In an article in the March 2007 issue of Auroville Today, fears were expressed that the reconstitution of the Funds and Assets Management Committee by the Governing Board was a prelude to an increasing intervention of the Board in the affairs of Auroville. The fears seem to be warranted.
On April 10th, 2007, the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation issued an office order to the executives of the Unity Fund that he, or a person authorised by him, would henceforth be co-signatory to all bank and other transactions of the Unity Fund.
This Fund, started on March 31st, 2006, receives all grants and donations, both Indian and foreign, for all Auroville projects: for Matrimandir, for education, for scientific research, and for projects of the Auroville Fund. It also receives the surplus income of commercial units, the guest contributions, and all interests on deposits. The Budget Coordination Group (BCG) of the Unity Fund, a subgroup of the FAMC, decides on the allocation of the income. Specified donations are transferred to the concerned unit or project. Unspecified donations are allocated by the BCG.
Strong emotions arose regarding the order. A delegation of members of the Working Committee and the Funds and Assets Management Committee went to New Delhi to express their concern to the Chairman and a member of the Governing Board. They argued that there is no need for any co-signing of cheques by the Secretary as the Secretary is also a member of the FAMC as well as of the BCG, which decides on the allocation of funds from the Unity Fund. Co-signing, therefore, would only be an administrative headache, add to needless bureaucracy, and also be a token of increasing involvement of the Board in the day-to-day affairs of Auroville which is not required.
These arguments failed to convince the Board members who stressed that the need for co-signing was just an administrative matter, required as the Board is ultimately responsible to the Indian parliament. The Board Members, however, conceded that mistakes were made in the process of issuing this order, as no prior consultation with either the Working Committee or FAMC had taken place.
The arguments of the Board failed in turn to convince the community. A general meeting on May 6th, 2007, unanimously rejected the Office Order. Since then, the Unity Fund executives have refused to submit any cheques for co-signing, thus effectively blocking the implementation of the office order as well as the operation of the Unity Fund itself. The Working Committee has meanwhile sought a legal opinion on the matter, in particular on the relationship between the two ‘authorities' of the Auroville Foundation, the Governing Board (GB) and the Residents' Assembly (RA). Does the RA simply have to follow the directives imposed by the GB? Or are both equal parties with equal rights?
If anything, the dispute highlights the fact that the Governing Board and the Secretary are still overwhelmingly seen as ‘outsiders' to Auroville, representatives of the ‘government', instead of being integral to Auroville's functioning. Consequently, few in the community talk about ‘intervention by the Board,' while many express fears over ‘more government control'.