10 July 2024

Auroville Residents Denounce Massive Land Exchange Scheme

Auroville Residents Denounce Massive Land Exchange Scheme

The residents of Auroville, the international township in southern India dedicated to world peace, resilience and the birth of an alternative society, have overwhelmingly voted to halt and investigate a series of dubious land exchanges approved by the Auroville Foundation’s Governing Board. Recent exchanges, conducted in complete opacity and without following processes set in place by previous administrations to curb corrupt negotiations, have resulted in an estimated loss of over ₹245 crore (US$30 million) to Auroville.

Auroville’s lands, purchased over 55 years exclusively through private donations and dealings with local landowners, are being traded to politically connected real estate developers at a fraction of their market value. Local farmers and landowners, who were always given priority and fair value in past land purchases and exchanges, have been excluded from these recent transactions. 

The residents of Auroville call upon all concerned parties to immediately halt these dubious land exchanges and respect the integrity of Auroville’s physical and spiritual heritage. Preserving Auroville’s land is crucial, as it forms the foundation for this unique experiment in human unity envisioned by its founders, including its exemplary work in ecology and environmental rejuvenation. Only with a return to collaborative decision-making and transparent financial partnerships and processes, that honour Auroville’s vision, its legal framework, India’s financial laws and the aspirations of local villagers, can this international township continue to evolve as a living laboratory for human unity and progress, to the benefit of India and the world.

Key points:

  • Over the past two years, approximately 30 acres of prime Auroville land, sometimes abutting highways, have been exchanged for 43 acres of less valuable land, often without public access. These lands are exchanged at ₹17 per sq ft, while plots on the other side of the road are sold for up to ₹2500 per sq ft.
  • These exchanges were conducted without consulting the Residents’ Assembly or following established procedures, violating the Auroville Foundation Act.
  • The Governing Board has approved plans to exchange up to 1054 acres of Auroville land outside the Master Plan area, potentially leading to additional losses exceeding ₹5,000 crore (US$600 million). This includes 230 acres of productive organic farmland, 421 acres of forested area, and homes of nearly 800 residents, likely to be exchanged for real-estate development, undermining decades of ecological restoration works.
  • Auroville residents support land exchanges for the purpose of land consolidation, with the condition that they adhere to the high standards previously established by the Auroville Foundation and India’s Ministry of Education, including consultation with the Auroville community. However, the fiscally unsound and ethically problematic exchanges taking place since 2022 fail to meet these criteria and disregard the interests of Auroville, its present and past residents, donors, and the surrounding local population.

Among many other examples:

  • AuroOrchard, a productive farm purchased by The Mother herself, had 10 acres exchanged at ₹16 per sq ft, while nearby land sells for ₹1400-2400 per sq ft. This exchange included a godown constructed with funds given by The Mother, along with the farm’s primary bore well, central irrigation distribution system and other farm infrastructure, and a home of two long-term Aurovilians. Losing lands that have been nurtured and cared for since 1968 is a blow to Auroville’s food sufficiency, an objective set forth by the founders.
  • The land housing the workshop of a sculptor honoured with a Presidential award was exchanged with no prior intimation nor any alternative offered, depriving the artist of his workspace, tools, and area for training young sculptors.
  • After acquiring Auroville lands at around ₹1.5 crore per acre, developers are selling the same land at ₹3,500 per sq ft (or ₹15 crore per acre), making a staggering profit of at least 1000%.

Auroville residents have taken multiple actions to address this crisis:

  • Legal notices have been sent to relevant authorities, including the District Registrar, highlighting violations of financial rules and lack of proper consultation.
  • Residents have approached and are collaborating with various government bodies, including the Ministry of Education, to investigate and halt these exchanges.
  • Highlighting the urgency of the issue, 945 residents voted in a community referendum (called Residents’ Assembly Decision-making process), overwhelmingly supporting an immediate halt to all land exchanges, a thorough review of past deals, and the establishment of a transparent, collaborative process for any future land transactions. This decision of the Residents’ Assembly, dated 8th July 2024, features one of the highest participation rates in Auroville’s history.
Many Auroville lands are located outside of its Master Plan projected area. Most of these lands have a rich history, are an example of Auroville's ecological work, and meet a specific function in the Auroville ecosystem. About 30% of all Aurovilians live in these outlying lands and could be severely impacted by ongoing land exchanges.
New fence through vegetable cultivation in AuroOrchard organic farm, May 2024
On 6th July 2024, over 1000 residents of Auroville united in a gathering to denounce recent land exchanges.

For more information on Auroville, please visit this page.


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