Clarification regarding questionable appointments of FAMC and ATDC by the office of the Secretary
We know that the situation in Auroville is very confusing at the moment. The developments of recent times are obviously concerning to all, irrespective of where allegiances may lie or what the particular sentiments might be.
The essential thing to understand is that the principles and spirit of Auroville’s purpose are endangered at present. It is not a personal matter but something that will affect all of us and Auroville’s trajectory for years to come. Unfortunately, there is a small segment of Aurovilians supported by the office of the new Secretary, who completely disregard the Residents’ Assembly (RA) and are orchestrating a takeover of the RA to establish a rein of control and authority over working groups against the collaborative spirit and functioning of Auroville, altering the role the RA has played since the Auroville Foundation Act came into effect. All this is driven by them claiming to be the sole guardians of the truth in the name of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, while maligning people and working groups to gain power through the forcible appropriation of positions, using coercion and intimidation, and spreading misinformation.
As working group members selected by the RA we are mandated to oversee the observance of the policies and decisions of the RA. In the last weeks and months we have been doing our best to uphold not only the policies and decisions of the RA but also its structure and organization, not out of a dislike of anyone or an impulsion to be confrontational but only because the RA via its organization has mandated us to do so and because we believe that Auroville should be organized by its Aurovilians, those who have determined to spend their lives here.
Like many of you, the Auroville Council and the Working Committee are extremely concerned to find that the office of the Secretary, assisted by a coterie of residents, is attempting to assume the authority of appointing two of our main working groups, the FAMC and ATDC; while also not recognizing the selected Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly.
The conditions of these appointments are highly questionable as they do not seem to be based on any reasonable legal grounds, nor do they adhere to the policies of our internal organization. And because of this lack of a credible process in their appointments, the Auroville Council and the Working Committee are unable to recognize any of the members appointed by the office of the Secretary in their announcement.
Please find a detailed explanation of why the process followed by the office of the Secretary on these matters lacks credibility in the ‘Annex’ to this statement.
The RA will continue its process of selecting the Working Groups as per our internal policies and structure. The resulting Workings Groups will be the appointed representatives of the RA. If the Organization & Governance Committee (OCG) wishes to make recommendations to our internal structure we are available and open to recommendations.
Auroville Council and Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly
To “Clarification regarding questionable appointments of FAMC and ATDC by the office of the Secretary” by Auroville Council and Working Committee
Regarding the appointment of the FAMC by the office of the Secretary.
The premise used to appoint the FAMC via a new office, as informed by the Secretary to the FAMC on May 27th 2022, is that the Ministry of Education (MoE), Auroville’s nodal Ministry, has agreed to remove from the Auroville Foundation (AVF) Rules 1997 what the Secretary called ‘a typo’, namely the inclusion of the words “of the Residents’ Assembly” after the word “FAMC” in some sections of the AVF Rules 1997.
In doing so, it would be uncontestable that the FAMC is a committee constituted by the Governing Board (GB). The AVF Rules 1997, as they are now, are confusing as the FAMC is defined as a committee constituted by the GB; but certain sections of the Rules speak about ‘FAMC of the Residents’ Assembly.’
But as yet, there is no official indication that the MoE has agreed to this assessment of it being a ‘typo’. And of course, it is not possible to act upon such a change without an official intimation from the MoE and only after this change is seen in an updated and duly gazetted version of the Auroville Foundation Rules. Moreover, the reality is that in fact, all past Governing Boards have always considered the reference (in the AVF Rules 1997) to the FAMC being a constituted committee of the GB to be the real error.
To further clarify the details of why we consider the appointments of the FAMC via an office order issued by the office of the Secretary to be questionable:
1) Since the AVF Rules have been promulgated in 1997, the FAMC has always been a working group constituted by the Residents’ Assembly.
2) All the Governing Boards of the Auroville Foundation have explicitly recognized that the FAMC is a working group of the Residents’ Assembly!
3) Almost immediately upon receiving the Rules of the Auroville Foundation in 1997, the then Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, Mr. N. Bala Baskar, wrote to the Ministry of Human Resource Development with the request to rectify the error and change the definition of the FAMC into “FAMC means the Funds and Assets Management Committee constituted by Residents’ Assembly under sub-section (3) of section 19 of the Auroville Foundation Act.”
4) Ever since, the amendment of the Auroville Foundation Rules 1997 has been subject of discussion and letter and email exchange between the HRD Ministry (now MoE), the Auroville Foundation and the Working Committee, resulting in substantial files.
5) Successive Governing Boards of the Auroville Foundation, including the former Governing Board, have repeatedly and incessantly requested the HRD Ministry to approve the changed Rules of the Auroville Foundation. The minutes of many Governing Board meetings testify to this. We specifically refer to the minutes of the 43rd meeting of the Governing Board which state in section 12 ii:
“The Governing Board reviewed their discussion with the Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC) on 6 April 2013. The present FAMC, the Board noted, is a Committee of the Residents Assembly and not of the Governing Board. The Board agreed that it is neither necessary nor practical to have an FAMC of the Governing Board, as mentioned in the Auroville Foundation Rules, 1997. The Board agreed that the request sent earlier for amending the Auroville Foundation Rules, 1997 may be followed up with the Ministry.”
6) We believe that the FAMC was intended to be constituted by the Residents’ Assembly and not by the Governing Board, taking into account:
a. section 16.2 of the Auroville Foundation Act which specifies that only Governing Board members have the right to vote in a committee constituted by the Governing Board.
Section 5.1.b. of the Auroville Foundation Rules explicitly mentions that the FAMC is constituted by the Governing Board under sub-section (1) of section 16, with the Secretary of the Foundation as its Convener and with not exceeding ten other members including the Financial Adviser, Ministry of Human Resource Development. The only Board member in this FAMC would be the Financial Advisor, who is one of the two ex-officio Board members. This could never have been the intention of the Parliament of India in approving the Rules.
b. the fact that the Financial Advisor, Ministry of Human Resource Development (now Ministry of Education), a high level Government of India official, could not practically be a member of a committee which meets three afternoons a week at a location a few thousand kilometres south of New Delhi. (Please note that in 1997 Zoom meetings did not exist).
7) We also believe that it is not the intention of the Indian Parliament to have two FAMCs, one constituted by the Governing Board and the other by the Residents’ Assembly.
8) The Government of India is of course fully entitled to change the Rules of the Auroville Foundation as it may deem fit. However, we believe that any such change has to be made in accordance with the Auroville Foundation Act, in particular its sections 31 and 33. These sections mention that “Every rule or regulation made under this Act shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made before each House of Parliament while it is in session for a total period of thirty days …” (section 33) and that such Rules have to be notified (section 31). We believe that these sections are also applicable to any change of the AVF Rules 1997.
9) Any co-opting of members of the Residents Assembly for participation in or membership of groups/committees constituted by the other two authorities, namely Governing Board and International Advisory Council, needs to be selected and approved by the Resident Assembly as an overseeing authority of the residents.
Regarding the appointment of the ATDC by the office of the Secretary.
TDC or L’avenir D’Auroville has seen many incarnations since it was first founded by the Mother in 1965.
After the publication of the Master Plan in the Gazette of the Government of India the Governing Board constituted the Town Development Council with a Standing Order that was published in the Gazette in 2011. A new Standing Order was issued in 2019 but it has not been gazetted.
As per the 2011 Standing Order (SO) the RA nominates upto 13 members of the TDC with the GB and WCom nominating one each. And although it was stated in a Mass Bulletin on June 4th 2022 that a new Standing Order has been issued which supposedly excludes the RA from participating in the selection of the TDC, the SO mentioned has so far not been made public. Also, seeing that there is no mention of this new SO in the 59th minutes of the GB and with no record of any other GB meeting since we do not understand under which circumstances this new SO has been issued. It must also be stated that the Organization & Governance Committee (OGC) has not consulted with the RA when undergoing its study. For example, the Auroville Council which is the mandated group by the RA to encourage the generation of programs and policies for the RA and oversees the observance of policies and decisions, has not been consulted by the OGC, when the GB and its committee’s are bound as per the Foundation Act to consult the RA.