I’m writing this on behalf of many concerned residents, in response to the email sent by Fabienne to all the Auroville entities and openly publishing it on the Auronet.
She has asked 3 questions and here are responses for each one of them.
- On what grounds was this decision made?
Is common sense good enough? Fabienne of Outreach Media went on a blitzkrieg after the MoM of GB was released on the 3rd Dec and action started on the 4th. She frantically reached out to media houses, national and international, planting skewed and sentimental stories, to evoke sensationalism while there was none. Outreach media was set up to manage the misinformation and avoiding detrimental narratives, however in this case, she herself indulged in such actions, which are deplorable given the delicate scenario within the community. The need of the hour was to find solutions within our community, rather than sending SOS messages outside, without giving a second thought to its long term effect, in terms of fundraising, image of India, etc.
Auroville Foundation’s Under Secretary Sri Srinivasmurty’s request to Fabienne 1. to restrain from publicity (Dec21), and, 2. move the assets (Jan22) after taking cognizance of the damage it is (or will) creating is timely and appreciable.
- Have the 3 bodies that together constitute the Auroville Foundation been consulted and agreed to this decision?
Conflated sense of self-importance. For every small decision, like transfer of few assets, should all 3 bodies be consulted and wait for the agreement? The community have long drawn processes (which will put the worst kind of bureaucratic systems to shame) and ill-adapted for quick decision-making, calling for such seems to be an excellent instrument to delay. If we follow this argument, and decisions regarding transfer of assets are deemed so important, why were the mentioned 3 bodies not considered, consulted before giving those assets in the first place, and what about the appointment of an executive to this ‘important’ position? It’s purely a self-appointment, like the executives of Auroville Today, News&Notes, Auroville Radio, etc. Moreover, now Outreach Media is managed by One Executive – Fabienne. If the Auroville Foundation believes the damage caused by Fabienne is of extraordinary proportions with grave consequences for the outlook of India, on the international stage, by all means, it is in their purview to act, and they’ve done so, rightly, by asking her simply to move the assets. How come, outreach of Auroville is an unrestrained, unquestioned, unrelenting personal fiefdom of one individual? The 3 bodies ought to come together to decide on the whims and fancies of one person? Preposterous?
- Has the FAMC, as the mandated body responsible for managing assets of Auroville, been consulted and agreed to this decision?
I personally think this point is valid. Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC), the relevant body under the Auroville Foundation, could have been kept in the loop. I am sure they would have collaborated, given the circumstances. After all, Sabine who worked in N&N was removed from executive-ship on some flimsy grounds, by the FAMC. So, there is precedent for FAMC to take action.
Having mentioned the above, the main assets of Outreach Media are not some computers and cameras. It is the connections that Outreach Media has carefully cultivated over many years as an official voice of Auroville, and Fabienne as the face of it. The media, world over, is buying Fabienne’s story because the media thinks she is Auroville’s voice. When Fabienne sends distress calls to her email lists asking for the world to help against the so-called ‘high-handed’ external force named Government of India, the individuals who truly care about Auroville believe it and the media finds it lucrative.
I find the second email by Fabienne, wherein she refuses to comply to the request, even more worrisome. She mentions she’s ‘charged’ with managing the Outreach Media on behalf of the Residents’ Assembly of Auroville. I think it is a false claim, or else, I am happy to read the note that corroborates her position. She then goes on to talk about the ‘Jurisdiction’, which by definition means ‘the official power to make legal decisions and judgements’. I don’t think 19(2)(b) – in haste she read it as 19(b) – mentions anything being under direct jurisdiction of RA. The section 19 of AVF Act enumerates the ‘Functions of the Residents’ Assembly’, it is not the ‘right’ ‘power’ or ‘legal means’ in any sense. The 19(2) says ‘In particular, and without prejudice to the foregoing powers, the Residents‟ Assembly may-‘ and (b) says ‘organise various activities relating to Auroville’ not sure where she got her facts from. Whereas, section 17 of AVF explicitly mentions ‘Powers and functions of the Governing Board’ and 17(d) mentions ‘to monitor and review the activities of Auroville and to secure proper management of the properties vested in the Foundation under section 6 and other properties relatable to Auroville’ based on which Auroville Foundation is duly and ‘lawfully’ acting, given the mismanagement of assets.
In the 3rd para of her second letter, she mentions ‘As such, the FAMC of the RA is the authority that is charged with the duty and power over all funds and assets of Auroville…’, and again it’s a misreading of the facts. The FAMC is mandated with some functions, it is not ‘the authority’ and it does not have ‘power’ over all funds and assets. In fact, FAMC performs under the Governing Board of Auroville Foundation and the Under Secretary is also part of the FAM Committee. In the final para, she suggests the Auroville Foundation to ‘apply to the FAMC seeking clearance or any other permission’. Her defiance gives a feeling, she believes the Auroville Foundation is under the ‘authority’ of FAMC. After going through her emails, having seen the glaring gaps in her understanding of Auroville Foundation Act and misreadings about ‘powers’ and ‘authority’, I wonder what other misinformations have we been spreading out in previous years.
Given the confrontational attitude presented in Fabienne’s email to everyone, it’s clear she is taking the request from Auroville Foundation personally, rather than thinking of the collective good. I sincerely hope she lets the new volunteers, Joel and Sindhuja, work at par with her. I hope she uses her power positively and productively. To make things clear, the Auroville Foundation is not taking over the Outreach Media. They simply asked other willing volunteers from the community, who are not trigger-happy and are better restrained in the actions, to manage it.
Thank you for your attention and time. I request each one of you to take the pains to be aware of the alternate thoughts and underlying motivations, and support actions which helps in the progress of Auroville, instead of PAUSING Auroville.