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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Allowing Aurovilians to buy and develop land, and making it possible for far more people to join Auroville

Many people, while not dismissing the option of land exchange out of hand, questioned the LCC's priorities. It was pointed out, for example, that no land which had been afforested or organically-farmed should be offered for exchange as this would give the wrong message about Auroville's environmental aims and ideals. Others wondered if the LCC had considered the commercial potential to Auroville of some of the land slated for exchange, and the need for good access to beach land if one day we may want to construct a desalination plant by the sea. Yet others felt that the LCC should concentrate first upon acquiring strategic land in the greenbelt (by the road, for example) rather than upon consolidating the city area.
There were also one or two ‘out of the box' proposals, including allowing Aurovilians to buy and develop land without restriction in the city, and making it possible for far more people to join Auroville. “Because once we have more people here, the land problem will take care of itself.” There was also a call for a “more ecological and sustainable Master Plan which addresses the environment of Auroville and India today, because if we are seen to be taking into consideration real needs like water etc. we will get protection from outside organizations.” Finally, Aurovilians were exhorted to rededicate themselves to the ideal.
“Only then will everybody – the government as well as the local villagers – want to actively help us protect the land.”
How should one interpret the opposition to the LCC's proposal? Clearly, there are genuine concerns about certain aspects of the proposal. For example if, as proposed, parts of existing communities are exchanged, this could lead to unwanted forms of development which might seriously compromise the work and atmosphere in those communities.

The personal factor
At the same time, personal factors are also involved. For example, members of two communities which were included in the exchange list protested that they had not been properly consulted before the list was announced. One family stewarding a beach community also felt that the LCC had not taken into account their deep emotional ties to the place and the huge effort they had put into developing the land.
Another Aurovilian charged certain members of the LCC with incompetence, claiming that past flawed policies were partially responsible for the present land crisis. He called for an enlargement of the present LCC and a change in those responsible for land purchase as, he claimed, the villagers were not willing to sell to those Aurovilians who are at present in charge of securing the land. Yet another felt that the LCC should start buying land with the funds they have accumulated as “money must be used in order to call more money”.
Another factor which seemed to prejudice some people against the LCC's proposal was their feeling that this was yet another example of a secretive, bureaucratic group trying to impose a top-down solution. And then, of course, there are the less rational factors which may have caused people to reject the proposal. These include resistance to change, a wish to retain control over land which some people have come to think of as ‘theirs', and personal antipathy to certain members of the LCC.

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