July 28th, 2022

Jul 28, 2022

Freezing of City Services budget: Update from the BCC

By Budget Coordination Committee (BCC) , 28 Jul 2022

Dear Auroville Community,

Our team has been dedicated to serving Auroville by administering funds for our community services. We have been in charge of collecting income, and disbursing budgets and Maintenances. Many of us were BCC members throughout the Covid economic crisis, emerging from that with a participatory budgeting process that tried to relook at our collective aspirations, needs and priorities. However, the crisis of legitimacy around Auroville’s Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC) has crippled our work, culminating in an Office Order requesting Auroville Unity Fund/City Services “to immediately stop all BCC disbursement of funds to all projects except maintenance with immediate effect”. This would include regular monthly budgets scheduled to be disbursed to the services on Aug 1st.

The situation is dire, and we wish to explain how it has unfolded. As per our mandate, the Budget Coordination Committee (BCC) is a body that is answerable to the FAMC. Specifically, the FAMC is to approve the annual budget. We have been facing an unprecedented situation where there are two FAMCs. It is not in the power of the Budget Coordination Committee to determine which is legitimate. We set up meetings with both FAMCs to present the budget and get feedback, while awaiting clarity on which body we are accountable to. However, the FAMC newly appointed by the Foundation Office/Governing Board (FO/GB) refused to meet us unless we provided data about the current budgets and personal Maintenance disbursements with names. We were not comfortable providing such data to a body whose right to request it was not established, and whose intentions were not disclosed. We were also concerned about the consequences to the community of failing to comply with these requests. These were communicated as orders to be executed within very short timeframes, and included threats to the integrity of BCC’s work. In an attempt to avoid drastic actions, we first provided overarching data of income, expenses and reserves, as well as Maintenance allocations with no personal data.

However, on Monday July 25th we were served an Office Order (no 495) signed by Mr. B.S. Sathyanarayan, Accounts Officer of the Auroville Foundation Office and also a member of the FAMC newly appointed by the Foundation Office, requesting Auroville Unity Fund/City Services “to immediately stop all BCC disbursement of funds to all projects except maintenance with immediate effect”. The Office Order cited BCC’s failure to provide data to the FAMC newly appointed by the Foundation Office, and the need of the latter to “look into additional maintenance and funds” for “new projects started by the FAMC”.

We immediately requested a meeting with the newly appointed FAMC to explain their intent and the implications of this Office Order. We wished to understand if they have an alternative plan for making funds available for services, or if we could come to an understanding of how to ensure the continuity and stability of the budget. At the same time, we received an official request from the FAMC selected by the Residents Assembly to “disregard this order [Office Order #495] as the Account Officer of the Office of the Secretary has no authority over the Auroville Unity Fund, nor the Budget Coordination Committee. Please take special note that implementing this order would have dire consequences for the salaries of hundreds of workers employed by Auroville from the local villages.”

We understand there is now a court case which seeks clarity regarding which FAMC is legitimate, and our repeated request has been to await such clarity before any major changes to BCC or City Services are undertaken.

We have received no response from the FO/GB FAMC, only a new request by Mr. B.S. Sathyanarayan, in his capacity as Accounts Officer, to provide detailed budgetary and Maintenance data, stating that the FAMC would call for a meeting following receipt of these details.

Under extreme pressure and the direct threat to the monthly budgets of the services and economic support to individuals (Aurovilian and non-Aurovilian), we have decided to provide the requested data to the FO/GB FAMC. We do so in the hope that this will prevent sudden undue economic hardship. However, we have no indications of how the situation will develop.

We remain committed to serving the community to the extent possible.

(Aurosugan, Danny, Enrica, Hans, Mahi, Rathinam, Sacha, Suryamayi, Verena)