New life for the circles
The income-sharing experiment called 'circles,' started in 1999,
is being given a substantial boost by the the New Dawn circle
In 1999 the so-called
was started. It aims at making a step towards an economic system
characterized by no exchange of money inside Auroville, and by
the community taking care of the basic needs of the individuals
dedicated to Auroville. The biggest challenge was that many Aurovilians
lived on an inadequate community maintenance and could not make
ends meet. To deal with this challenge, groups of people created
circles, each with its own common pot. The income of each member
is put into the pot, and each member draws from the pot whatever
s/he deems necessary. The common pots of all the circles together
were in turn considered as one pot, which means that a deficit
of one circle was to be compensated by the surplus of another.
The commercial unit Maroma provided an additional buffer to cover
When the experiment
was reviewed in February 2001, it appeared that about 80% of the
circle participants are those who have an inadequate community
maintenance. The difference between what is needed and what the
community pays is on average Rs 1,000 a month. Being a member
of a circle gives the possibility of getting a somewhat larger
maintenance. However, the pooling of individual maintenances proved
insufficient to provide for the basic needs of all circle participants,
even though some circle participants with personal resources contribute
more than just their own expenses. [see also AVToday April &
November 2001]. Since then the number of people who continue to
donate more to the circle than they take out has steadily decreased.
The fires of enthusiasm seem to have dimmed.
The New Dawn circle experiment
"It's time for
a system overhaul," explained Alain Grandcolas of behalf
on the New Dawn circle. "We studied once again what Mother
had said about the ideal economy. And that brought us to a different
set-up, with the following parameters.
1. The circle should
provide only the basic minimum goods in kind to the members (this
scheme is called Prosperity and allows for no exchange of money
within Auroville for obtaining the needs of the body).
2. The circle should
also provide a minimum pocket money of Rs 1500 per month.
3. The circle should
have a special fund for basic needs that are not covered from
the monthly Prosperity.
4. The circle is not
meant to cover housing requirements. These requirements are addressed
by the Housing Service.
5. Each circle member
should contribute to Auroville through a full-time work, recognized
as such by the Auroville Maintenance Group.
6. Monthly maintenances
are paid directly into the circle account. Self-supporting people
are expected to contribute a minimum of Rs 4,000 to the circle
The New Dawn circle
has been testing each of these parameters for the last two years.
Providing goods in kind
Providing goods in kind
instead of allowing circle members to shop at Pour Tous and at
the Bakery and be tempted by articles not really needed, has led
to substantial savings. "Once every week a list is distributed
of the basic items to which a circle member is freely entitled,"
explains Shraddhavan, "and the products of those lists are
home delivered. The list is regularly updated, and there is sufficient
space to allow for an individual's special requirements. In fact,
we noted that the basic needs of each of our circle members are
different, but we have been able to meet them." The basic
needs covered under 'Prosperity' are nutrition (lunch and dinner
through the Solar Kitchen, breakfast, milk, bread), Pour Tous
(a weekly delivery of basic items - toiletries, cleaning items,
household items, simple medicines and stationary, supplementary
food), Nandini (clothes and soft furnishings), health (through
the AV Health Fund), water, electricity and community expenses,
photocopies, petrol (in New Creation) and telephone bills (up
to a maximum of Rs 600 for two months). All of these basic services
of Prosperity are provided by the New Dawn Circle equally for
each of its members, whatever their contribution into the Circle
In addition to "Prosperity"
New Dawn provides to each member a minimum "pocket allowance"
of Rs 1,500 to cover extra individual needs, which is deposited
by the Circle into the "Kind" account of each individual
member. This pocket money can be used to cover articles from Pour
Tous that are not included in the weekly request form for basic
items, for Auroville restaurants, purchases from Auroville boutiques
etc. Up to half the monthly allowance may be drawn in cash for
expenditure outside Auroville.
For other basic needs
that are not covered by the Prosperity scheme and which members
cannot cover themselves, the New Dawn Circle has created the "Sunchild
Fund". This fund provides for non-recurrent and exceptional
expenses, such as dental treatment, bike repairs etc. Each month
Rs 200 per member is deposited from the Circle budget into that
Fund. Withdrawals from this fund can only be made with permission
from the circle executives, or, when it concerns large amounts,
with approval of the entire circle.
The maintenance of every
member is put fully into the Circle and each one is free to spend
any other income in the way s/he likes. If someone works part-
time and receives half maintenance, participation in the circle
would be possible but pocket money is not given.
The New Dawn circle
experiment can be regarded as a pilot project. "The New Dawn
circle is a cross-section of the Auroville community," explains
Alain. "There are 21 people. Seven of them are Indian, of
which three come from the surrounding villages. There are four
Russians and ten westerners. Fifteen of our members depend on
community maintenance, six members are self-supporting. We know
now how much each circle member costs the circle. We calculated
that if everyone would use all the services to the full, the costs
would be Rs 4,500 per person per month. But they don't. We have
been spending only Rs 3,800. When members have high electricity
bills - for example if they need air-conditioning - or high telephone
bills, they keep these bills outside the system."
Can the New Dawn experiment be translated into an all-Auroville
experiment? Alain thinks so, but advises caution. "Our present
circle is the result of an organic growth which lasted two years.
It would be best to experiment with one new circle of about 20
people in order to get more experiences with fresh members and
test our pretty strict monitoring to avoid any possibility of
abuse. For a system comprising 600 Aurovilians and newcomers,
two full-time monitors posted in the Financial Services and one
coordinator for each circle of about thirty members would be required
to meet the individual needs. The system can be financially independent
if self-supporting people participate. The objective is that the
present existing ratio of 2/3rd of the Aurovilians who are on
community maintenance and 1/3rd who are self- supporting, would
be reflected in an all-Auroville experiment.