Auroville seeks probe into complaints of violation of laws

‘The request for a probe is meant to uphold transparency and oversight’

November 26, 2019 01:03 am | Updated 04:53 am IST - Puducherry

PUDUCHERRY, 27/10/2014: (FOR PAGE 2) A view of the Galaxy shaped master plan for Auroville, in Puducherry.
Photo: S.S. Kumar

PUDUCHERRY, 27/10/2014: (FOR PAGE 2) A view of the Galaxy shaped master plan for Auroville, in Puducherry. Photo: S.S. Kumar

Auroville has recommended a probe by appropriate Central agencies into complaints about irregularities in the complex web of land transactions, fund-raising and foreign donations at the universal township, in what the universal township’s governors say, is a measure of “upholding transparency and oversight”.

The report of an inquiry committee submitted in September to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, and obtained in October through RTI by the complainant, Vikram Ramakrishnan, observed that there was “a prima facie case that requires the entire matter to be handed over to an appropriate Central agency (agencies) in order to unravel the complex web of incidents, ostensibly criminal in nature.”

“The request for a probe is more a step towards self-regulation, to uphold transparency and accountability... and most importantly to ensure that we have proper systems in place”, a highly-placed source associated with Auroville said.

It is pointed out that while on the one hand there is the growing global fascination with the transcendent idea of Auroville, as an ever evolving experiment in human unity, that is drawing more and more foreigners to the City of Dawn, on the other is the matching imperative for proper mechanisms to be put in place for the management of Auroville’s progress, the direction of its growth, and reproach-free systems of funds control.

“At some point, we need to resolve Aurovilian paradoxes; strike a balance between the near-anarchic absence of rules that represent the existential core of life in Auroville and complying with national and international law, and between a philosophy that rejects circulation of currency in the township and the imperative for a structured system for prudent management of funds,” the source said.

The inquiry committee was appointed by Auroville Foundation chairman Karan Singh to look into Mr. Ramakrishnan’s complaints to the governing board and various Central and State authorities.

The concerns flagged by the complainant included “encroachment, embezzlement of donations to Auroville, benami properties, money laundering, round-tripping of black money, violations of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Foreign Exchange Management Act”.

The complainant also raised concerns over the sheer complexity of fund-raising in Auroville that made forensic auditing difficult and had warranted repeated observations in reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General that the internal audit system was inadequate. None of the 33 Trusts under the Auroville Foundation have Foreign Contribution Regulation Act or 80G registration, in spite of which the entities were raising donations and claiming exemptions, the complainant contended.

‘Fair hearing’

Sources say that the complainant was given a fair hearing, and after reviewing the documents presented, the inquiry committee decided to submit a report and recommend a probe to its governing authority, the MHRD, as the committee on its part was neither technically equipped nor professional trained to address the multifarious issues, nor did it have the mechanism or manpower to “wade through the complex web of events” and unravel the truth.

While recommending a probe by multiple agencies, the committee noted that only such a thorough investigation would do justice to the purpose for which the Auroville Foundation was established through an Act of Parliament –which was to ensure proper management and further development of Auroville in accordance with the original charter laid out by its founder Mirra Alfassa, spiritual associate of Sri Aurobindo known to her followers as The Mother, who established Auroville on February 28, 1968.

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