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April 2002

Chairman's push results in new Working Committee

- by Carel


It required the personal intervention of Dr. Kireet Joshi, the chairman of the Auroville Foundation, for the community to come up with a new Working Committee. It will hold office till September 10th.

Kireet Joshi

For the last few months, Auroville's internal organization has come close to being dysfunctional: the Executive Committee had ceased to exist and the Working Committee had been reduced to one person. The community was waiting for a new internal organization to take shape to remedy the situation. But when, in a General Meeting on February 13th, the sixth draft of a proposal for a revised internal organization (Towards a Divine Anarchy), failed to achieve consensus, it became clear that the wait was not over. Would the dysfunctional situation continue as well?

Dr. Kireet Joshi, the Chairman of the Auroville Foundation, strongly objected. He insisted that the community select a new Working Committee immediately. He therefore convened on February 22nd an extraordinary meeting of the Residents' Assembly. A subsequent public notice from the office of the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation allayed fears that the Chairman would intervene in the 'internal workings' of the community. Stressing that the current situation has risen to the level of an emergency, the object of the meeting was to encourage the Residents' Assembly to take up its responsibilities and form the Working Committee immediately, so that the process to come to a revised organizational structure could continue unimpeded.

Addressing the meeting, Dr. Kireet Joshi emphasized the urgent necessity for Auroville to get its act together. He reiterated that the Auroville Foundation Act, at the explicit request of the then Prime Minister of India Ms. Indira Gandhi, was drawn up in such a way that the Government does not control Auroville and that the members of Auroville are free to develop Auroville according to the Charter of Auroville. "There was," he recounted, "at the time a great pressure to provide in the Act for a committee of non-Aurovilians nominated by the Government to take decisions. I was able to resist this and explained to the Government that the residents of Auroville should be free to decide the manner in which they want to manage their affairs and that the Act should not contain any prescriptions that might curtail the freedom of the experimentation of Auroville. This is based on the ideals which Sri Aurobindo has put forward in his book The Human Cycle, in the chapter The Ideal Law of Social Development. This law has never been implemented in world history, and Auroville should be the place where Sri Aurobindo's ideal can become implemented. The Government accepted this argument and that is why the Foundation Act specifies that the residents of Auroville are free to determine the process by which they want to constitute their Working Committee and to determine the form of governance that they want for Auroville. But even after the Act was passed the attempts to control Auroville from the outside have not diminished. It is for this reason, in the years that I have been here with you, that I have been stressing that an appropriate internal organization should come up in Auroville as a result of which no group, no government pressure, no political party and nobody can have the power to disturb the freedom of the Residents Assembly. It was from this point of view that the Governing Board constituted a Unity Committee which recently produced the document Towards a Divine Anarchy draft VI which is now further being discussed by the community. For it has become urgent that the community has its internal organization in place, that it has a clear decision-making process, that decisions have legitimacy and can be implemented. There are many decisions that are not being taken, leading to injustices; there are many problems that remain without solutions; as no decisions are being taken, false developments happen in consequence. This cannot continue. If this situation would continue, the Governing Board will have no other option than one day to take the whole power in its own hands. This Governing Board would not like to do that, as it is very dedicated to this idea of freedom.

While the discussions to come to a suitable internal organization should continue, today's immediate need is to have a proper Working Committee in place which would hold office until the community has agreed on a new internal organization."
Dr. Kireet Joshi then made a proposal about how to select a new Working Committee. As voting, in his opinion, leads to polarization, he proposed that each Aurovilian nominates one person and that the persons who receive the highest nominations constitute from amongst themselves the new Working Committee. The Residents' Assembly, after some discussion, amended this proposal to the effect that each Aurovilian bring out two nominations, one for a woman and one for a man, and that the 30 highest nominees endeavor to constitute a gender-balanced Working Committee.
The nomination process started a week later. A total of 1056 forms were distributed to Aurovilians of 18 year and older, but less than 45% of them filled them in. More than 100 people were nominated; but only one person received over 90 nominations, and two persons received between 40 and 55 nominations. None of the others received a significant number of votes.

It took two meetings for the top 37 people (position 30 was shared by 8 people) to select from amongst themselves a new Working Committee. Do we want experienced or new people? The final choice was a combination of both. The new Working Committee consists of two experienced Aurovilians and of five people new to the job. Four experienced former Working Committee members agreed to act as adjuncts. The other 26 nominated people accepted to act as a support group for the new Working Committee. It was also agreed that this Working Committee will hold office till September 10th, when a new organization should be in place.

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