The residents of Auroville are getting tired of being taken for granted by a section of Auroville which presumes to speak in the name of everyone. Far from being happy or relieved, Aurovilians are appalled by the steps taken by some residents for blocking the work of clearing the path for the Crown, quite forgetting that Auroville has a masterplan that the Residents Assembly itself has formulated and has wished to see accomplished for more than two decades. It has been a long wait, but certainly not to come to this. The hype, hyperbole and accusations being promoted around the events need some correction.
The Crown is a recognised feature of the Auroville Master Plan, which was part of the original Galaxy plan model with which the city was inaugurated in 1968. This has gone through numerous consultations and agreements and plan verifications over the last 25 years but has met with a systematic resistance from a close cohort of people opposed to its realisation for many years now, particularly from the section of people who have built structures or planted trees in direct violation of the gazetted Master Plan. The different Governing Boards have repeatedly urged the residents to complete this work, and Auroville has been the recipient of several donations and grants, to help the growth and protection of the experimental town. All this money received for the development of the City has been on the basis of the Master Plan.
The Detailed Development Plans (DDP) required by the Master Plan, opposed by the very people now protesting to confuse the issue and hold up the work, are definitely a requisite for the development of any city; however, the Crown is what is called as a “Master Plan” Road, and is included in the five-year development plan already detailed in the Master Plan.
This means that the clearing of the Crown and the laying of the infrastructure cables do not require a detailed development plan, and the protestors have used alternating arguments for stalling the work, one of them being the lack of DDP and the others being “environment” and “community”. That some of the protesters have built along the Crown when it suited them has conveniently not been disclosed.
The Auroville Town Development Council (ATDC) is in ongoing consultations to complete this work (after years of delay and obstruction) with renowned architect and planner B.V. Doshi as well as other international award-winning architects. No direct offers of help or plans were given to the ATDC; instead, repeated call for their resignation has been the pressure put on them by this small but loud group of protesters.
It must also be noted that as per the Auroville Foundation Act, it is the Governing Board which is vested with the responsibility of developing the city as per the Master Plan, which was formulated by the Residents Assembly. This means that the details of execution are under their purview, and seeing the competence and capacity of the Governing Board, we the residents have no doubt that the right agencies will be engaged for the further development of the Master Plan and its implementation.
That the Crown should not be a perfect circle because of “ground realities” is a myth as every alternate proposal with slight deviations requires trees to be cut (planted without permission in the first place). The fact is that those who do not want the perfect circle would like the Crown to skirt “their” areas; at the same time, they insist that private land owners sell their land to us so that the rest of the Crown may pass through theirs; this double standard cannot be engaged with or encouraged.
More than “900 trees bulldozed across 67 acres of land” is another gross exaggeration. The entire right-of-way land area of the Crown is only 17.8 acres making up 0.38 per cent of the Master Plan area, and the areas that were being cleared recently represent a smaller percentage thereof. The trees taken down so far are about 120 in the Youth Center area and 34 in the Darkali area. The total number of trees expected to be cut are about 500 in the entire Crown stretch, which, when put in the perspective of the 3 million trees planted since Auroville’s inception, is but a small sacrifice. It is also noteworthy that for every tree cut for the Crown, four new trees will be planted in the Green Belt of Auroville, the area designated for green work.
Auroville belongs to humanity and this project will not be overtaken by other ulterior aims and territorial claims. The masterplan was approved by the Governing Board, and successive Governing Boards have urged Auroville to grow and move forward with its plans so that people of the world can join the experiment of a city of 50,000 people.
Anu Majumdar is a long-time resident of Auroville and author of ‘Auroville: A City for the Future’.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.