Paalam Report 2015-2016

Paalam – Auroville and Village Development initiative

Paalam, (bridge in Tamil), is a project that was established to impact unity between Auroville and the local villages and improve well-being in the villages. Youth (men and women) from 18 villages and settlements, immediately around Auroville, were selected by AVAG’s self-help group members who were asked to nominate 2 non-political, socially active youths to represent their village on the Paalam.

Now eight months since its inception, on November 29th 2015 in Unity Pavilion, Paalam is firmly established as a communications and action network with  1) village youth from 18 villages and settlements 2) Auroville Village Action Group, 3) Youthlink members. We have since come together for :

  • 4 training sessions (2 more are pending),
  • an exposure trip to examine best practices in village development,
  • combine flood relief work in Jan 2016 (see appendix 1 )
  • the implementation of the bioregional sports event in June 2016 (see appendix 2) .

Half of the Paalam members also took up the opportunity of the Stewardship for new Emergence leadership training offered over a three month period with Dr. Monica Sharma and Paalam members have  been valuable in providing context and mediation with Auroville especially in two recent disputes between villagers and Auroville.

Paalam members have also identified the areas of priority in relation to their villages and the themes for village micro projects which Paalam would like to start initiating once this training period is completed in September. It is envisaged that this next micro project implementation phase will combine the energy and creativity of youth, expertise from Auroville/elsewhere and funds from government schemes under the supervision of Auroville Village Action Group who will also liaise with local panchayat and local government as needed to develop projects in the areas of  1) sanitation 2) water and soil conservation 3) waste management 4) security, especially women’s 5) Alcoholism and 6) Sports development. See table one in the appendix for full list.

The Paalam training program held on Sundays was slightly delayed and dates were re arranged because:

Elections – many of the youths were involved in election work so were not available on Sundays for a month prior to the elections

  1. Half the group choose to take part in the stewardship for new emergence leadership program so were not available for certain dates that were then re-arranged.
  2. The Bioregional sports was organised in June for a series of 4 Sundays, Paalam members were very active and were therefore not available for the month of June. See short report in the Appendix

The Paalam training program provided practical learning that generated insights on many levels for the youth, especially on the current status of natural resources in our area and  best practices and solutions. The training also gave valuable information and contact with government schemes that can be accessed and capacity and leadership training to members. Topics covered are outlined in table 1 in the appendix. The exposure visit was to Karudam Panchayat in Coimbatore which won the panchayat puraskar award  2015 from the central government for best performances and achievements. Paalam members saw extensive street lighting, solid & liquid resource management , biogas, drainage management, dairy farming and biomethanation plant that processes the organic waste from vegetable markets, abattoirs and toilets to generate manure and biogas.  Things that inspired and they especially learned from the Paalam members were :

1)  the reduction of the panchayat electricity bill by 50%, due to solar street lights, the bill had previously run in laks of rupees each month.

2) a successful implementation of a waste management system to 6000 household that employs 26 women and the particular lessons learned were how to mobilise people to pay a monthly fee, the methods of separation and sale of the waste.

3) how the panchayat had successfully mobilised CSR funding for their collective initiatives.

4) the benefits and new methods of vermi composting.

5) members also got an opportunity to visit Isha yoga foundation where they took part in an  interesting yoga class during the trip.

This training and information gathering period has laid a foundational  base of  knowledge and capacity in youth so that they can move forward confidently into the next  phase of Paalams work which will be action orientated, working in constellation with other members, AVAG  and Auroville, to create solutions for the challenges of our bio-region, participating together to build a solid, sustainable future for all.

Paalam Meeting


1) Flood Relief summary – Fostering Well-Being

Paalam members were active in Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG)  that assisted the marginalized communities in Vanur Block with flood relief after the worst rains in a hundred years. AVAG’s flood relief programs reached 31 villages benefiting 17000 people directly and 54000 people indirectly thanks to the combined commitment of local community participation, Paalam, donations from around the world, Auroville Flood Relief and AVAG teams. Our efforts included:

  • Mosquito control and street stench reduction with effective micro-organism spraying
  • Immunity boost with the distribution of herbal medicine
  • Health safety with the distribution of water purification powders
  • Aid packs of blankets, saris, rice, dal and mosquito coils. Our team procured and packed supplies and SHG (Self Help Groups) and village leaders in the worst affected settlements gave their full cooperation for a smooth distribution.
  • Health camps which help link local community with the medical institutions. 1000 people received free treatment and referral to PIMS and JIPMER hospitals through a general medical camp held at a remote village and a women’s heath camp held at AVAG office.

The flood relief work helped to foster well being and connection. We were grateful for this opportunity to serve which was very fulfilling for our team and helped establish a deeper connection with these local communities.

 2)   Sports Development in the bio-region surrounding.

Building on the success of the recent bioregional sports event that had 722 participants from Auroville and 20 surrounding villages compete for events in volleyball and athletic activities. Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG), Auroville Sports Resource Centre (AVSRC), Dehashakti and Paalam (bioregional youth network)  are joining forces for a concentrated development of sports in the bio-region of Auroville. We wish to form a bioregional sports association that will foster unity and skill development through a program of  local sports facilities development and coaching that will lead to regular competitions on local, district and regional level. It is also hoped that this project can be a bridge to creating career opportunities for local youth in sports with linkages to scholarships and sports colleges.

We propose to register the Auroville Bioregional Sports association with the government and in each village we will form a sports club, (at the moment there are 5-15 groups in each village we wish to form these into one body) involving all young men and women interested  in varying sports activities. The village sports club will be a  member of the association and will nominate members to represent them to attend meetings and seminars. Approximately, 30 settlements in 20 villages will be members of the association with Auroville and we expect at least 1000 members from these 20 villages.

 3) Table 1 – Paalam training and meeting sessions

Paalam training and meeting sessions

4) Table 2 – Results of group discussion on future micro projects that Paalam members wish to commit to work towards.

Below is the list of responses from 4 groups held in break out sessions during the day long focus on development standards, local issues and solutions facilitated by Mr. Regichandra

Group discussion on future micro projects

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