The bona fide Working Committee of the Residents Assembly adresses a letter to the Governing Board on 1st July 2022:
Working Committee : Request to instruct the Office of the Secretary to refrain from issuing further office orders and and withdraw the issued office orders
To the Honorable Chairman of the Governing Board, Mr. RN Ravi,
We would like to bring to your notice a far-reaching crisis in the management of the internal affairs of Auroville that has created a serious impasse by infringing into the sphere of functioning of the Residents’ Assembly (RA) by the Office of the Secretary in the name of a not specified ‘Competent Authority’. Tasks and responsibilities such as the appointment of memberships of the working groups and issuing of office orders, which fall under the purview of the Residents’ Assembly or the Funds and Asset Management Committee (FAMC) have been taken over by the Office of the Secretary without justification and due consultation.
Over the past few weeks, the following orders have been issued which, as per the Auroville Foundation Act, 1988, and Auroville Foundation Rules, 1997, are violations and encroachment of the autonomy of the Residents’ Assembly and its duty to regulate its internal affairs, day-to-day activities and constitute its committees as envisaged in Section 19 of the Auroville Foundation Act. This was further emphasized in a RTI response from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Higher Education, dated 17th February 2020, which is hereby enclosed and states that “the term of office/governance of the Working Groups shall be decided by the Residents’ Assembly, according to the Auroville Foundation Act, 1988”. (Please find RTI dt. 17th February 2020 here )
- Working Committee: The Office of the Secretary has endorsed a self-proclaimed ‘Working Committee of the Auroville Foundation’ which includes 4 members who were removed from office by a ‘vote of no confidence’ which was carried out by the Residents’ Assembly, as well as 3 new members who were appointed without any proper process or consultation with the RA by the Office of the Secretary. It is to be noted that according to the Auroville Foundation Act, Section 20, membership and term of office of the Working Committee is to be decided by the Residents’ Assembly. The Office of the Secretary has no authority in this matter.
- Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC): 6 residents of Auroville were appointed as a new FAMC without involvement of the Residents’ Assembly, giving a pretext that the Auroville Foundation Rules, 1997, have been changed. In a recent RTI that is hereby enclosed, dated 20th June 2022, it is clearly stated by the Ministry of Education, Department of Higher Education, that no rules have been changed or are intended to be changed. Therefore, the function of appointing members to the FAMC continues to rest with the Residents’ Assembly as has been the case over the past 25 years of existence of the FAMC as a group. (Please find RTI dt. 20th June 2022 here)
- Town Development Council: A team of 8 members for the Auroville Town Development Council has been appointed, violating the processes and procedures prescribed in the relevant Standing Order (SO). As per the SO approved by the Governing Board, 13 members are to be nominated by the Residents’ Assembly, 1 member by the Working Committee and 1 member by the Governing Board. The recent nominations and appointments have been made keeping the residents of Auroville in total obscurity about the process followed, without specifying any technical or professional criteria by which the persons were appointed and without any information and consultation with the Residents’ Assembly as is prescribed in the Standing Order published in the Gazette of India in June 2011. As of today, the Office Order constituting the TDC has not been published even if its members have taken office and are taking questionable initiatives including demolition of assets without respecting commitments given by TDC itself a few months ago.
- Auroville Archives: The Auroville Archives are an important repository of the history of Auroville, preserving important documents, audio, photos and videos from the past. This requires very delicate and knowledgeable hands to deal with the subject and the materials. Very capable people have handled the management of this community service for many years. The Office of the Secretary, without any previous notice or justification, issued an office order to remove executives without showing any respect and appreciation for the painstaking work done over the years. The Auroville Archives started as a project of Auroville in 1991 and originated from the vision of the late Major General Krishna Tiwari. Later on, he handed over the sensitive job to a long-term Aurovilian whom he trusted to carry on the management of the project due to his commitment and experience in studying the life of the Mother and the History of Auroville. This Aurovilian has compiled and edited a full collection of all the words of the Mother on Auroville, which was published as a two volume set and is now an important reference. He has been suddenly dismissed with an Office Order, without notice and without any explanations.
- ACUR / Town Hall: The Auroville Centre for Urban Research (ACUR) also known as Town Hall, and the contiguous Multimedia Centre, are the hub of administrative activities of Auroville. The ACUR management was asked to leave overnight and a new management team with no prior experience to manage such facilities were appointed. These facilities were built with a grant of the European Commission and donations from Aurovilians and Auroville units. The ACUR management is entrusted to a unit registered under the Service Trust and the appointment of executives is a prerogative of the FAMC in coordination with the Working Committee, after receiving a resolution from the Trust.
- Land Board: The Land Board is in charge of land purchase and protection with an experienced team of people selected by the Residents’ Assembly. Two members selected by the Residents’ Assembly and whose term has not yet expired were asked to leave from one day to the next without giving any reasons or advance notice.
- Sysop and Auronet: The Office of the Secretary has been taking over Sysop (the auroville.org.in system operators) and Auronet (the internal discussion platform of Aurovilians and friends of Auroville). In the last 20 years, the auroville.org.in email domain and Auronet have evolved as community managed platforms for sharing information. These platforms were suddenly taken over under the pretext of unsubstantiated concerns about anti-government and anti-national activities. The residents of Auroville are committed to and deeply respectful of the spiritual values of India and are deeply grateful to Tamil Nadu and Mother India. The residents of Auroville believe in and cherish the dream of a Spiritual India and a World Union as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo. The residents feel deep gratitude to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for delivering a message of support and brotherhood on the 50th Anniversary of Auroville. The accusations levelled to take over Sysop and Auronet are unfounded and vulgar in nature, and deeply disrespectful of the feelings and commitment of the residents towards Auroville and Mother India.
- Outreach Media: Attempts to encroach into the internal affairs of the Residents’ Assembly began on 7 December 2021 with the takeover of the media interface of the Residents’ Assembly called Auroville Outreach Media. This service of the Residents’ Assembly was managed a long-term Aurovilian since 2005 till she was unceremoniously asked, without giving any prior notice or reasons, to leave as an executive and forced to vacate the office in the Archives building with immediate effect. This was done by the new executives appointed by the Office of the Secretary without any consultation with the FAMC or Working Committee.
All of the above is an encroachment on the space provided to the Residents’ Assembly by the Auroville Foundation Act and the Rules to manage its internal organization and affairs. It is extremely disturbing that in some cases the justification of these actions have been given with the claim of ‘ownership’ of the property by the Auroville Foundation, which is against the Charter of Auroville and is furthermore totally unjustified, as the Residents’ Assembly and its committees are legally part of the Foundation and therefore share the responsibility of the management of its assets. A general impression has now been given that a systematic attack has been unleashed to disempower the residents and throttle the internal organisation into authoritative submission. Infringement on the internal organs and systems of functioning of the Residents’ Assembly is pushing towards an increasing dysfunctionality in the day-to-day functioning of Auroville.
The atmosphere created by these actions is one of deep dismay and betrayal among the residents. It is therefore a matter of grave concern, as it may lead to an administrative and legal paralysis of Auroville because most residents feel that they are not heard and are considered irrelevant.
We request you to instruct the Office of the Secretary to refrain from issuing further office orders and withdraw the above office orders which are encroaching on the space and functions of the Residents’ Assembly and its legitimate Committees. An early response and action in these matters will go a long way to re-establish the scheme and intention of the Auroville Foundation Act and restore confidence and trust amongst Aurovilians and the interface with the Government that had been built over the years.
The Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly of the Auroville Foundation
Aravinda Maheshwari, Chali Grinnell, Hemant Lamba, Ilayabharathy Somasundaram, Mael Shanti Vidal, Sauro Mezzetti, Valli Senthilkumar
1. To Members of the Governing Board.
2. To Members of the International Advisory Council.
3. To Secretary to the Governing Board, Dr. Jayanti Ravi.
4. Working Groups and Committees of the Residents’ Assembly.
5. Residents’ Assembly of the Auroville Foundation.