Observations and questions from the RAS to the WC 4s

Feb 23, 2022 | Organisation & governance, Resident Assembly

Dear Anu, Arun, Partha and Srimoyi,

Please find below our observations and questions about your post on Auronet dated 29th Jan 2022 titled “Communication to the Secretary regarding Crown RAD”, and your presentation to the Governing Board as published on Auronet on 29th Jan 2022 under the title “Presentations made by the working groups to the GB at the 58th meeting on 18th January 2022”.

Since the RAS has been mentioned in both these documents, we think that, in a perspective of balance and fairness, our Community deserves to acknowledge our views with regards to some facts and their interpretation.

This is only to provide the necessary accuracy to the facts that you are conveying to the Governing Board and the Community, as well as to possibly start a fruitful debate together on the next steps.

The extracts of your communications are in blue italics, followed by our comments.

From your communication to the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation

1. “Dear Madam Secretary, The RAS has asked us to forward their mail regarding the results of the RAD about the clearing of the RoW and development in the Crown, Radials and Outer Ring Road.”

Already the starting of your letter is not accurate. On 26th Jan 2022, the RAS emailed the results of the RAD to the Working Committee (“WComm”) as required by the RAD policy, without asking to forward anything to anyone – See section 8 of the RAD policy: “After announcing the outcome of the RAD to the RA as a whole, the Residents’ Assembly Service is also responsible for conveying decisions of the Residents’ Assembly to the Working Committee for the record.”

2. “The Residents’ Assembly (RA) does not have the power to act on certain decisions which, according to the Foundation Act, rest with the Governing Board. Particularly, as the Governing Board has already communicated its decision on the matter. We therefore think it was unnecessary for the RAS to entertain petitions in defiance and put Auroville in a confrontational mode.”

The RAS duly informed the WComm on 9th Dec 2021 that the RAS received and validated the petition and intended to proceed further presenting it to the Residents’ Assembly as per the RAD policy.

The WComm was also offered a dedicated space in the RAD meeting agenda, so that it could share its point of view on the RAD topic and proposal. This space was offered to the WComm, as well as other stakeholders, so that all points of views could be heard/included before putting out the relevant RAD proposal to the Community for a vote.

There was no response to this invitation from the WComm.

On the petitioners’ request of issuing an “emergency RAD”, your response to the RAS was only a simple ‘No’ to such “emergency RAD”, and no concern whatsoever about the RAD was raised.

We find it unhealthy that you waited for the end of the RAD to share your concerns with the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation and the Community, while the RAD is a participatory and collective process in which you were offered a voice to express yourselves.

Besides the above, please note that the RAD policy makes no provision to gauge concerns of petitioners, to define if they are or are not “necessary”, and to decide not to entertain “unnecessary” petitions. The RAS has solely followed the RAD policy.

As to your statement that RAS has “put Auroville in a confrontational mode”, we think it’s unfair and ultimately not true, as there are other more important players who did stir up this trouble. On the contrary, the RAS offered a place to all the residents and interested WGs of Auroville to express their views and participate in decision-making, as per the RAD policy.

As to the statement that “many have questioned the validity of this RAD both for its legality under the Act and as a matter of principle which have been ignored”, can you please explain what ‘matter of principle’ you are referring to?

In regards to the validity of this RAD, this point has already been replied to by the RAS during the first RA meeting on the topic that took place on the 20th of December 2021, as well as by several residents. Those who submitted a petition asking for the RAD to be canceled have been invited to present their views in the RA meetings, as per the RAD policy–and they actually did it in the second RAM.

If you, members of the WComm, were so concerned about the legality of this RAD, why didn’t you contact us to discuss it?

3. “Following this there was a call to boycott this RAD which must be taken into consideration.”

Who has called for this boycott? Was it supported by you, members of the WComm? Wasn’t this boycott the views of certain groups but not that of Aurovilians as a whole?

By requesting the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation to take this into consideration, you are contradicting with your own statement “We recognize that Residents are important for decisions regarding Auroville and we as WComm have a duty to respect them. However, this RAD has carried the views of certain groups but not that of Aurovilians as a whole.”

RAD processes aim at being inclusive, and are addressed towards all the residents of Auroville, no matter what their opinions may be. Boycotting the only process that the Residents’ Assembly currently has to take decisions seems rather far from the principles of our Community. Furthermore, we are concerned that this boycott could have been organized as a political strategy to claim over the voices of those who decided to remain silent, and exercised their rights to not participate in this decision-making process.

Finally, it is important to note that the majority of the RA members has always refrained from voting and participating in RADs. There might be several reasons for this, which need to be looked into–this is exactly one of reasons why the RAS has requested a thorough review of the RAD policy earlier in 2021.

4. “There is no transparency in the results”

Since the RAS has followed step by step the process outlined in the RAD policy, could you please elaborate further on your statement? Could one consider that either this statement can be weighed with evidence or is a pure assumption? In that case, would it be considered a slander?

5. “The RAD results are already upon change.org via an anonymous website with misleading and manipulative content which is disrespectful of Auroville, Auroville Foundation and fellow Aurovilians. More importantly it goes against the basics of our functioning: Only those who have resolved to stay in Auroville for good have the right to intervene in its organisation.”

We are not sure what you are trying to communicate with this statement. It is well known that, once news is released, the information is out of your hands. Anyway, for the records, the RAS has nothing to do with the results published in change.org.

And on your comment that “only those who have resolved to stay in Auroville for good have the right to intervene in its organisation”, there are many who don’t live in Auroville who, still, have Auroville in their heart. How else would you describe, for example, the “Friends of Auroville”, the AVI members, the many volunteers who offered their work for long. And by the way, if your comment were true, what would you think of the Governing Board members then?

6. “We recognize that Residents are important for decisions regarding Auroville and we as Working Committee have a duty to respect them. However, this RAD has carried the views of certain groups but not that of Aurovilians as a whole. We also wish to stand for people who are silent for various reasons but do not agree that Auroville’s progress is made to stop.”

Isn’t this point pure speculation? How can one ever know what were the reasons behind the choice of some residents to remain silent?

How does one know the reasons and opinions of those who were silent, and how can one be sure that those who were silent did not agree with the RAD proposal? Kindly explain to which extent you could define yourselves as the spokespersons of these silent people? Some who didn’t vote have already expressed why they don’t feel like voting. Doesn’t self-appropriating their voice to weigh a personal agenda or side, appear as a partisan point of view? Is this compatible with being a member of the WComm, which is meant to represent the whole Residents’ Assembly, including its diversity of voices?

Every RAD is initiated by a group of Aurovilian (at least 60) or certain WGs. Then the whole community is called to express its vote, or be silent, if they wish so. Those who decide to vote, express the voice of the Community–that’s the way the RA has always done it. It doesn’t mean it’s the best decision-making process, but it’s what the RAD policy stipulates now. We welcome your and the Community’s reflections on this, to possibly arrive at a new way for collective decision-making process for the RA that is realistically implementable.

7. In view of all this we, as Working Committee members, are unable to support such a process or its decision.

Why couldn’t you support the process? Could you kindly specify in which cases you support and in which cases not? How is it possible for the WComm not to endorse a decision that has been taken through a regular RAD which has followed step by step what the RAD policy prescribes?

Furthermore, as the WComm is a body representing the RA, doesn’t it set an unfortunate precedent seeing 4 WComm members not supporting a decision of the RA, while you members have been selected, and accepted to serve the Community, by virtue of the same RAD process?

From your presentation to the Governing Board

8. “Governance. 1 (…) Decisions taken by the community via the Residents Assembly Service (RAS) have limitations as it is no longer seen as a representative decision making body.”

Please kindly elaborate. Do you question the RAS as a service? Or the “body” RA as one of the three authorities (RA, GB, IAC) that are described in the Auroville Foundation Act?

Also note that the RAS is not meant to be a “representative decision making body”. The RAS, as a service, is mandated to organize Residents’ Assembly Decision-making processes as per the approved RAD policy. It is only the holder of the process, it does not influence its outcome.

The representative bodies of the Residents’ Assembly are the working groups selected by it and given a mandate by it, also referred to as ‘Participatory Working Groups’, including the WComm. According to the Auroville Foundation Act, the WComm has a duty to “assist and represent the Residents’ Assembly”. Please explain how, given the discrepancy between the recent RAD and the stand that has been taken by 4 members of the WComm, your group can still be seen as a “representative body” of the Residents’ Assembly?

9. “The RAS members had earlier in 2021 requested for a thorough review of their policy to make it more transparent, effective and equitable. This has not been finalized. An interim process has been put in place. Despite objections the current RAD is run by the interim process. While this may be adequate for certain functional decisions, those that pertain to major decisions regarding the realization of Auroville and it’s future, need a different approach and process.”

You should know that, regarding a “thorough review of the RAS policy to make it more transparent, effective and equitable”, a subgroup from the AV Council has been mandated to look at it, and that the work is in progress.

This subgroup has started meeting to identify the gaps in previous RAD processes. We understand that you were invited to these meetings, but decided not to attend.

Do you have any suggestions on the same?

For the time being, the Residents’ Assembly needs to be able to function, and this is why we are using an interim process that has been approved and ratified by the Residents’ Assembly. This interim process hasn’t been limited in its scope, nor does it have an expiry date. It will be in use until a new process is explored and approved.

10. “Proposed action: 1) Each decision making group member must make a commitment to the fulfillment of the Charter and the City and relevant guidelines when they join. 2) Identify the areas that are outside the purview of an RA Decision before finalizing the new policy. 3) Review how new RAS members are added.”

Since you made these proposals, without consulting nor informing the RAS, please allow us to add a few points.

On action 1): What is the point of asking RAS members to commit to the “fulfillment of (…) the City”? Who will be in charge of assessing whether this commitment is fulfilled or not? According to you, are there some Aurovilians wiser and more capable of doing so? Some members of the community that would be consensual enough for their assessments to be accepted by the whole community?

On action 2): Again, who would be in charge of such a process? Would you foresee an RAD on the same?

On action 3): This is a question that some members of our group also had in the beginning of their duty. Nevertheless, one should keep in mind that the RAS-Residents’ Assembly Service is not a representative working group but only, indeed, a service. It is deeply accepted that the members of a service in general are not selected. They serve because it’s their duty.

That being said, we welcome a discussion on the topic of RAS membership. This is probably a point that could be tackled while drafting the new RAS mandate – as already noted, a subgroup of the AV Council is currently working on this, with the help of resource persons. Meanwhile, could you kindly make a proposal on how you foresee that new RAS members should join the RAS?

11. “Governance.3 Selection / nomination of Working Group members Some groups tend to be self appointed such as Farm, Forest, Housing and RAS Proposed action: A transparent method of selection and of the appointment of stewards with clear accountability as demanded of all other groups is recommended Completion target: Process to be proposed for the next quarter”

About ‘self-appointed’ RAS members, could you please elaborate further with any facts? Without evidence and true facts, you may agree that assumptions sometimes can lead to unnecessary slander.

Regarding a ‘transparent method’, we respectfully remind you that it was an initiative of the previous WComm to change the rules and ask the Residents’ Assembly to vote on lowering the percentage required for the selection of individuals from 50% to 30% (PWG 2020, Part 3B, 7c: “To be selected, a candidate needs to have the trust of a minimum of 50% of the selectors. A candidate will not be selected, if this quorum has not been reached”). Specifically for the selection of the WComm members, as only two WComm members had received the trust of at least 50% of the selectors (for 6 vacant seats). This is also a gentle reminder that among the four of you, only one member of you would have been selected if the rules of the game hadn’t been changed then.

You also mention a new “process to be proposed for the next quarter”: are you referring to the new Selection methodology that has been worked on by the Selection Process Review Task Force, and is currently going through an RAD?

Regarding “the appointment of stewards”, please clarify what you have in mind? Stewards of what? What is the link with the whole above topic?

* * *

Dear Anu, Arun, Partha and Srimoyi, we do hope that our comments have led to more clarity and accuracy.

Please let us know whether you would like to meet us to discuss more thoroughly all the above, for the sake of truth and transparency.

Warmly,

The RAS Team

Dan, Giovanni P, Sathish A, Tatiana S and Verena