should be greater clarity and transparency about Auroville's policy towards the villages. As long as the villagers know that Auroville's future plans have an important place for the villages also, it will be easier for the growth of both Auroville and the villages.
8. Though a lot of work is already being done in the villages by various working groups and individuals from Auroville, there is no coordination of these efforts. A Core Group for each of the neighbourhood villages should be set up with the initial membership of one or two Tamil Aurovilians belonging to the village, and the executive/s of an Auroville unit/enterprise which has done or is still doing some work in that particular village. The Core Group can co-opt more members if need be.
9. Such Core Groups should in the first place identify all the ongoing development projects / works in the village being undertaken by Auroville working groups and prepare a brochure. They should facilitate a dialogue between the village community, especially women, and the Auroville working groups to identify future needs and programmes.
10. The Core Groups would prepare an action plan for the development of the villages taking into account the genuine needs and perceptions of the villagers. They would coordinate with Auroville working groups in order to identify resources to implement the action plan proposal.
11. Care should be taken to avoid individuals from Auroville providing patronage or implementing schemes on their own. All interaction with the villages should be on behalf of the Auroville community.
12. The Core Groups would also examine the land requirements of the village communities and suggest ways to ensure provision of adequate land for common facilities and activities in the villages.
13. The Working Committee would follow up on all these suggestions. They would identify the Core Group for each village and convene a joint meeting of the Core Groups to consider the next steps in this direction.
Suggestions for and participation in this effort by Aurovilians is welcome.
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